I get a little thrill when I pull The Devil from my pack of tarot cards – the electric spark of divination, a little hot flush comes to my cheeks. There is danger here, depravity, bondage and deep deep desire. I sense in this archetype the power of this desire and of a burning raw ambition to ascend. Moreover, there is an unflinching devotion. The devil mates for life.
The word Devil and Divinity grew from the same Indo-European root. Deva is God. Devi is Goddess and Daeva is Devil. We find divinity in both the above and the below.
The key phrase that I attach to The Devil is ‘that which binds us’ and we see him in most tarot decks looming over two half human imps, one feminine and one masculine, chained in bondage to him. His posture mimics The Heirophant and his submissive imps rhyme with The Lovers.
The Ties That Bind
He asks us to consider how everything we are, everything we have learned and created and constructed in this world actually keeps us small. He is number XV in the tarot – so we’re looking at a time in life when we’ve already learned a few of lessons. Perhaps you have the house, the kids, the job, maybe even the divorce and probably a quite a few more of life’s traumas. You’ve come through these things with a deeper understanding of yourself, a wisdom, but also a sense that something in you is not being expressed. Something is missing. You’ve made compromises. There are chains.
Well The Devil is looming right behind you, my friend. Can you feel that raw animal power? That yearning? The fire? The Devil connects us to our bodies, to the animal nature of our selves. He flirts with the places that are still hungry. Take a look at the Devil in your favourite deck. Is he wholly human? Are there eyes on his belly, his knees? His message is this; the body tells the tale. When our rational minds have led us only so far on a journey and yet we are still stuck, then it is time to connect with the deep knowing of our body, of our sex, our bellies and our hearts. What does your beast want?
The Tarot’s Old St. Nick
Here’s the thing, The Devil doesn’t particularly want to keep you in bondage, unless that is of course necessary … or at least fun. He is famous for giving gifts, making deals and yes playing tricks. Aren’t Old Nick and St. Nick both famously generous yet prone to exacting just what they want from you.
Yes, he does want your soul because he calls you to cast off your bonds and rise together with him. But he also knows the path to divinity is not all love and light. Yet I wonder if one of his biggest tricks might be in convincing you that what your beast really wants is something untamed, violent, destructive and dangerous.
When I first started venturing into the shadowy underworld, I relished with absolute glee the moments when I uncovered my dark desires to receive and inflict pain, to control and dominate, to rage and to punish. Naturally that was all devilishly fun.
However, while Lucifer brings light to the shadow and fire to the process he doesn’t release us until the job is done. What else can you see in the flickering light of his torch? Is there something deeper still behind the pull to unleash your wild animal nature and dance with the devil? For me, I found there was something very small and more vulnerable that felt even more taboo and hard to admit. Beneath all the wild rumpus, my wild beast becomes like Max in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Wild Things Are and wants to be somewhere where someone loves him best of all – perhaps curled up in a warm den next to other comforting beasty bodies. Maybe you have a soft spot too?
And so The Devil doesn’t tell you that your chains could actually just slip right off. Look, they were loose all along! He presides over this dark place calmly and devotedly feeding you, calling you, holding the solid pole of your ordeal path until you are ready to turn around and face the power looming just behind you.
Ask yourself, what would The Devil like for dinner and invite him in as the devoted lover he is. And don’t forget to live deliciously.
How Can You Integrate The Devil Into Your Tarot Practice?
If you want to take this further and get to know The Devil a bit more intimately check out my course Tarot Initiations where we go deep into magic and ritual for personal transformation.