The Devil (Tarot card)

The Devil (Tarot card)

The Devil (XV) is the fifteenth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. It is used in game playing as well as in divination.


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.

According to Waite the devil stands on an altar."", by Arthur Waite] The Devil's right hand is upraised, in direct contrast to The Hierophant raising his "left" hand in benediction. In his left hand The Devil holds a great flaming torch inverted towards the earth. A reversed pentagram is on his forehead.

Eliphas Levi says in his book, "Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual" that::"A reversed pentagram, with two points projecting upwards, is a symbol of evil and attracts sinister forces because it overturns the proper order of things and demonstrates the triumph of matter over spirit. It is the goat of lust attacking the heavens with its horns, a sign execrated by initiates."

Divination Usage

Some frequent keywords used by tarot readers are: Fact|date=March 2008

*"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 ----- mistakes "

Please remember that all Tarot decks used for divination are interpreted up to personal experience and standards.


The Devil is the card of self-bondage to an idea or belief which is preventing us from growing—an example could include believing that getting drunk each night is good for you. On the other hand, however, it can also be a warning to someone who is too restrained and/or dispassionate and never allows him or herself to be rash or wild or ambitious, which is yet another form of enslavement.

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. Should the Devil represent a person, it will most likely be one of money and power, one who is persuasive, aggressive, and controlling. In any case, it is most important that the Querent understands that the ties that bind are freely worn, and you are only enslaved if you allow the abuse to go on.

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.

References & notes

* A. E. Waite's 1910 "Pictorial Key to the Tarot"
* Hajo Banzhaf, Tarot and the Journey of the Hero (2000)
* Juliette Wood, Folklore 109 (1998):15-24, The Celtic Tarot and the Secret Tradition: A Study in Modern Legend Making (1998)
* JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, where the character Devo the Cursed's Stand is called Ebony Devil, and is represented by this tarot card.

External links

* [ "Devil" cards from many decks and articles to "Devil" iconography]

* [ Explains that the Devil card represents the gods Pan and Dionysis and symbolizes pleasure, abandon and excess.]

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