Tarot 15 – The Devil
By James Donahue
The Devil Tarot card is the antithesis of the Temperance card. Instead
of the Archangel Michael harmonizing the psychic and material natures of humanity, we have the figure of the Devil depicting
human failures including pettiness, materialism and base desires.
Indeed, the Devil is an invention of the human psyche. His existence
stems from religious belief systems that create a creature with the power to tempt mankind into a spiritless lifestyle of
seeking fame, fortune and self-pleasure.
The card is numbered 15 suggesting also a second antithesis to the
Magician (Card 1) using the five elements, earth, air, fire, water and spirit for materialistic gain. Notice that the Devil
is holding his right four fingers and thumb up and his cudgel, the symbol of power, is pointed down. This is the exact opposite
pose used by the Magician, and for exact opposite purposes.
But wait, the Devil Card also mocks the Hierophant. His right hand
mimics yet perverts the gesture of the Hierophant. The Hierophant offers spiritual wisdom and beacons to us with an open hand.
The Devil’s gesture hides his true intentions of hurtful wisdom.
Yet another parody in this card is the appearance of the Lovers. While
on the Lovers card, an angel hovers over them, we now see the lovers separated and chained with the Devil hovering over them.
Instead of blessing them, he brings a curse. No longer connected to each other by love, the lovers are now chained to the
Devil because of lust and ignorance.
The inverted pentagram on the Devil’s forehead indicates spirit
submerged in and subjugated by the material world.
As in mythology, our Devil has the grim face and horns of a goat and
wings of a bat. His donkey ears speak of a stubborn and obstinate personality. Notice the symbol of Saturn appears in his
right hand. This indicates inertia and limitations. His cudgel is, in fact, a burning torch, the perfect tool for destruction.
Standing before this creature are the lovers, only here they are separated,
naked and vulnerable, each chained to a solid block of stone which serves as the Devil’s chair. In spite of their situation,
the faces of the two subjects remain calm. It is said that they are entranced by the promises of superficial material gain.
Thus they choose to remain chained to their worldly desires. Notice that the chains hang loosely around their necks, indicating
that their position under the dominating influence of the Devil is a personal choice.
Notice also that both the man and woman have tails. The woman’s
tail ends in a bundle of grapes suggesting she has made poor use of the wine of life. His tale suggests the wrong use of the
signs of the Zodiac.
When the Devil appears in a reading it indicates a warning of personal
selfishness and egotistical feelings. This card calls for a long, hard look at our dark side. The primary lesson is
that we can free ourselves from whatever restrictions are holding us back. It is our choice.