Death in tarot

It’s not such a bad thing to draw the death card in a tarot spread, because it usually is interpreted to mean transformative change rather than death itself.

More interestingly, in alchemical symbolism the reaper and other images of death, beheading and blackness usually stand for the nigredo phase of the work, when the material is allowed to blacken in order to separate out the alchemical Salt and the Sulphur (not to be mistaken for our present day understanding of the chemicals salt and sulphur) This part of the process leaves the impure remains of the material behind when the salt and sulphur are separated by heating and distillation, so although it may appear to be destructive, the results are good, being the production of the purified essence of the material.

The painting isn’t finished yet, but the work on the skeleton itself is largely complete, needing only a few shadows and details to wrap it up. I’ll put a suggestion of a landscape in at 1 : 1.62 of the height of the canvassed panel, and as I’ve said there will be the decapitated heads of the alchemical king and queen behind the figure of death.

About pearce

Michael Pearce is an artist, writer, and professor of art. He is the author of "Art in the Age of Emergence."
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