While trying to come up with what to write about the Devil card in tarot, I kept hearing the lyrics by INXS “Every single one of us / The Devil inside”. That made me think: it’s sort of true. Each of us have our own “demons” that we struggle with consciously or subconsciously every day. The “Devil” appears in different forms in our lives, whether we categorise it as an actual “Devil” or just something that we struggle with. We don’t need to consider ourselves Christian or have any particular doctrine faith to recognize what the tarot “Devil” symbolizes in our lives, to call these things “demons”.
Whether it be addictions, anger, jealousy, obsessions, negative thinking, unhealthy attachments, resentments, self-imposed limitations or generally feeling disconnected from Spirit, these so called “demons” (and I use the term very loosely and generalised) are struggles for many people. However, the tarot Devil is something we create in our own lives, rather than some “big, bad, ugly entity” that sits in Hell waiting to get us. Many times, we are our own worst enemy; we can create our own “hell” so to speak by limited thinking, binding ourselves to negative or unhealthy situations or ideals and in the end, we are the ones who can break those chains that bind us to that negativity.
Sometimes, we may think there are no alternatives to a situation or we get into habits that become a negative cycle. Not being aware of alternatives becomes our ignorance and the negative cycle becomes our hopelessness. We end up then resenting everything tied to the situation and become angry with it and ourselves, which in turn can end up being directed towards others.
There was a time in my life when I felt bound to life circumstances, which in all honesty, I created. I was determine to “go down with the ship” and see it “until the end”. However, just like the figures in the Rider Waite deck, I refused to acknowledge that I could easily slip out of those chains and run away, and no one would have thought less of me for it. But, my thoughts kept me there. My mislead thinking made me believe that other people would have thought less of me and that I would have heard “I told you so,” which made me think the worst and feel trapped. But, it was all down to choice and what I was telling myself inside. As I mentioned earlier, this turned into anger, resentment, lashing out while all trying to stay put. It was a hopeless situation, but my ignorance and commitment kept me in it.
When I finally realised what needed to be done, the Devil was then reversed for me. However, when the Devil is reversed, it can mean a release of all the negativity above, but the Devil is not all sunshine and happiness reversed. It’s lessened, but like a messy breakup of any kind, there’s complications. The Devil reversed brings reprieve from its negative aspects, but there’s still issues to be worked out and it may still be hard to cut those proverbial strings (or chains). Even though I had slipped the chain off me and ran away, there was still disharmony and disagreements that followed to clear up the mess that was left behind. While the Devil upright can mean bondage/marriage, reversed can indicate divorce as it did in my example. The Devil signifying marriage can mean even a happy marriage, one that you are committed to in thick or thin and you chose to stay in the good and bad; in reversed, it’s cutting through the bondage and chains, but can be a complicated divorce – or as in my case, spiteful. But, in any case with the Devil card, it shows us there is a lot of inner work to be done, whether the card is upright or reversed.
The tarot’s Devil aspect is a part in all of us, as is every card of the major and minor arcana. If we fear the Devil card in a reading, what part do we fear of ourselves? For an example in another meaning for the Devil, if you take the Black Cats Tarot, the “devil cat” holding a stick with an apple on it. Could it possibly mean “forbidden temptations”? Doing something that is potentially bad for us, but not being able to resist? Could it be as simple as smoking, addictions, eating unhealthy food or staying up too late/sleeping in too much? Could it be our need and wants for more material possessions to make us happy? Or could it be in the terms of relationships, such as pursuing someone who has bad intentions/morals/influences? The Devil card shows us how we care for ourselves or rather how we aren’t caring for ourselves as we should.
To reference the title of the Rolling Stones song, “Sympathy for the Devil”, if the tarot Devil card is an aspect of ourselves, then shouldn’t we also have sympathy for ourselves? The hopelessness, ignorance, anger, disharmony, disagreements, selfishness, limitations, addictions, obsessive and negative thinking that we endure and bring upon ourselves, shouldn’t we have self-care and realise there’s a different way out of these habits (if we want)?
The Devil card casts a light on ourselves in a shadow that we sometimes don’t want to admit, but gives us ample opportunity to analyse the situation, our thinking and think if we want to change it, and possibly how we can do that. Follow up readings done in tarot can help point in directions to clear up negative thinking, being bound in a situation by our own ideals and thinking, and see how we can free ourselves from the ignorance, hopelessness and self-imposed chains.