Don’t freak, just hear me out. I want to talk about this Devil card, its heavy connotation with all things negative and why we should consider calming down, and maybe even smiling when this one pops up every now and then.
I partly blame past Christian imagery and the political desire to turn paganism into heresy for this card’s terrible reputation. Personally, I really can’t stand the traditional image of The Devil in tarot. Not to take away from years of historical symbolism and meaning in the card—because it shows some great insight—but I personally see the archetype of The Devil as more enticing than what the image suggests. That’s why I enjoy the Mary-El version (the center card above), which has more of a subversive (and slightly feminine?) BDSM vibe, the Gilded Tarot (to the right, above), which is simple, but still offers a subversive, defiant, and even secretive energy to the card, and the Ghost Tarot (to the left, above), which shows a bearded dude (I love beards) who seems to be in possession of some serious power. I’ve noticed lately that many modern decks portray The Devil as more attractive while still maintaining aspects of its beast-like nature.
Now, I’ve always been a huge proponent of seeing the cards from all angles. And something I kept noticing in the tarot community–from watching videos, reading articles and blog posts–is that The Devil is so often seen in a negative light. It’s usually relating to manipulative relationships, addictive habits, powerlessness, etc. And of course, these interpretations definitely apply to many readings.
But let’s try to see them in a wider view. Think of the basic traits of the type of person who would be seen as The Devil: They would have a strong mind, would know exactly what they want, and have influence over others. Maybe they would be the bad apple or black sheep of the family, breaking rules just because they can. They’re seen as attractive because they know right from wrong, yet aren’t afraid of the consequences of doing something “naughty”. When they want something, they’ll stop at nothing to get it. And of course, at their worst, they’re manipulative; preying on the weaknesses of others.
At certain points in our lives, when we’ve become bored with ourselves, these Devil-type people are the ones that pull us out of our ennui. We’re provoked to step outside of our comfort zone, and explore our shadow side. This, to me, is a more fitting depiction of The Devil. Generally speaking (and based off of the assumption that the majority of us play it safe when it comes to social conduct and experimentation with our own personal values and limitations), The Devil archetype is all shadow. And man, can that be sexy-er, I mean–tempting.
Not too long ago, I was doing a Spirit Guide reading for myself, and when I shuffled to find how my guide wanted to identify themselves, the Devil card showed up (I was using the Gilded Tarot). And I laughed out loud. I laughed because of all the cards to choose for the one guiding me through life, they chose the most unconventional card of the deck. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the reading, but it also brought so many words and so much imagery to mind. It was a reminder that we all have a darker side, and we should always work to embrace our inner duality and see it as two parts of a whole. Don’t fear the Devil, sit with them; hang out with them. Set aside your tendency to only work in the light. Submit for a little while, and let your shadow side have a go. This card could very well be calling you to create some more balance in your life.
Now, when I want to meditate on my Spirit Guide, I choose to see them as The Devil. Not only does it put me in the mindset to submit (well, it comes off as more of a “Sit Down and Shut Up” mindset because I’m neurotic) and listen closely to any messages they have for me, but it also reminds me that I have the strength to make my life whatever I want it to be, no matter what anyone tells me I should do, or what I think I should be to others.
Ultimately, the Devil’s more positive message could be interpreted as: Power through Submission (to your shadow self).
Here are a few ways to look at this card in a reading other than the standard trappings (pun intended):
- (Personal/Relationship Readings)Someone bringing out your darker side, or self-exploration into your shadow self
- (Relationship/Love readings)Experimentation with BDSM, or interest in dominant/submissive roles
- (Personal/Life Purpose/Career Readings)Developing your subversive, take-no-prisoners side; defiance against the status quo
- When Reversed, it could be a reluctance to see these parts of yourself
Remember:The above is just additional insight to take with you, but by all means, when the traditional meanings apply, run with it.
Maybe this will help someone who has a little trouble interpreting The Devil in their spreads, or may be feeling their intuition pull them in a different direction when it comes up in a reading. That’s exactly what happened to me, and it caused me to sit with the card for a while.
As always, trust your intuition and expand on it when it’s telling you something different. When it’s all said and done, your relationship to the cards—and subsequently, your interpretation—is your own.
And for me, The Devil has my back.