Upright: Bondage, addiction, sexuality, materialism
Reversed: Detachment, breaking free, power reclaimed
The card of the Devil portrays a Satyr, a creature that is half man and half goat. In many myths, the goat was considered an unclean and lustful animal. However, the goat also symbolises the scapegoat, the person or thing upon which people project the inferior side of themselves in order to feel better about themselves. Thus the Devil is the scapegoat we blame for our troubles in life.
The Devil has the wings of a vampire bat, an animal that sucks the life blood out of its prey. This is symbolic of what happens when we give full reign to the realm of our raw desires. We lose our vitality and life energy. The Devil has an almost hypnotic stare, bringing those who come near him within his power. Above him is an inverted pentagram, signifying the darker side of magic and occultism.
At the foot of the Devil stands 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 only closer observation, the chains around their necks are loose and could be easily removed. This symbolises that bondage to the Devil is ultimately a voluntary matter which consciousness can release. The man and woman wear tiny horns like those of the Satyr – they are becoming more and more like the devil the longer they stay here. Both have tails – a further symbol of their animalistic or 'lower' tendencies.
The dark and doorless cave implies that the Devil dwells in the most inaccessible realm of the unconscious and only crisis can break through the walls.
The number 15 in numerology equals 6, the number that corresponds to the Lovers, and here the lovers are shown chained, in bondage to the material, sensual side of their nature. This card is ruled by Capricorn, the goat.
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The card of the Devil represents the hidden forces of negativity that constrain you and that trick you into thinking you are imprisoned by external forces ultimately out of your control. The Devil is an inner force within each of us. He represents our fears, addictions, and other harmful impulses. He is a master of deception and creates the illusion that you are involuntarily bound to him. However, the figures in this card are free to remove the chains from around their necks, indicating that they have freely given the Devil any power he has over them.
When you see the Devil in a reading, ask yourself where you are feeling stuck or restricted in your life. You may be tricked into believing that you are being controlled by external forces when in fact you have created your own chains of imprisonment and powerlessness. A sense of hopelessness can accompany the Devil. You feel despair and have a pessimistic view of life because you feel that so much is outside of your control. You fear the worst, and this means that your fears have a hold over you and prevent you from leading a more fulfilling and optimistic life. What are the addictions or attachments restraining you from experiencing the freedom of the Fool? Are you giving yourself over to the illusion of helplessness and despair? Know that you have the power within to free yourself from the bondage of the Devil.
The Devil often reflects actual addictions and dependencies in your life, such as alcoholism, drug-taking, unhealthy relationships, over-spending and the like. You think you need something and you are willing to go against what you know to be right and true in order to obtain it. You need to break free of these negative patterns of behaviour by acknowledging the hold that they have over you and the negative impact they are having on your life. Often they are behaviours that are immediately gratifying but which cause longer-term damage to your inner fulfilment.
More generally, the Devil indicates that you are becoming obsessed and hell-bent on a particular idea, situation or endeavour. You are over-investing yourself in one area at the expense of other areas of your life. Often, the Devil card represents an over-dependence on material wealth. You may have become so fixated on becoming a millionaire or owning a fancy car that you have forgotten the importance of investing in your relationships or yourself. You have generated a belief that value lies in how much you earn or how much you own. You have created an unhealthy bond with these materialistic desires and you are now being controlled by this bondage.
The Devil appears when you are feeling trapped by things such as unhealthy or co-dependent relationships, financial debt, unproductive careers, unhealthy lifestyles or addictions, or consumerism and materialism. When the Devil is reversed, it indicates a growing awareness that you are currently in this state and you desire freedom from these harmful bonds. You may now be more willing and able to accept changes in your life and you may be more open to taking on new perspectives. However, it is not going to be an easy journey. You will need to battle your inner fears and anxieties to free yourself from the chains that bind you to your unhealthy habits. You need to conduct an audit of your life and eliminate those things that 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 clearly on your goals. Take this opportunity to bring about positive change in your life by providing yourself with ongoing encouragement and motivation. You must remain faithful to your goal of freedom.
If you have not yet succumbed to bad habits or addictions, be cautious about opening yourself up to these temptations in the future. Look out for anything that might put you in debt or under the control of another person who may not have the best of intentions. Avoid anything that might harm your body physically, such as alcohol, drugs, or any other addictions because these will prove to be very difficult to shake off later. You may believe they are only a temporary and harmless release from your personal issues but they may turn into a significant problem that could cause you a lot of grief in the long-term.
The Devil reversed may also refer to the Buddhist principle of detachment. Detachment, also expressed as non-attachment, is a state in which you overcome your attachment to the desire for things, people or concepts of the world, thus attaining a heightened perspective. The detached person is the happiest, for to live without attachment is to live in true freedom. It is important to note, however, that the Buddhist principle of detachment does not mean that you no longer care for things or people but rather that you separate your own existence from them in such a way that means you can still care about them but that you are not dictated or defined by their existence.