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Devil Tarot Card Meanings
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UPRIGHT: Shadow self, attachment, addiction, restriction, sexuality
REVERSED: Releasing limiting beliefs, exploring dark thoughts, detachment
The Devil card shows Baphomet, or the Horned Goat of Mendes, a creature that is half man, half goat. Baphomet originally represented the balance between good and evil, male and female, and human and animal; however, more recently, this figure has been linked to the occult and has become a scapegoat for all things considered ‘evil’.
The Devil has the wings of a vampire bat, an animal that sucks the lifeblood out of its prey, symbolic of what happens when you give in to your raw desires. He has a hypnotic stare which ‘magnetises’ and entrances those who come near him, bringing them under his power. Above him is an inverted pentagram – a sign of the darker side of magic and occultism. He raises his right hand in the Vulcan Salute – a Jewish blessing, later made famous by the film series, Star Trek. In his left hand, he holds a lit torch.
At the foot of the Devil stand a man and a woman, both naked and chained to the podium on which the Devil sits. They appear to be held here against their will – but look closer, and you will notice that the chains around their necks are loose and could be easily removed. Each has small horns on their head, like the devil’s, a sign that they are becoming increasingly like him the longer they stay here. Both have tails, a further symbol of their animalistic tendencies and raw instincts, and the grapes and the fire on their respective tails signify pleasure and lust.
NOTE: The Tarot card meaning description is based on the Rider Waite cards.
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The Devil card represents your shadow (or darker) side and the negative forces that constrain you and hold you back from being the best version of yourself. You may be at the effect of negative habits, dependencies, behaviours, thought patterns, relationships, and addictions. You have found yourself trapped between the short-term pleasure you receive and the longer-term pain you experience. Just as the Lovers card speaks to duality and choice, so too does the Devil; however, with the Devil, you are choosing the path of instant gratification, even if it is at the expense of your long-term well-being. In effect, you have sold your soul to the devil!
The Devil card often appears when you have been tricked into thinking you have no control over your shadow self or these negative forces, and that you can never break free from their hold. You believe you need it and you must have it, even if it means going against what you know to be right to obtain it. Deep down, though, you know it’s to your detriment, and you are only doing yourself (and often others) a disservice when you cave in to these lower needs and desires. To break free of these negative patterns, you need to acknowledge the hold they have over you and the impact they are having on your life. For example, the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous is an admission: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.”
When the Devil shows up in a Tarot reading, see it as an opportunity to bring these negative influences into your conscious awareness, so you can then take action to free yourself from their hold. Shine your light on the negative patterns that have been standing in your way for so long, and over time, you will loosen the grip they have on you. Given that the Devil is a Major Arcana card, it is unlikely that you will be free from your addictions and dependencies overnight. It may be a recurring pattern for you, and it will take a tremendous amount of willpower and strength to free yourself from their influence. But know this: it IS possible, and it is up to you to make it happen.
On the positive side, the Devil can also show a powerful attachment between two people, such as a mum and her newborn, or a new romance still in its ‘honeymoon phase’. Be careful, though, because, with the Devil card, this healthy attachment can turn into an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship if you lose connection with your inner guidance or don’t protect your personal boundaries.
The Devil can also represent sexuality and your wild side. You may be exploring bondage, fetishes and your deepest, darkest fantasies. If you can do this within a safe, sacred space, it can be a very enriching experience. However, it has the potential to turn into something that may be unsafe or detrimental to your well-being in the long-term, so again, set clear boundaries, choose your partners wisely and have your ‘safe words’ ready to go.
The reversed Devil card can often appear when you are on the verge of a break-through or an up-levelling. You are being called to your highest potential, but first, you must let go of any unhealthy attachments or limiting beliefs that may hold you back. Often, when you are called to something ‘more’, you must deal with your shadows before you can step into this new version of yourself. It may be an addiction, unhealthy relationships, or a disengaging career. Let go of fear and release any self-imposed limiting beliefs standing in the way of your growth. It is easier than you realise.
The reversed Devil calls on you to confront your inner fears and anxieties to free yourself from the chains that bind you to your limiting beliefs and unhealthy attachments. Eliminate those things you know are harmful to you and your inner psyche. It may be about creating a healthier diet, watching less television, quitting smoking, spending more time with your loved ones, or focusing more on your goals. Take this opportunity to bring about positive change in your life by staying focused on the ultimate goal of freedom.
The Devil reversed can also appear when you are going into your deepest, darkest places – whether or not you are ready. When you take this path consciously, you do so with strength, confidence and courage. You seek to understand your innermost shadows so you can either release them or integrate them into your life in a more constructive way. When you do it unconsciously, or with resistance, it can be very confronting as you may begin to realise you are very different from who you thought you were. You may enter a period of anxiety or depression, or experiencing dark thoughts you struggle to understand. If this resonates, then please seek out a trained therapist to help you work through this time.
The reversed Devil may also be a sign you are hiding your deepest, darkest self from others, keeping it a secret. You may have thoughts, fantasies, addictions, or habits that you don’t want others to know because you feel embarrassed or ashamed. But sometimes, holding onto the secrets can contribute to a growing level of guilt, and you may feel a sense of relief if you can share your darker self with at least one trusted individual. There is also a need to accept who you are and forgive yourself for the thoughts you have. Of course, if you are at risk of harming yourself or others, please seek professional help immediately.
Finally, the Devil reversed invites you to practice the Buddhist principle of detachment, a state in which you overcome your attachment to the desire for things, people or concepts of the world, and free yourself from any restrictions. It doesn’t mean you don’t care for people or things; you release your dependence on them. You may also find that a cord-cutting visualisation helps to release any unhealthy attachments to others, especially when the Devil reversed appears in a Tarot reading.