Ruled by Scorpio, ruled by Mars
Keywords: ending, transformation, change, rebirth, starting over, cycles of life
In the Wait-Smith version, we see death, in black, riding a horse, carrying a flag embroidered with a harvest crown. The Reaper has come to harvest.
The basic meaning is that of rebirth. Just because you die, doesn’t mean you’re dead. For behind the Reaper lies the gates of heaven, and the shining sun. After death, there is a rise of consciousness.
The Death card is ruled by Scorpio, which is ruled by Mars, a planet of material impulses.
According to Crowley, this card is associated with the Alchemical concept of “putrefication,” which he describes as the process whereby the Cosmic Egg, which is nonbinary or intersex, gives birth to all the gendered gods who then give birth to the Universe.
Crowley says Scorpio is in line with Leo in terms of being one of the most powerful Zodiac signs in the Tarot.
The figure of the Scorpion represents the myth of a creature sacrificing its life when in a desperate situation.
We also see in the card the sign for the Serpent, who is the sacred Lord of Life and Death. The Serpent’s undulations represent the rhythmic balance of Life and Death, creation and dissolution, beginning and end, and ultimately, the process of transformation itself.
In the top of the card we see an Eagle, who represents “exaltation above solid matter.” The Eagle is thus similar to the Phoenix, rising from the dead, echoing the theme of Death in the Scorpion and the Serpent.
The Eagle, Serpent, and Scorpion represent three different levels of involution from the Highest State of the Cosmic Egg down into the Universe.
The card represents the “dance of death,” and with each swipe Death creates bubbles which turn into new forms of Life, another insulation of the dance between Life and Death.
One might see the fish of this card as similar to the Christian Jesus fish, for it represents the doctrines of sacrificial resurrection, the Scorpion killing itself and coming back to Life. Similarly, the Disciples were fishers of men and Jesus performed miracles regarding fish. The Hebrew letter associated with 13 and Death is Nun, meaning “fish.”
The stink of the fish, or the smell of the unfolding Cosmic Egg, is really the smell of Life being created.
For Crowley Death represents the masculine energy of Saturn and his scythe sweeping through the gaseous field of spiritual potential to create the reticular structure of organized matter.