Bad Cards Rising

Major Arcana Cards with a Bad Reputation

There are cards that you see during a pull and you just know it’s a bad sign, a negative meaning, or something terrible is going to happen. No matter the reading, no matter the context or question you are searching for, seeing this just lets you know you’re in for a world of trouble and disruption. It is my firm belief that though these cards are signals of disruption, often that disruption is what can signal a turning point in whatever situation you’re seeking guidance on.

There are plenty of other cards in the Minor Arcana, the suit of Cups, Swords, Coins, and Wands that are have a bad rep, but today I’m going to go over the three Major Arcana with notoriously bad reputations, the fairly obvious reasons why they have them, and the positive meanings their appearance can have during a reading. Bear in mind the tone and intent of the question as they are the metaphysical embodiment of the card in response to your question, pulling these cards doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll physically die, be visited by the Devil, or plummet from a tall tower.


Death is the thirteenth tarot card and is depicted with a skeletal knight in armor on a pale horse in the Rider Waite deck, a literal figure of one of the Four Horseman. In a reading it can seem bad, Death isn’t always viewed in the positive light and in fact, can be frightening when asking about a loved one. However, the Death card signifies major changes in a person’s life when used for divination. Think of it as the end of a difficult situation, or perhaps the end of a negative behavior.

The Death card can also indicate transformation. When we think of death, we think of the end, and naturally so. Death is the final destination for us all, however, if we shift our thinking, we can consider Death a transition or shift in things.

The Devil

The Devil is the fifteenth card in the Major Arcana and is depicted with Baphomet in the Rider Waite deck. Baphomet is a deity that the Templars were accused of worshipping, and after such accusations, became widely accepted and written about in various occult and mystic texts. The card also popularly depicts two human figures, normally nude, chained together and then chained to the podium on which the Baphomet sits. The Devil card often means shadow work or shadow self, sexuality, addiction or restriction, and over-indulgence.

It can signify that this situation is playing a part or is part of the shadow work required to reach the highest self. Shadow work can be intense, scary, and frustrating, but it is necessary to move through the best way we can to learn about ourselves. This card means that, deep down, you must recognize that the behaviors, issues, or situation you are seeking answers from in the reading are to your detriment, and there is work required to resist the urges of lower desires as difficult as that may be.

The Tower

The Tower is the sixteenth Major Arcana card and has a large tower depicted on it in the Rider Waite tarot deck. Most importantly, and strikingly, the tower is aflame from the top, with human figures falling from its height. The top of the tower, which looks like a crown, is falling off. The Tower card follows the Devil, and can mean sudden shifts or changes, destruction, chaos and upheaval, and also awakening and new awareness. When this card is drawn in a reading, you can be assured that whatever answers you’re seeking will deliver and denote great change.

Because this card follows immediately after The Devil card, any sort of darkness our vices have shrouded us in will be removed, and we are able to see everything once the dust has settled. Fear of change is something we all have within us to one extent or another, but upheaval and change, chaos and shifts are also a path or roadway to greater understanding of ourselves and eventually, peace.

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