Death - Meaning and Symbolism


Fatigued by the flashing of the Wheel of Life, I
sank to earth and shut my eyes. But it seemed to
me that the Wheel kept turning before me and
that the four creatures continued sitting in the
clouds and reading their books.

Suddenly, on opening my eyes, I saw a
gigantic rider on a white horse, dressed in black
armour, with a black helmet and black plume. A
skeleton's face looked out from under the
helmet. One bony hand held a large, black,
slowly-waving banner, and the other held a black
bridle ornamented with skulls and bones.
And, wherever the white horse passed, night
and death followed; flowers withered, leaves
drooped, the earth covered itself with a white
shroud; graveyards appeared; towers, castles and
cities were destroyed.

Kings in the full splendour of their fame and
their power; beautiful women loved and loving;
high priests invested by power from God;
innocent children — when they saw the white
horse all fell on their knees before him, stretched
out their hands in terror and despair, and fell
down to rise no more.

Afar, behind two towers, the sun sank.
A deadly cold enveloped me. The heavy hoofs of the
horse seemed to step on my breast, and I felt the world
sink into an abyss.

But all at once something familiar, but faintly seen and
heard, seemed to come from the measured step of the
horse. A moment more and I heard in his steps the
movement of the Wheel of Life!

An illumination entered me, and, looking at the
receding rider and the descending sun, I understood that
the Path of Life consists of the steps of the horse of Death.
The sun sinks at one point and rises at another. Each
moment of its motion is a descent at one point and an
ascent at another. I understood that it rises while sinking
and sinks while rising, and that life, in coming to birth,
dies, and in dying, comes to birth.

"Yes," said the voice. The sun does not think of its
going down and coming up. What does it know of earth,
of the going and coming observed by men? It goes its own
way, over its own orbit, round an unknown Centre. Life,
death, rising and falling— do you not know that all these
things are thoughts and dreams and fears of the Fool?