Temptation: The Devil
Often a controversial card, especially to those unfamiliar with the tarot, The Devil can thresh up a lot of issues for querent (and readers!). Without moving into religion or the idea of heaven and hell, we can look to this card through a more pragmatic lens. Read on to get my personal take on card number 15 of the Major Arcana.
The Devil looks straight at us, confronting us with our defects and compulsions that we seem beholden to. The character's face is strewn with tears showing some discomfort and even a little bit of mourning. There's a floating face caught between its horns, calling to mind the imagined versions we have of ourselves. The pentacle symbol right smack in its third eye shows how our intuition can be blocked when we focus too heavily on the material, tangible world.
The Devil symbolizes our own inner demons… how sometimes, we fall into our bad habits again and again. While referencing addiction can be a little tricky (I would much rather point a client to a licensed professional when dealing with serious addictions), on some level, everyone can relate to mindlessly following our compulsions because they feel good in the moment. Whether this means biting off more than we can chew (anyone have a cupcake or donut binge lately?) or having a little too much fun shopping online, giving in to temptation can get pretty serious pretty soon.
Pretty Standard Stuff About the Devil: (Check out the Dreaming Way Tarot depiction above.)
- Chains are an important theme in the standard RWS illustration of The Devil. In the Dreaming Way Tarot, we see a man and a woman chained to the Devil character, symbolizing how they think they have no agency over their decisions. The chains, however, are loose and if they just stopped for a minute, they could see how it is possible to wriggle their way out of whatever they feel compelled to do (this is how using this card with addiction as a disease, specifically, can be a little tricky).
- If you pull up The Lovers card, you'll see how the Devil almost identically mirrors the Lovers—which is about choice and commitment. This card takes that same concept and spins it around because it shows how some people may feel like they have no choice.
But what about cards that go off the beaten path? (Take a look at the Sakki Sakki, Pagan Otherworlds and Black Lilly Tarot Devil cards in the photo above.)
- The Sakki Sakki Devil looks like he's having a grand time—almost like he's caught mid-jig. There's something naughty, fun and exciting about giving in to temptation. To a certain extent and depending on the context, this card encourages us to explore the things that tempt us. Just as long as we don't let ourselves slip down a rabbit hole to virtual "hell," having a taste of what's considered bad for us could be an adventure in and of itself.
- The creature in the Pagan Otherworlds has completely consumed the couple in the traditional RWS. If you look closely, you see the man and woman hiding beneath the Devil's fur coat. This may speak to how easy it is to lose ourselves by giving in to what's bad for us. The creature holds a bunch of smoking herbs (sage, perhaps?)… my take on this is that "repentance" or "cleansing" is necessary to pull ourselves out of the state of disgrace symbolized by the Devil.
- The Devil in the Black Lilly Tarot is an attractive, beguiling figure. Sometimes, the things that are bad for us come in irresistibly pretty packages. Beware!
That's a lot to take in for just one card—a testament to how rich and endless the tarot is. Let your thoughts on the Devil marinate in the meantime and I'll see you next week as we head off into the next "scary card" of the Major Arcana, the Tower.