The Devil holds out his hands, presenting a large pile of glittering gold coins which spill into the abyss. Behind him are two individuals, seemingly trapped by The Devil – yet their entrapments are large enough to slip out from should they so desire it. Above him, the Flower of Duality appears; beneath him, countless souls plummet through the torments of their desires. The Devil speaks to our temptations, and the raw potential to creating any experience we want, without reservation or judgement.
Upon the appearance of The Devil, you are invited to observe what temptations you may be pulled towards in your life. However, instead of seeing these temptations as a bad thing, ask yourself the question “What temptations will support me in growing, and what will hold me back?” What do you genuinely desire, both in Spirit and ego? We must be mindful that all things in life are tempting in some capacity, and The Devil simply brings awareness to what spiritual and physical pursuits we are following at this time.
The Devil may very well be one of the most misunderstood cards in the Tarot, for the meaning and implications behind this card are many, and the layers go very deep. On the surface, the card represents temptation. However, in its astrological and Qabalistic depths, it reveals the raw creative impulse, and the honoring of all things in the material realm, no matter how light or dark. The Devil does not make the association between ‘good or evil’ and therefore describes the creation of literally all things.
The Devil card may also be understood very simply with one of Gandhi’s most famous quotes… “The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.”
While traditionally cast under the definition of ‘evil’, The Devil most often represents our physical cravings and carnal desires, and is a particularly powerful card which demonstrates by nature the struggle of the psyche, and the duality and unity between the Ego and the Spirit. The Devil asks us a multitude of questions “What do you want? What has power over you, and enslave you if you allow it? What makes you feel powerful, and help you live your dreams?”
On the surface layer, The Devil is often seen as the old temptations resurfacing, our old way of being which had dissolved in our previous “Death” experience. In this sense, The Devil asks “did you REALLY learn your lesson?”, and tests whether you are more inclined to surrender your ego, or your Spirit, when faced with the cravings of our past.
On the next level inward, that very same temptation can be entirely removed from the previous “Death” experience, and relate more to whatever impulse you have in any particular moment. It reminds you that there are inevitable reactions to every action that we take; no action is without consequence. It further reminds you that not all consequences are “bad” or “wrong”. The consequence of breathing is simply continuing to live.
In Patch Tarot, The Devil is inspired by the character ‘No Face’ from the movie Spirited Away. He holds out his hands, baring a large pile of gold, inviting you to have some. Will you? The concept of No Face is a reminder that ultimately, The Devil has no face but what is within ourselves, and is also completely harmless unless we engage with him, and take the gold. Behind him are two souls who have taken his offer and are now bound by chains. These two souls are indicative of The Lovers and their bound fate together established so long ago. Through the numerology of the cards they form a cosmic link; the Devil is fifteen, one and five added together make six, the number of the Lovers. This implies a sense of “bound by the fate of our desires” when we form into relationships with others, which only last as long as we want the same thing. The moment we no longer share the same desires in the relationship, the relationship must change in some capacity and realign with our new values.
In this sense, there is a spiritual necessity for The Devil and the growth of your soul having an earthly experience. When two souls or more engage with each other in partnership, such as lovers as one example, they are in fact linking themselves to each other, both by ego and spirit. Thus it is now up to both individuals together to make decisions which will heavily impact each other, which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the decisions made. This brings a special mindfulness towards the nature of The Devil, and the experience of having a physical body.
Notice that the chains around them are large enough for the characters to escape. This describes that we always have a choice. We may choose to succumb to our temptations, draw strength from them, release them, or become completely ensnared. Further, entrapment by The Devil is in and of itself a choice – the characters put the chains around their neck willingly, and keep them there as long as they want to. This can be an indication of fuelling anything that tempts us, whether it be an addictive pleasure or a passionate creative spark.
This card urges you to take notice of all of the temptations in your life. Ask yourself, where do these urges come from, and where do these pathways lead to? This can look like anything from eating something that you know is not good for you, or giving up your job to follow your dream. Take a moment to reflect on aspects of your life that are very tempting, both the things that you want, and the things that you don’t, or that you know are unhealthy for your body of consciousness (but you may still want anyways). Look at these free of judgement, so that you may see with eyes unclouded by ego.
It’s also advised to then look outwards and recognize how all of us are subject to our own inner devils. In this card, you can see a plethora of bodies falling in the background beneath The Devil. This shows just how many souls in the world are lost to their own inner desires, and shows that we can either lose ourselves to the momentum of the larger collective, or forge our own paths onward and upward.
Keep your heart open, your intents pure, and your breath deep. Listening to your higher self will be easy; and you will not be easily tempted to give into something that doesn’t benefit you and your growth. In the end, remember not to blame anyone for your actions. By your responsibility and willpower, you can enjoy the material reality to as much, or as little as you like.
The Devil represents all aspects of life on earth, both what could be seen as ‘very light’ and ‘very dark’, because it is all creative energy become manifest in physical idea comprehensible to the mind. Pan is a creature who finds ecstasy in everything, and rejoices in the material world without casting moral judgement. And so, the reversal of this card speaks towards what happens when we attempt to do the same, and become lost in our desires.
This speaks to the nature of addiction, giving in to our cravings no matter how they may affect us, and often forgoing our spiritual calling in favor of experiencing a temporary “high” which does not serve us in any productive or healthy manner.
To turn this reversed card upright, we have to see that within us we have a great deal of potential to do or be anything that we want to, but in order to climb the mountain of light we have to begin taking steps higher and higher, and not jump off into our old addictive behaviors at the first opportunity that we feel pulled to do so. Further, we have to see that each and every one of us are walking our own unique path, and each path should be honored and revered for what they are. There is no reason for casting judgement on others – judgement is between God and each of us individually, and each of us will be judged based on the lives that we’ve each chosen to live. By holding a space of compassion and love for all of us, we can live with understanding that “each of us chooses our own reality”, and this understanding will actually bring you to a state of inner peace, where before there was attachment… our own self-imposed devil-chains, if you will.
The Book of Thoth
The Golden Dawn
The Tarot Handbook