The Devil is an easily misunderstood card.
It’s easy to see why: its iconography is striking. The card has an imposing appearance, with a dark archetype to it. In common lore devils are figures of fear, enslavement, control, power, manipulation. Their revealed visage is often grotesque or horrendous. Yes, The Devil and fear tend to go hand in hand.
In tarot, The Devil holds a different resonance. True, the XV card of the Major Arcana represents something quite dark, but in the same breath remains a very enlightening card. While The Tower represents the destruction of the things around us, down to and even past our deepest foundations, The Devil represents the destruction of our internal selves. This card has nothing to do with outside forces and everything to do with internal ones. One could consider this card an aspect of our shadow-self.
No one likes seeing the card. The Devil comes out and even the most stone-faced of persons will give some visual cue to their unsettled internal response. In that same light however, in my experience no one is ever surprised by the heavy conversation that follows his arrival. These are the conversations that most feel uncomfortable discussing, the ones we feel shame, guilt, or personal disappointment in. They are the things we bury, stash in the back of our minds, or overcompensate for. The reasons we cloud our vision with surface denial.
We’re talking about addictions and allowing ourselves to be stuck in bad situations. The ways we willingly giving up our freedoms or allow others to exert their control over us. It’s gluttony, lust, and overconsumption in whatever forms they manifest. How we get stuck in the physical world of materialism and appearances, so much so that we forget or choose to ignore our soul, spirit, mental and emotional wellness. It is the intentional act of choosing pleasure, instant gratification, or the easy route.
The Devil is tunnel vision and only choosing what you want to see. It’s fear and uncertainty, and the lies we tell ourselves to allow us to stay in the same place without change. It’s unhealthy thought patterns that allow us to see the worst of a situation and not do anything about it. It’s hopelessness and despair over our own actions, thoughts, and pattern of behaviors. What The Devil reflects is doubt and faithlessness with a deep desire and longing underneath for something different, but consciously doing nothing about it. He is the façade of the prisons we create for ourselves.
With all that, The Devil isn’t a bad card. In fact, even with all its heaviness, he’s a pretty gentle, and enlightening fella. The Devil is more honest with you than any other card that you’re going to come across, which should say a lot because there are some pretty heavy hitters in the deck. Whenever this card comes out, a card that demands honest exposure and reflection of the darkest parts of our self, it carries with it a particularly important message:
You are in control here.
Whatever is going on, whatever we are or are not doing: this situation happened because of our decisions, and only our actions can yield change. When we see this card in our readings, he illuminates. There is darkness around him, yet he is the torchbearer. The Devil encases in light exactly where our focus needs to be to heal.
He presents the opportunity to reclaim power. As the weavers of our own fate it is ultimately up to us how we choose to move forward, and he points out the obstacles. Sure, he’s laughing at us. There’s a dark humor in bearing witness to someone who self-sabotages, who intentionally gets in the way of their own self, especially those that seek the wisdom of the universe through tarot. That’s called irony. Yet, if we take a small moment and observe, while he laughs The Devil gives a hearty pat on the back and guides the willing in the direction to correct our own personal undoing. The card is free of judgement, free of bias, free of deprecation, free of pressure. When we meet his gaze, he stares right back, waiting.
How do you choose to proceed?
The Devil comes when he is most needed, and not a moment sooner. So what do you do when you don’t want raw exposure of your darkest self when the moment crescendos to its most dire instant? Well, the answer is simple: prepare yourself and seek out The Devil on your own terms. Grab your tarot deck, ground and center yourself, and shuffle. Split and stack your deck as if you were to do a traditional reading yet lay no cards down. Flip your deck to its belly so you are looking at the bottom face-up card and start sifting through card-by-card and search The Devil out. When you find him, look at the card just before he showed his face: this card speaks of the illusion you cast on yourself that enables you to hold yourself hostage. The card just after him illuminates the heart of that which needs to be addressed.
What does the Torchlight of The Devil reveal to you?
Author’s Notes: Taurus Constellation Tarot Cloth handcrafted by the talented @craftingcancerian