The devil tarot card has a rather ominous name, and many people affiliated with the Christian faith might see it in a rather negative light. It is important to stress that the tarot deck is “neutral” in its approach to the various faiths and religions of the world. Here, the devil should not be seen as the Christian devil, but rather as a thematic archetype, like in the works of C.G. Jung
Keywords associated with the Devil Card
Upright: Self-preservation, survival, self-interest, temptation, and choice.
Reversed: Immediate gratification, lust, wanton abandon, and manipulation
Traditional Representation and Description of the Devil Card
In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Devil is derived in part from Eliphas Levi’s famous illustration “Baphomet” in his Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (1855). In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Devil has harpy feet, ram horns, bat wings, a reversed pentagram on the forehead, a raised right hand, and a lowered left hand holding a torch. He squats on a square pedestal. Two naked human demons (one male, one female) with tails stand chained to the pedestal. Levi’s Baphomet has bat wings, goat horns, a raised right hand, lowered left hand, breasts, and a torch on his head, and also combines human and animal features. Many modern Tarot decks portray the Devil as a satyr-like creature. According to Waite, the Devil is standing on an altar. He is actually perched on a half-altar, or a half a cube, which shows he only knows half the story – the sensory half. Because of this, he cannot make an informed decision.
In pre-Eliphas Levi Tarot decks like the Tarot of Marseille, the Devil is portrayed with breasts, a face on the belly, eyes on the knees, lion feet, and male genitalia. He also has bat-like wings, antlers, a raised right hand, a lowered left hand, and a staff. Two creatures with antlers, hooves, and tails are bound to his round pedestal.
Le Diable, from the early eighteenth-century Tarot of Marseilles by Jean Dodal.
The card represents: Being seduced by the material world and physical pleasures; lust for and an obsession with money and power. Also: Living in fear, domination, and bondage; being caged by an overabundance of luxury; discretion should be used in personal and business matters.
Modern Representations of the Devil Card
While the meaning of the Devil card has little to do with traditional Christian beliefs, it should nonetheless be seen as a warning against indulging your basest instincts, which might steer you away from balance and reason. While it is not easy to do if you find a way to avoid the binding chains found on the arcanum and stay on top of your decision-making process, the primal energy found in this card can offer intensely positive experiences if you find a way to balance your mind with your physical needs.
The Mythic Tarot (1986)
The Haindl Tarot (1990)
Osho Zen Tarot (1995)
Law of Attraction Tarot (2011)
Spellcaster Tarot (2016)
Ostara Tarot (2017)
Upright Devil Card Meaning
There are usually three characters depicted in most modern renditions of the Devil card. The overall disposition of these characters can be a reminder of the Lovers card. The main difference is that the woman and the man are both chained by the neck to a black stone on which a kind of demon stands in lieu of the angel depicted on the Lovers. In the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, the Devil draws heavy inspiration from the Horned Goat of Mendes, and from traditional depictions of Baphomet, including a reversed pentagram on his forehead, and with one hand up and one hand down in the traditional “as above, so below” occult hand symbol.
There are many different meanings attributed to the Devil card. All of them, one way or the other, are related either to the physical body or to primal urges and instincts. There is a raw kind of violence that can be found in this card, and it might be a sign that a fight might occur soon.
Since the meaning of the Devil card is also related to primal urges, there is an undeniable sexual aspect to this major arcana. As long as it is kept in check, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but the Devil card meaning should be taken as a warning to keep control of the situation, to let the head make the important decisions instead of the heart or the loins.
In a Question about Love and Relationship
The number 15 card of the Major Arcana, the Devil, represents carnal attraction, temptation, and wanton abandon with regard to romance and relationships. Attraction is animalistic, primal, and lustful. “Damn the consequences!”
If you are single, this card can reveal you want to “play the field” and not be tied down by commitment or marriage. You may be pursuing someone hoping for commitment, but they want to be the devil. Enjoying lust and “friends with benefits” is fine as long as everyone is open and honest. There can be some painful consequences if deception and lying are part of the interaction to get to intimacy.
If you are in a relationship, this card could indicate that you or the other person would like to enjoy some carnal pleasures, perhaps with someone other than your current partner. It could also indicate a need to “spice things up” in the relationship. Either way, your libido or your partner’s needs some attention.
In a Question about Career and Work
Career encompasses school and education if that is your current stage; work that is necessary, but not what you would consider a career path; and your actual career path. Regardless of your current stage of development, the Devil represents the consequences of your action or inaction, your responsibilities (whether you like them or not, agree with them or not).
If you are a student and this is your card, then you need to consider how choices are affecting your education. Are you keeping up academically while also pursuing your self-interests or following your temptations, or are you falling behind? Temptation or not, you are responsible for your actions when choices are involved.
If you are working, but not doing something you would consider a career, then this card will likely force you to determine if the work is really meeting your self-interests or, more likely, your self-indulgences. It could be a case of the end justifies the means (or tries to). Or you are sacrificing your integrity for rewards that are gratifying, but potentially harmful.
If you are in a career path, then this card can encourage you to determine if you are still acting with integrity. Or, has your ego become inflated, in need of narcissistic fawning? Do you know you are taking advantage of people or letting yourself be taken advantage of? If so, you need to make some changes.
Reversed Devil Card Meaning
The meaning of the Devil card is more sinister when reversed. It usually highlights a situation where the warnings about doing the right thing have been ignored. When base instincts and desires take the reins of your decision-making process, your entire being ends up shackled to these urges and leads you away from any kind of objective balance needed in your life.
This is when any healthy desire can turn into obsession and definitely affect and blur your critical thinking process. Free will is nothing but an excuse because you are driven to certain behavior out of need instead of any deliberate decision. This might also be a sign of some physical addiction, like cigarettes or alcohol.
In a Question about Love and Relationship
Reversed, this card certainly can indicate wanton abandon, lust, and extremely poor judgment with regard to your relationship or a recent decision that will profoundly affect your relationship (like cheating on your partner). You may also feel you have cause to suspect your partner of cheating but may end up falsely accusing them, making a problem where one does not exist.
In a Question about Career and Work
When this card appears reversed in a question about work or career, then you are most likely trying to justify some bad decision or behavior that is providing you with an unfair gain. If you are not the cause of the problem, then you may get swept up in one, and this card is appearing to give you some warning.
The Fool’s Journey
Now that the Fool has learned how to balance the various aspects of their life, they are ready for a more sinister encounter on their path. While the Devil tarot card should not be mistaken for any biblical embodiment of evil, it nonetheless represents an incarnation of ignorance and hopelessness when seduced by the lure of the material world
This card reminds the Fool of their various physical urges and all the information absorbed through their senses, with a warning that they can be a vicious form of bondage if the Fool fails to remember the bigger picture and all the lessons learned so far. Acting on impulse can have positive consequences too, a wild kind of spontaneity that is hard to achieve when one is constantly prompt to overthink every action, but this should not become a permanent driving force into anyone’s life.
Meditating with the Devil
While the Devil is not one of the most common tarot cards used for meditation, it nonetheless can be very effective when you are facing any problem with your body or your various physical needs. It might help you take a step back and look at yourself more objectively as you try and assess the nature of your various desires, so you can better handle them once you have identified them clearly.
Likewise, you can channel this major arcana in a meditation session when you feel a drop in motivation or interest for anything involving your own body, or any kind of physical connection. As long as you don’t get lost in these urges, it will help you find your way back and restore your inner balance.