Card Meaning: XV The Devil
Hebrew letter: Ayin, ע
that Death and The Devil are the most infamous cards in
the Major Arcana. Exploited heavily in the entertainment business these cards
are percepted as bad and evil. Lucifer. Mephistos. Satan. The Prince of
Darkness. Baphomet. This card has all sorts of bad associations. But what this
card is really trying to tell us? Usually we think that the primary reason for
all the evil in the world lies outside us, that some misterious force that we
name The Devil is forcing us to engage in outmoded ways of behaviour that no
longer serves us, or in some sort of action that brings pain to us or the others. But as usual, the problem is
inside, in our own weaknesses and addictions. What is important is to be honest
to oneself and see where do these behaviours originate from. There is no outside
force forcing us to do things, the man and woman on the card are just seemingly
chained although they can go any time they want, but they want to stay. Just as
ordinary man loves his weaknesses and habbits, addmiting that or not, the man
and woman stay inside their containers of perception and behaviour. This card
is not about balance but about tremendous power of extremity. Of course, it is
not wise to constantly engage in bestial, material ways of conduct but in order
to achieve great things, in order to achieve sometimes unthinkable progress and
victory, extremity in focus and will is welcome.
This is one of the rare cards not perserved in
Visconti-Sforza tarot. Some
people even consider its absence as a sign that it has never existed in that
deck. In Tarot de Marseille deck The Devil is pictured as being with horns, bat
wings and clawed feet. He is obviously androgynous, depicted with penis and
breasts. He is holding some kind of torch or blade while standing on a pedestal.
Sometimes he is cross-eyed to symbolize his impaired vision and thus, impaired
judgement. Also he is often depicted with a face on his belly
and eyes on his knees. His images on various old decks ranges from aimable,
animal-like creature to cruel, dark and fearsome kind.
The Devil card in modern times is derived in part from
Eliphas Levi's famous illustration Baphomet.
Positive associations with this tarot card are will,
persistence, permanance and commitment. The most prominent negative
associations of this card are weaknesses of body and soul. Entrapment,
lust, greed, ignorance, anger. It is our bondage to all things material.
Generally speaking this card is not a good sign but if positioned on place where
commitment is needed it can provide a positive effect for success. Also, it can
be a sign that you are gaining control. It can personificate the animal,
instinctual and even bestial parts of us.
man and woman, loose chains, baphomet, duality
Perhaps the most prominent motif in this card is completely black background.
This card and The Tower are the only cards with that
feature. Obviously, black background represents the absence of light, pointing
to a fact that evil considerations of this card are merely a result of absence of light.
The Devil has an inverted pentagram on his
forehead, a symbol of distorted and ill-based mental faculties. In its natural
orientation pentagram symbolizes a man, but this one symbolizes falsehood and
delusion. He sits upon a half-cube, symbolizing an imperfect understanding of
the physical world, which is represented by a cube. Two persons beneath him are
personifications of the self-conscious and the subconscious mind, their horns and hoofs indicate that delusion bestializes
and devolute human consciousness. They are bonded to the cube but as it was said
before, that is another delusion, they are content with their bondage, not
knowing what they could become if they set themselves free. Another inversion of
natural order of things is visible in the manner The Devil is holding the torch. If
you are pointing fire down you will get burned sooner or later. The Devil's
breasts allude on its androgynous nature. The Devil is related both through his
sum of the digits and his iconography to the The Lovers (number 6).
Both cards speak to our drives, the drives that take us out of the Garden of
central character in each card is winged, each one lives in the archetypal ether,
each one is
crowned; the angel in The Lovers with fire, The Devil with a pentagram and ram’s horns.
In both cards are a naked man and a naked woman. But in The
Lovers, there is still some sense of newness, wholesomeness, and hope; in The
Devil they are chained by the neck and partially transformed into creatures of
the underworld; transformed by their taste of the darkness, by the fruit of the
The design is an accommodation, mean or harmony, between several motives mentioned in the first part. 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 upraised and extended, being the reverse of that benediction 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. Hereof is the chain and fatality of the material life.
The figures are tailed, to signify the animal nature, but there is human intelligence in the faces, and he who is exalted above them is not to be their master for ever. Even now, he is also a bondsman, sustained by the evil that is in him and blind to the liberty of service. With more than his usual derision for the arts which he pretended to respect and interpret as a master therein, Éliphas Lévi affirms that the Baphometic figure is occult science and magic. Another commentator says that in the Divine world it signifies predestination, but there is no correspondence in that world with the things which below are of the brute. What it does signify is the Dweller on the Threshold without the Mystical Garden when those are driven forth therefrom who have eaten the forbidden fruit.
— The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by A.E. Waite