The Devil is such a compelling figure and one to consider from so many angles. In the Tarot he surprises us by showing up right after the stabilizing force of the Temperance card. Let’s find out what this particular tarot teacher has to say.
Card: The Devil
Planetary Ruler: Pluto/Saturn
Zodiac sign: Capricorn
Season: Late Winter
We have just come through Death and found a place of balance and revivification with the Temperance card. Just as we think we are making some progress, Old Scratch shows up to cause mischief and mayhem…or does he?
* Slavery and Bondage
* Addictive Behaviors and Chronic Negative Thought Patterns
* Love of the Wild
* Obsessions and Compulsions
In the Tanakh (The Hebrew Bible or what Christians call the “old testament”), the term Satan is almost always accompanied by the definite article “the.” As a result, some translators believe that the term refers to a function as opposed to a specific being. This function of “the Satan” is perhaps best illustrated in the Book of Job where he is described simply as “the adversary.” In Christian contexts Satan becomes the Devil. The word is derived from the ancient Greek diabolos which literally means “to slander” or “the slanderer.”
First and foremost, we see from the Jewish and Christian contexts of the terms Satan and Devil, that the function of the Devil is that of a challenger or adversary. This aspect is carried over into folklore where characters like “Old Scratch” show up to create mischief and mayhem and figures like Krampus-a pre-Christian German figure especially active during the holidays–is the foil to “Good St. Nicholas.” Whereas St. Nick awards children who have been good, Krampus punishes those who have been bad. The image that we see emerging from these depictions is a figure whose job is to exploit us in the areas where we are most weak. Some believe that the Devil does this because he is inherently evil, but others find that we prove our worth and mettle by facing temptation head on and acknowledging where we may be enslaved; enslaved to bad relationships, addictive behaviors, or simply chronic thought patterns that will not subside.
Capricorn, the astrological sign that is affiliated with the Devil card, gives us another aspect to consider. Capricorn and the Devil share the ruling planet of Saturn. In astrology, Saturn is often conceived as a planet dictating discipline, restriction, and a rigid adherence to one’s strict ethical and moral code. In Greek myth, Saturn is Kronos, the God of Time who continually procreates only to devour his children in fear that his throne may be usurped. The Devil is also the Horned Goat associated with Pagan Gods like Pan and Cerrunos–the Celtic Lord of the Animals. In this guise the Devil is viewed as a Christian overlay on a pre-Christian Deity who symbolized wild lands, wild behavior, and protections of and for the wild.
In the RWS version of the card we see a horned figure with the torso of a man and the shaggy, furred legs of a goat. This image is the traditional Satyr image of half man/half goat we see associated with the Devil throughout the Western world. An inverted pentagram rests between the Devil’s horns. The pentagram was first popularized by metaphysical and mathematical teacher Pythagoras and has many mysteries associated with it. Far from a symbol of evil, the pentagram right side up actually connotes adherence to the four cardinal virtues and high esteem for the immortal soul. In it’s inverted position, the pentagram indicates a disdain for these trappings of religion and civilization. At the feet of the Devil are two figures who look familiar to us because we first met them in card #6–The Lovers. In this card, however, our prototypical Adam and Eve have sprouted their own horns and, most alarmingly of all, they are chained to the great beast’s throne. When we look closely at the chains, however, we see that the collars around both the man and the women are large and spacious and easy enough to slip right on out of. This gives us the clue that the Devil is actually a challenge for us–to examine what chains bind us, name them, and then free ourselves of them once and for all.
When it shows up in a reading, this card usually indicates that something is binding you right now. It is your job to figure out what that is and do something to free yourself. It may also indicate that an addiction you have had up to this point and believed you could handle on your own is getting the better of you. It is time to seek out help. In some cases, this card encourages you to never underestimate the person(s) who challenge you most. For others, this card is a clarion cry to rebel against an unjust system and often indicates a “return to nature” or a romanticization of all that is wild, free, and unfettered by man-made civilization.
Sacred Journal Prompt: Is there a Devil in your life right now? Who or what is your own personal adversary? What are the chains that are binding you and how might you go about setting yourself free?
Build an Altar: Depending on what the Devil card says to you, you can create an altar that is meant for banishing work. Put items on the altar that you wish to be free of–overloaded credit cards, cigarettes, liquor, that abusive friendship–and then take practical steps to let them go. Place this altar in the West and work at it as the sun sets in the sky.
Honor the Wild: If the Devil is not posing as an adversary to you right now then perhaps he is reminding you of what is wild, free, and unfettered. What in your own life is wild? Does something need to be unchained a bit more? Take a walk in the woods and consider these questions.