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Meaning of the Tarot card The Devil

Description

Some frequent keywords are:

Materialism ----- Ignorance ----- Stagnation ----- Self bondage

Lust ----- Egoism ----- Obsession ----- Anxiety ----- Anger

Ganance ----- Hedonism ----- Passion ----- Animal instincts

Sexuality ------ Temptation ----- Lack of faith ----- Vice

Futility ----- Physical attraction ----- Pessimism

In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Devil sits above two naked human demons - one male, one female, who are chained to his seat. The devil, in part derived from Eliphas Levi's famous illustration "Baphomet" in his Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (1855), is winged and horned and combines human and bestial features. Many modern Tarot decks portray the devil as a satyr-like creature. In the Tarot of Marseilles (illustration, below), the devil is portrayed with facial features in unusual places, such as a mouth on his stomach, eyes on his knees, etc., and has both female breasts and male genitalia.

Interpretation

The Devil is the card of self bondage to an idea or belief which is preventing us from growing - examples of such beliefs could include believing that getting drunk each night is good for you. The Devil is the 15th card of the Major Arcana, and is associated with earth and Capricornus. Though many decks portray a stereotypical Satan figure for this card, it more accurately represents our bondage to material things rather than any evil persona. It also indicates an obsession or addiction to fulfilling our own earthly base desires.

Mythopoetic Approach

The Devil is both the Ur-Adversary, and a tremendous source of strength. He represents nearly an inexhaustible source of energy. Battling him gives us strength. Submitting completely to him is ego-death. Like The Magician (Tarot card), the iconography of the suits appear, but not all of them. His wings represent Air, the suit of Swords. The torch in his hands, and the flames in the tail of the male devil represent Fire, the suit of Wands. The grapes in the tail of the female devil invoke Earth; the same grapes appear in most of the cards in the suit of Disks. Only water, Cups are missing. Which on one level, is curious; water is of the unconscious, and The Devil dwells in the subconscious. On another level is heartbreaking; what is missing from the Devil's realm is The Grail, the kindly blessings of the Cup. Perhaps to make up for the lack of water, the kindlier aspects of this card can be seen in the Two of Cups. If the Major Arcana is analogized to the Sun's circle across the sky, The Devil governs the Sun at midnight, when it is most vulnerable to the Old Night. The ancient Egyptians tell of the demon Apophis, Chaos, who would sometimes lay in wait for Ra as he piloted the boat of the Sun down the Nile to be born again in the morning. Sometimes, Apophis would swallow the sun. Mercifully, the reversals of the night brought Set to an unlikely rescue; he ripped Apophis open and let the Sun escape. Set, The Devil, is the adversary but sometimes, he is our best and only ally. In Jungian terms, he is The Shadow. All the repressed, unmentioned or unmentionable desires that lurk beneath. The Devil is related both through his cross sum (sum of the digits) and his iconography with Key VI, The Lovers. Both cards speak to our drives; the drives that take us out of the garden; the drives that make us hard, make us warm, make us live. The central character in each is winged; each lives in the archetypal ether. Each is crowned; the Angel in The Lovers with fire, The Devil by a Pentagram and ram's horns. And each rides above a naked man and a woman. But in The Lovers, there is still some sense of newness, wholesomeness, hope; new love; 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 underworld. The chains are loose. They can be slipped. The Devil's own torch can light the way out. Back to the surface.


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