Death is Love: La Mort est L’Amour

Reading time: 4 minutes

Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop!

This post is part of the Tarot Blog Hop, in which tarot writers from around the world join together to discuss a particular topic. Jay Cassels of Sacred Healing proposed the theme, asking us, “What’s in a name?” He wondered how shifts in card names might produce different meanings. This reminded me of the interesting phenomenon in which Death is Love: La Mort est L’Amour.

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La Mort is Love

Death is Love: La Mort est L'Amour
La Mort from the Tarot of Jean Noblet, published 1650.

Although the tarot was developed in Italy in the fifteenth century, France was the main place of publication of decks in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In what would come to be known as the Tarot de Marseille tradition, cards were mass-produced using wood block printing and stenciled colors.

Here, the character in the Death card swings a scythe in a field scattered with heads, hands, and feet. Perhaps these are the leftover parts remaining after the confrontation with the Reaper. Or perhaps they grow in the field and harvesting them suggests an achievement. Regardless, this doesn’t appear to be a warm, fuzzy card. How can Death equal Love?

In French, the word for Death, La Mort, sounds exactly like L’Amour, the word for love.

XIII is Love

XIII The Unnamed Card by Jean Dodal, published 1701.

That’s very cool, but really it’s just a coincidence. Isn’t it? And yet the connection doesn’t stop there. In early decks Death is the unnamed card. Usually, it bears only the number XIII. Thirteen might be considered bad luck by some, but the symbolism of numbers is extensive.

Some tarot readers use the philosophy of Jewish mysticism called qabalah. One qabalistic technique combines the meanings of letters and numbers. In Hebrew, every letter of the alphabet is assigned a numerical value. By converting letters to numbers and adding them together, you can assign a value to any word. It’s interesting to see which words have the same value!

The Death card is number thirteen. In Hebrew, the words whose letters add up to thirteen include “enemy” (oyeb), “fear” or “sorrow” (de’agah), and “emptiness” (bohu). These are all appropriate symbols for the Death card! However, it is fascinating to note that “love” or “beloved” (ahabah), “one” or “unity” (achad), and “to long for” or “desire” (ya’ab) also have letters that add up to thirteen! So using numerology, Death is also Love.

The Tudor Rose

What's in a Name? Death is Love: La Mort est L'Amour
“XIII Death” from the Rider Waite Smith Tarot by A. E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, Pamela-A edition.

The symbols of love work their way into the imagery of the card as well. The rose, a symbol of Venus, the planet whose name derives from the Goddess of Love, appears on most illustrations of Death.

In fact, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck uses the Tudor Rose emblazoned on a flag. The Tudor Rose shows a white, five-petaled rose within a larger, similar blossom. Sometimes, one rose is red and the other white. Henry VII took on the symbol of the red rose when he married Elizabeth of York, whose emblem was the white rose. Their marriage ended a decades-long series of civil wars called the Wars of the Roses. Death in the tarot can indicate the conclusion of conflicts and return of peace.

La Petite Mort

There’s one more way Death can equal love. In French, there is an expression that describes orgasm and the resulting languor. They call it “the little death,” or la petite mort. If the Death card comes up in your love tarot readings, and the other cards in the spread are positive, consider whether the conclusion of Death invites you to close the deal.

Schedule an appointment with Joy Vernon Astrology * Tarot * Reiki and find out is love in the cards — or the stars! — for you!

Death is Love: La Mort est L’Amour

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When you’re doing love readings, it’s disheartening to see the Death card. Most of the time, Death indicates endings and loss. There’s a finality to the image that shuts the door on whatever you asked the cards about. But keep in mind the symbols of love in the card’s name, number, and symbols. Sometimes this card can represent transforming an enemy into a friend.

Author: Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is an astrologer and tarot reader in Denver, Colorado and serves as the Organizer of the Denver Tarot Meetup and Denver Tarot Geeks. She is passionate about teaching others to read tarot for themselves to bring clarity and guidance to their lives. Joy started Tarot in Love to share everything she's learned about love in the cards from her decades of work as a professional reader. Over the past ten years, Joy has published more than 250 free articles on tarot, astrology, qabalah, Reiki, and meditation on her other blog Completely JoyousSchedule a reading to see her philosophies in action.

7 thoughts on “Death is Love: La Mort est L’Amour

  1. Whoa, and I mean Whoa, the layers and threads throughout this post just astound me Joy. I love the interplay and the connections you have made, they are … well yes!

    Thank you for being apart of this journey and hop Joy <3

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