The Meaning of
"The Devil" Tarot Card
Tarot Quick Info
What is the inverted meaning of
"The Devil" card?
The Meaning of
The Symbolism of the Devil Card
The Devil, in his traditional form, perches on a stone altar. Chained to him are the two Adam and Eve figures seen on The Lovers card of the Major Arcana.
In this image, the couple have been transformed; They have become subjects of the Devil and now have horns and tails.
Their tails now reflect the trees they stood next to in the Lovers card. The woman's tail bears the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge which she stood next to, while the man's tail burns like the burning bush which was next to him.
... the couple appear to be prisoners of the Devil but on closer inspection, their chains are loose — implying that theirs is a bondage of their own choice.
On first glance, the couple appear to be prisoners of the Devil but on closer inspection, their chains are loose — implying that theirs is a bondage of their own choice, or which they simply lack the willpower to escape.
The man seems to be demanding something from the woman, and she in turn is plucking a fruit from her tail, presumably to hand it to him.
The Devil himself has his wings spread wide, mirroring the angel in the previous card, Temperance. His right hand is held aloft, while his left hand holds a flaming wand, pointed at the earth — and possibly ignited by the flames of Adam's tail.
On The Devil's forehead, we see an inverted pentacle. This detail also mirrors the angel on the Temperance card. While the angel bore the zodiac symbol for the Sun on his/her forehead, the Devil bears this inverted pentagram in the same position — symbolizing the conceptual opposite of the Sun. Or the opposite of light, warmth, energy, life and creativity.
NOTE: Observant tarot readers may notice that the Devil's posture is somewhat similar to the The Magician card of the Major Arcana. This similarity is intentional, and illustrates a key opposition in the tarot deck: The Magician holds his wand aloft, and his other hand points to the ground. The gesture symbolizes the esoteric doctrine of "As above, so below". Conversely, the Devil's appears to channel his energy from below in a corruption of that doctrine; Specifically, "As below, so above".
NOTE: A common question is: What does the inverted pentagram mean? The inverted pentacle should not be confused with the pentacles appearing in the Suit of Pentacles — although there is a conceptual link between the two. The Suit of Pentacles references the positive aspects of the physical body and the positive aspects of the acquisition of wealth, including enterprise and hard work. By contrast, the inverted pentacle on The Devil card represents the negative aspects of the physical body and the acquisition of wealth, such as promiscuity, sloth, theft, greed and gluttony. In other words, the inverted pentacle symbolizes the negative aspects of the upright pentacle used in the Suit of Pentacles.
How to Interpret the Devil Card
The dark imagery of this card can upset even the staunchest of adventurers into the world of tarot. But when we break down each of the symbols in the card we get a much less scary picture.
Simply put: The Devil is a metaphor for distractions, addictions, temptations and self-imposed restriction.
Despite it's terrifying appearance, the Devil card represents demons of a personal, internal nature.
Despite it's terrifying appearance, the Devil card represents demons of a personal, internal nature. As we see with the couple shown on the card, the chains of restriction are loose. The couple simply lacks the willpower to escape. They have bound themselves to this demon.
When the Devil appears in a reading, it's a sign that good judgement is being overridden by base desires and a lack of self-control. Materialism, greed, jealousy, lust and lesser motivations have replaced genuine ambition and emotional sustenance.
The card may also suggest that something on which someone depends has proved to be flimsy and false. Perhaps a relationship which was thought to be genuine proves to be superficial. Perhaps an understanding proves to be worthless.
The card may also represent the bonds of addiction or dependance — either chemical or emotional. The chains of addiction can be as real as the steel chains pictured in the card, but they are bonds which exist only in the mind. They are entirely of one's own making.
The Devil card reminds us not to be a slave to our own desires. We must control them, and not let them control us.
If the card is referencing a past event, it may point to a time when distraction and temptation overrode self-control and determination.
The Devil Card Inverted
The reversed Devil card can often have very positive meanings.
... the reversed position typically represents someone facing their inner demons, and exercising self control.
While the Devil card in its upright position represents temptation, distraction and materialism, the reversed position typically represents someone facing their inner demons, and exercising self-control.
The card points to an avoidance of our own inner demons, and a path to meaningful growth and higher consciousness. Someone is showing the strength to avoid temptations and distractions, and is finally making progress towards greater goals.
The card may also point to a time when emotional baggage is finally put aside. The invisible chains of our own spiritual bondage are broken and freedom, strength and positivity are reclaimed.
The Devil may also represent any inner demon which restricts us. It may be an inner fear or a mental block which prevents us from moving forwards.
When the inverted Devil appears, it's a sign that the path is becoming clear at last, and the time for progress, love, and personal growth have arrived.
Common Symbols Found On the Devil Card
Tarot cards often use a symbolic or iconographic language to illustrate hints about how each card should be read. The Devil contains at least three common, repeating Tarot symbols. Each of these symbols which repeat throughout the deck can add greater layers of meaning to the card.
The symbols which appear on the Devil card are:
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