The Devil Artwork Description
“The design is an accommodation, mean or harmony, between several motives [see controversies and observations]. The Horned Goat of Mendes, with wings like those of a bat, is standing on an altar. At the pit of the stomach there is the sign of Mercury. The right hand is is upraised and extended, reversing the blessing which is given by the Hierophant in the fifth card. In the left hand there is a great flaming torch, inverted towards the earth. A reversed pentagram is on the forehead. There is a ring in front of the altar, from which two chains are carried to the necks of two figures, male and female. These are analogous with those of the fifth card, as if Adam and Eve after the Fall. This is the chain and the fatality of the material life.” 1
The Devil Associations
- Fifteen: 15 Indulgence, Evil.
- Element: Earth.
- Rune: Nauthiz “need, restraint”.
- Crystal/Gem: Red Jasper.
- Kabbalah: Ayin “Eye”.
- Astrological: Capricorn.
- Astronomical: Antares.
The Devil Basic Meaning
Danger. Possible harm which will come to the Querent or others. Suffering, being in a dark place, or evil. Submission or enslavement to a person, substance, or feeling. Indulging in pleasures in excess to the point of self-harm.
This card is dark, and I do see it as probably one of the “worst” cards in the deck (at least the Death card has a happy ending). The Devil is about what holds us in chains. As you will read in the excerpts below, this attachment to evil is not something our life-path is bound to. It is something we can come out of on our own accord (although it usually requires help from others), but it is not were we are meant to stay. This is your trial that you must push through!
The Devil Controversies and Observations
“In the eighteenth century this card seems to have been a symbol of merely animal immodesty. Except for a fantastic head-dress, the chief figure is entirely naked; it has bat-like wings and the hands and feet are represented by the claws of a bird. In the right hand there is a sceptre terminating in a sign which has been thought to represent fire. The figure as a whole is not particularly evil; it has no tail, and the commentators who have said that the claws are those of a harpy have spoken at random. There is no better ground for the alternative statement that they are eagle’s claws. Attached by a cord hanging from their collars to the pedestal on which the figure is mounted, are two naked human beings, male and female. These have tails, but no wings.” 1
“Meaning: Ravage, violence, vehemence, extraordinary efforts, force, fatality; that which is predestined but not for this reason evil
Reversed: Evil, fatality, weakness, pettiness, blindness.” 1
“Constricted; bound to something for good or ill; drug/alcohol addiction; personality disorders of all kinds; unethical behavior; abuse of power; avoiding responsibility; temptation; denial.” 2
“Basic Tarot Symbols: A winged, horned devil, a black pedestal, a naked male and female figure, chains, inverted pentagram.
Basic Tarot Meaning: Perhaps the most misunderstood card of all the major arcana, the Devil is not really ‘Satan’ at all, but Pan the half-goat nature god and/or Dionysius (Bacchus). These are gods of pleasure and abandon, of wild behavior and unbridled desires. Sometimes, this card says, it is good to dance with Bacchus, surrendering control, or be Bacchus and manipulate. Too much restraint can hold you back and keep you from achieving important things.
In this regard, we might say that this card is about being honest with yourself. What do you desire? What gives you pleasure? What has power over you (and will enslave you if you let it), and what makes you feel powerful (and will help you reach your highest goals)?
With Capricorn as its ruling sign, the Devil is also a card about ambitions, about commitment and resourcefulness. This is the mountain goat that aims to get to the top and does all its needs to do to get there.
As a person, the Devil can stand for a man or woman of money or erotic power, aggressive, controlling, or just persuasive. This is not to say a bad person, but certainly a powerful person who is hard to resist. The querent needs to watch themselves lest they end up needing this powerful person to give them identity. On the other hand, the querent might find themselves in “Devil” mode, egging others on, playing puppetmaster. This, too, can become their identity. Thus, the addict and pusher can create a co-dependent relationship that is not healthy for either.
When not indicating a person, the Devil card is synonymous with temptation and addiction, anything that we find hard to resist be it chocolate, sex or heroin. Readers should ask querents if there’s anything they’ve been having trouble resisting of late. It is important to point out, as the card does, that, often (though not always), we don’t resist is because we don’t want to. This needs to be recognized and acknowledge as it means that the power to change the situation is with us, not with what tempts us.
Thirteen’s Observations: Most cards urge balance, unity, restraint, yin-yang. Not this card. The Devil, to the contrary, is a card that revels in extremity, excess and loss of control. There is a convincing argument that this is the most powerful and dangerous card in the deck. At its absolute worst, it is the card of the addict or the stalker, totally obsessed, enslaved, relentless. At its very best, it is a card about cutting lose, going for the gold, climbing every mountain.
There are, I think, three essential points that a reader must make when this card appears. First, that we have to be honest about our weaknesses and addictions, denial only makes it easier for them to control us. Second, that it is natural to have self-interest, a desire for pleasure even and, occasionally, to indulge in excesses. Doing so might even be essential to achieving our aims. We didn’t fly to the Moon by being moderate, safe or cautious, by resisting temptation.
However, and this is the last point, it is all too easy to become enslaved to the power of such pleasures and excesses. The most powerful person is the one who can consciously decide when to indulge, and when to walk away from indulging without hesitation or regret.
This card is about temptation and control, addictions and manipulation. It asks us a most important question: who or what will we allow to enslave us? And who or what will be under our control? Only by understanding this part of ourselves can we gain power over it and use it to our benefit rather than letting it use us.” 3
Axank’s Dream Recollection
January 9-10, 2012
I have a faint memory of being in a very oversized car. It was a convertible with huge cushy seats that I felt very small sitting on. There was a person in every seat, most of which I think were family. The driver was my uncle, and he was being reckless (which is kind of true in real life, sorry buddy) with his driving—I did feel in danger and was a bit concerned. The connection I see here was that I was in danger—but it was some one else who was in control. At the same time it might have been about giving into darkness and enjoying the ride for what it is to live out my stiff, uneventful life (a possible plus side to this card).