“In us lies a dark, abject side, fearful of the mysterious power of temptation. It is up to us to decide whether to free ourselves from the evil that stagnates within us or let ourselves be overwhelmed by it. We have two paths to take, one of good and one of evil. It is up to us to decide which way to go.” – Irene Lorenzi (Pride Tarot Guidebook, © US Games Systems, Inc)
Suggested Archetype: The Devil Itself
Carl Jung had a lot of interesting things to say about the Devil as a general concept and I couldn’t do it all justice in just a couple of sentences. So instead, I urge readers to Sue Mehrten’s article “Jung on the Devil and the Reality of Evil” which is hosted on The Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences website. In many ways, the Devil is the dark reflection of the Lovers. This is very clear in traditional RWS tarot decks. For me personally, sometimes I feel the roles of both the Prisoner of the Devil and the Devil itself play out in my psyche and how I act/react with other people.
Evil is a very powerful word and I apply it cautiously. I see the Devil primarily as the Adversary to better selves, better families, better communities, better worlds. Most of the time, people make harmful choices with at least some self-awareness that they are going to hurt themselves or others, and right then and there? They don’t care.
Humans are adept at justifying pleasures or profits and pushing aside the knowledge of inevitable consequences. Most of us suffer from the consequences of actions we participated in and then blame the pain, poverty, or other malaise on something or someone else. All of this just keeps us chained up and mangled. Freedom comes with accountability, changing behaviors, and overcoming the Adversary to sustainability and wellness wherever it dwells and breeds.
The male & female submissives: The biologically female figure on the left and the biologically male figure on the right are naked, bound, and collared in ways to mirror one another. This represents the inclusiveness of “who” becomes the sinner, the slave, the addict, the victim. Neither figure seems to be writhing in torment, however. If anything, their almost indolent posture hints at consent. No outside force is going to free them from captivity and they are not, at present, attempting escape despite the perilousness of their situation.
The devil’s face: Only the horned face of the devil is presented in this card and they are staring directly forward. They are the abyss looking at us as we look at the abyss. With a calm, magnetic, and penetrating gaze, this devil is gauging our reaction to it and its “toys” as we take in the scene. It isn’t clear what the rest of the devil is shaped like but my imagination suggests very disturbing biology regarding everything the figures are tethered to and their obscured functionality.
The devil’s horns: Those long sinewy horns might be of marble- they have a very marbleized pattern. The ivory claws at the end look like they might be retractable or they are an artificial enhancement. Like the rest of the picture, the horns are intended to be paradoxically grotesque and seductive. The danger is intentionally repugnant but coercive, the embodiment of “evil”.
The full moon: Behind the devil centering on a star-filled backdrop is the full moon. The moon, especially the full moon, has long associations with beguilement, wickedness, wantonness, and everything the Devil represents.
Reading The Devil (In General)
Upright, this card could mean something like:
- The person this card relates to is might be struggling against a serious addiction of some kind.
- The person this card relates to is might be extremely self-serving, conniving, and/or hedonistic to the extreme.
- Before you can move forward, you need to face your own inner demons.
- Not all things that are dark or scary are necessarily evil. It might be time to explore something you secretly desire but have trouble admitting even to yourself.
Reversed, this card could mean something like:
- It is time to tackle your biggest anxiety or phobia in a new and possibly radical way.
- Look at what you are doing to hurt others or encourage others to be hurtful towards them.
- If you feel overwhelmed by depression and fear, reach out to a trained health professional.
- Something inside of you is actively making you self-sabotage. Figuring out the what and why is first step in preventing this from continuing.
The Devil In Questions About Relationships
You as the Devil Upright: The only person who should be questioning anything going on between you and other consenting adults are those directly involved. Be honest with your partner or partners. Explore sexuality and sensuality in ways that everyone consents to. You might need to take the initiative and vocally express your fantasies and fears.
You as the Devil Reversed: It might be that you have expectations, fantasies, and desires that are unconventional or socially unsanctioned. Consider the consequences of anything you do with or/to a partner; this card in this position hints at huge risks in attempting wish fulfillment.
The Other Person as the Devil Upright: Most often, this card appears for someone who is living an unsustainably hedonistic or selfish lifestyle. They are not likely to change or be coerced into changing as long as that lifestyle is maintainable. Be very cautious in getting too attached to this person. Be your own advocate and good shepherd.
The Other Person as the Devil Reversed: If this person is struggling to overcome an addiction, cope with mental illness or recover from some kind of major trauma, they are at least sincere in their quest for a better, more sustainable life. It might be the wrong time to start a new relationship but if this is a partner you have a history with, remaining in place and part of their support system might be exactly the best thing for you both.
“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.” ― Oscar Wilde
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