Updated: Mar 4
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 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?
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.