The Tarot deck has many high points and some low ones as well, just like life in general. There is no finessing card #15, The Devil. It is not a good thing to get this card in your reading, with the exception that it may be the confirmation you need to end a dysfunctional relationship. The core of this card is a negative relationship that you have with someone or something. It might be a lover or a boss. It might be marijuana or alcohol. It might be a friend who you knew was a bad influence and yet you deepened the relationship. This card carries all of the negativity surrounding the twin terrors of addiction and codependency. Toxic substances, toxic relationships and our deep denial about the depth of our situation conspire against us. The Devil card says your only hope is to abandon the current state of hopelessness.
No mistaking who that is perched on a stone pedestal. It is the beast himself. This man-beast has bat wings, ram’s horns, a grotesque hairy goat-like face, a shaved obese chest and hairy animal thighs that turn into talon-like claws that grip his pedestal. The background behind him is black as he raises his right hand as if to administer an oath and lowers a lit torch with his left hand. A metal ring is bolted to the concrete pillar he calls home. A woman and a man are chained to this ring. The chains are leashed onto their necks. The woman and man are naked and stare straight ahead.
There are other symbols that may or may not appear in the particular Tarot deck from which you receive your reading. The astrological symbol for Mercury may be tattooed on the Devil’s belly. The symbol for the planet Saturn may be formed in the lines of his open right palm. There may be a pentagram floating above his head or tattooed onto his forehead. The words “Solve” and “Coagula” may be emblazoned on his right and left arms respectively. In some illustrations of this scene, the woman has grown a leafy tail while the man has a tail with flames at its tip.
The Devil’s appearance is nothing short of that of a beast. The core point of interest is the chained man and woman. Their nudity is a metaphor for pleasure-seeking and shamelessness. The chains indicate that they are prisoners of a lifestyle of their own choosing. The Devil is simply a metaphor for the thing to which they have surrendered themselves: addiction, anger, lust, interpersonal emotional games disguised as love, etc. The Devil does not sit on a throne, but rather clings to an unadorned small pillar. The glamour these two pursued was an illusion all along. The Devil appears to be administering an oath, indicating that most people willingly go into serving the thing that enslaves them and build a loyalty to this vice. The many symbols that may or may not adorn The Devil in your Tarot deck all underscore the severity of servitude and the ruin caused by surrendering love to materialist and sensualist pursuits at the expense of all else.
Meaning in Past, Present and Future Positions
When your Tarot reading begins, cards are placed in locations that have specific meaning. Your past, present and future are signified. Some cards are stronger in different positions than others.
When The Devil card is in the past position, your dealings with a domineering person or situation are over and done with. The foundation on which your life operates has the experience of this intense relationship at its core, but you have new structures in your life from which to operate and excel. It is good news to have The Devil in the past position. The chains have been broken.
In the present position, this card’s appearance is your wake up call. You are hooked into something and may not even realize it. It could be the mindset of being a victim, or it could be the need to have a buzz before facing the day. You are being held back by something that you willingly embraced, at least initially. Perhaps your once great lover has become an embittered hater who takes out his resentments on you with verbal abuse. Whatever the case, The Devil card here acknowledges that a terrible connection in your life right now is chaining you down from being whom you truly are.
In the future position, this card is a warning. You are setting up structures in your life that are attracting people who are users, takers and not good for what you hope to accomplish. The Devil in the future position looms as something that can be minimized or avoided if you work hard to spot the areas in your life in which you lie to yourself in order to just get by or get along. A rigorous self-examination is needed in order to move forward with confidence in the beauty and value of life.
Cards that join together to make your reading also influence each other. They can change each other’s meaning ever so slightly. This combining of energies is what makes your reading unique.
The card with the closest relationship to The Devil is actually its opposite: The Hierophant. This card represents surrendering to the greater good and to the established order. When these two are in a reading together, the tension will be whether chaos or order reins supreme in your life.
Most other cards of the deck add a better definition of who The Devil in your life may be. The Lovers card combined with The Devil indicates an affair. The Chariot indicates your pursuit of victory will destroy everything in your life – this combination is particularly terrible to receive if you are in litigation. Combined with The Empress, The Devil card indicates that someone to whom you are attracted is too closely associated with bad people to ever really trust.
One card that minimizes The Devil is The Fool. This card puts you in a safety bubble as you move through life interacting with people whose agenda is destructive. Even the Tarot has insurance cards!