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The Devil Card Meanings- Our Shadow Self

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

The devil Card: Are the human like creatures holding on to the Devil or are they bound by the Devil?
The Devil from the Visconti Tarot

When the Devil card shows up in any of my readings for others or myself, it conjures up a few fears and emotions. Depending on one's background (i.e., religion, culture or superstitions), the Devil can be scary or humorous. The card is the 15th card in the major arcana and is associated with the number 5. The number 5 card (in the first sequence of 10 major arcana) in the deck is the Pope/Hierophant where we are headed on a path of spirituality, the Devil (fifth in the second sequence of 10 major arcana) is the opposite where we are facing our shadow self. This number indicates a lack of balance: 4 elements (earth, fire, water and air) plus 1 other to throw us off which means a change or a disturbance. When we see this card in a reading, we are called to face that shadowy part of ourselves that is destructive and self sabotaging. This card makes us take a look at that dark part of our personality or how we are influenced by another's dark personality.

The Devil (main and central creature)

Depending on the deck, it can be half human and half animal (as in the Visconti card: half goat and human) or an androgynous being with both male and female attributes as in the Marseilles Tarot.

The Devil from the CBD Marseilles Tarot

Sexual organs

The sexual organs of the Devil represent lust, and uncontrolled desires and temptations. Looking at the CBD Tarot Marseilles Devil card to the right, the male and female creatures have an upward gaze toward the Devils penis which can be a sign of a relationship/affair that is based on sexual desire. The Devil is seductive and could indicate the querent is being lured by money, sex or harmful habit. Is sex used to control or have power in a relationship?

Jean Dodal Tarot- The Devil

The Devil also has breasts, eyes and faces painted on the body. These appear as attachments that have been fitted on and this may indicate that a relationship is not genuine and is based on impulsive sexual desire.


The headgear on the Devil (as well as the two smaller creatures) represents the animal magnetism/charisma/sexual charm. The horns of the helmet are a reference to Hades, the Greek god of the underworld. How does the querent use their power in situations? Are they completely powerless when it comes to relationships (work and intimate relationships), habits and their state of mind?

The Devil from the Rider Waite Tarot

Colour Black

The black colour in the background of the card, represents the depths of our conscience that frighten us (traumas, pain,) or the netherworld that tempts us (our own darkness). It could represent emotional breakdown, repressed anger that is coming out in the open as aggression or belligerence.

Bat wings

The bat wings of the central figure is a sign of dabbling in the occult or a sign of behaviour and personality that is opposite of an angel, i.e., evil, demonic.

The Smaller Creatures (their size compared to the Devil)

The smaller creatures are very human like and in most cases one is female and the other is male. The central creature, the Devil, may represent the querent's ego where their ego is too big for their relationship. On the other hand, is there a over dominant person in their life such as a partner, spouse, boss?

Bounded by chains

It could also represent a time of healing where one has faced one's demons and is currently breaking free of the chains. Where someone has been paralyzed by past traumas and pain, facing one's past events through therapy can be liberating and healing. The two smaller creatures can break free of their chains and this can represent an individual who is facing toxic habits such as alcoholism or substance abuse. The chains can represent compulsive, addictive habits that are destructive.

The chains can also represent someone who is very restrained, ashamed and has not been able to freely express oneself or is burdened with past embarrassments.

The Torch

The fire of the torch represents the burning desires that are uncontrolled and if left unchecked can lead to the querent's undoing through their own self sabotage or be lead by a toxic individual to harm. An example of this is when an individual's compulsive spending habits are so out of control that it causes financial harm to their partner and family.

The Devil card from the Spanish Tarot

The Facial Expression of the Central Figure, the Devil:

In some decks, the Devil has a facial expression of defiance or mocking. In the Marseilles deck, the Devil has their tongue sticking out which indicates that the querent maybe defiant in nature or in their current behaviour. Could it be indicating a rebellious streak of the querent where it may lead to trouble? On the other hand, perhaps the querent is being too stubbornly proud or superior which leads others to laugh at them.

When the Devil Card appears in a spread:

For readings where the question is regarding romance, this card suggests that you feel like you will never find that one true love. Perhaps you are going about finding true love in the wrong way because the other party feels like you are coming on way too strong. Don't try so hard. If you find yourself having to pretend to like certain things to please the other person, this relationship is not for you. If you are in a relationship, the Devil card suggests that you may be feeling too tied down - this is something you need to address before resentment kicks in. The reversed Devil card can indicate that the relationship may bring out things in you that you don't particularly like; for instance: are you drinking too much alcohol or becoming negative? This card whether it shows upright or reversed is reminding you that you have choices. If you are feeling trapped in a relationship, you need to address it. Decide if the relationship is worth saving. The outcome will depend on how you approach the matter.

For readings regarding finances, the Devil card indicates that you may be a bit of an annoyance to others so try to be self-aware. If you are a little low on cash, don't whine about it. This will make people want to avoid you. If you need help just say so. Be honest about it. For instance, don't agree to go out with others if you don't have enough to pay your share - mention it beforehand. Maybe someone will offer to pay for you and then again maybe not. However, if you are doing well with finances, put some away in savings. Don't blow it all on the fun. Save for a 'rainy day'. Also, when you are doing well, it is important to give a little to others in need, especially if they helped out at other times. Keep the good energy flowing. When the Devil card is reversed it has a similar meaning to the upright meanings. Things may be a little tight moneywise so develop ways to make your dollar stretch. This card reversed may also indicate that you have delusions regarding money. You are not entitled to have whatever you want.

When the question is about your career, the upright meaning of the Devil card reminds you that you have choices. You do not have to stay in a job that you hate or that is not rewarding to you. No one is keeping you in a job that you don't like. So take some time to examine why you are staying in the job- is it the benefits, vacation time? Think of the job that you would like to have and make a plan to find that kind of work before you quit the other. A reversed Devil card in this situation may indicate that something is really wrong in the job and that you and others are too afraid to speak up such as safety issues, and harassment. Know your rights and seek help in dealing with these issues. If you have a union, go to them to get help.

When the question is about health, the Devil card is telling you to examine your habits. You are feeling bound by the work demands of the job. Watch your stress level. Do you really need to work so many hours or do you feel like you need to? How is your outlook on life? If you have negative feelings towards the people around you, you are going to get that negative energy back. You need to have positive beliefs and faith in your fellow human beings. The reversed Devil card can indicate an obsession with material things, being around too many toxic people, and fear of losing wealth. The Devil is indicating that you have become a slave to greed, and anger. You are not entitled to whatever you want. Greed, anger and delusions are poison and now is the time to reevaluate what is really important in your life.

The above are suggestions for reading the Devil card and are not the only meanings that the Devil card can have. You must look at the surrounding cards chosen by the querent in the reading. Whatever meaning you get from the Tarot card will be dependent on the deck you use, other cards in the spread and the question (the reason why the querent is having a Tarot reading).

The following is a sample three-card reading:

When trying to learn a new trade you are missing too many details because you are not paying attention to what you are doing. Slow down and listen to your mentors. With so much enthusiasm, you may have to fix a few errors before you can think of advancing. Don't be too proud to take advice. Don't worry these mistakes are forgivable. We all need a reminder that we are human. Pay attention to advice.

The Devil card from the Zerner-Faber Tarot
The Devil is represented by Pan in the Mythic Tarot


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