The Devil Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretations
There are cards in Tarot which beginners find intimidating, perhaps even frightening, to find in their spreads. The Devil is one of these cards which is included in the Tarot deck as a warning sign for harmful actions, desires or habits. It is not a card that necessarily indicates evil, demons, spirits or anything of dark occult origin. It is an important and necessary card as it serves to point out to us wrong paths, bad decisions, or habits we have that we may not be aware of.
It's surprising to discover that the card that is most closely connected to The Devil is one of the most beautiful cards in the deck, The Lovers. Both cards have the same numerological value of 6 as The Devil is card 15 in the Major Arcana which reduces in numerology to 6 (1+5). The positive attributes of the number 6 are responsibility and service to family, friends and community. It is one of the most harmonious numbers of the 9. The Devil reverses the 6 expressing its negative qualities of irresponsibility, selfishness and indifference to others. In the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) deck this reversal is also seen in the inverted Pentagram above the devils head. This orientation of the pentagram symbolises evil and represents the descent of spirit into matter (the material) and the triumph of matter over spirit elevating the material, or flesh, to a higher status than spirit or soul. Tarot is full of Pentagrams, it has an entire suit of them in Pentacles, but only in this card should you see the pentagram inverted.
The RWS deck also depicts the same couple seen in The Lovers in the The Devil. This is a continuation of the story around the biblical myth of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace and expulsion from the Garden of Eden for the crime of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The artist, Pamela Coleman Smith, added tails to the characters symbolising their new animal like status. Notice also in the RWS card how the chains around their necks are loose enough for the characters to slip over their heads and walk away. This should remind us that it remains within our power to break what ever bonds us to this evil place. Even though The Lovers represents an irreversible choice which prevents us going back we do still retain the choice to move on and forward.
The Devil is a card of vice, bonds, addiction, unhealthy activities and negative emotions of anger, rage, jealousy, greed and lust. The imagery is often that of a man and a woman in chains attached to an alter or stone upon which a devil or demon sits. These chain's are bonds into which they have placed themselves and only they can break free from. A vice, like drugs, gambling, smoking or drinking is something you may have the freedom of choice to do but perhaps not the strength of will to give up. Some decks, like the RWS, depict the man and woman with tails representing their reversion to animal behavior as a warning of following animal like urges and instincts.
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THE PICTORIAL KEY TO THE TAROT
By Arthur Edward Waite (1911)
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.