The Devil card is the 15th card in the traditional tarot Major Arcana, representing the astrological Capricorn and earth element. Depending on the tarot deck being used,the Devil is depicted as Baphomet or the Horned God, with the satyr’s anatomy of both man and goat. The figure of Baphomet symbolizes the tenuous balance between good and evil, dark and light, and the struggle to answer to animal urges without risking danger or overindulgence. Today Baphomet has become rooted in occult iconography, with much of the figure’s nuance discarded in favor of an evil, all-encompassing scapegoat.
The Devil in Tarot is often depicted with vampiric bat wings and what can only be described as a sexy-sinister expression, luring the viewer in with seductive promises. The inverted pentagram above his head alludes to the more sinister side of magic, warning the reader to beware of false promises and blessings without strings attached. In many tarot decks the Devil is depicted making the traditional Jewish Vulcan Salute with his right hand.
At the Devil’s feet stand a woman and a man, naked and bound (usually in chains). The small horns sprouting from their heads as well as their accompanying tails indicate a fall from grace and into “devilish” behavior.
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The Devil card has long been regarded with fear and apprehension and is often viewed as one of the most ominous cards in the Tarot. However, the Devil card can carry a deep and valuable message, and shouldn’t be ignored out of fear or disgust.
In its general context, the Devil card represents symbolic bondage or restriction, usually non-consensual, that is holding you in its grip and preventing you from pursuing a healthier, more balanced state of life and being. The Devil can often appear in a spread where matters of mental health or abuse of power are at the forefront and is almost a given in readings concerning toxic or downright abusive relationships.
The Devil is a reminder not to give away one’s power too quickly, nor allow others to readily make victims of them. You and you alone command your life, despite the potential presence of someone who would love to make you think otherwise. Devious souls may abound in our world, unfortunately, but the Devil is your calling card to fight fire with fire.
The Devil is a harbinger of necessary change and transformation, often following a period of unimaginable trauma. During these times it’s easy to believe you are in a hopeless situation with neither the strength nor means to see your way out but don’t fall for the illusion! You are stronger–and craftier–than you realize.
The Devil can also indicate harmful behavioral patterns in need of breaking, such as reckless encounters, secrecy, obsessiveness, materialism, or abusing others due to a power imbalance. Additionally, the Devil can be an indicator of depression and addiction.
The upright Devil card reflects your shadow side, or dark subconscious influence. We often ignore this side of ourselves out of fear or shame, but to do so is a grave mistake. By failing to acknowledge the negative aspects of your psyche, you may be holding yourself back from progress or harming others in the long run. When the Devil appears upright in a reading, you are being asked to check your weaknesses, both real and perceived. Is someone or something making you feel wretched and powerless and if so, are you capable of breaking free from their control?
The upright Devil card can be the proverbial indicator that you “sold your soul to the Devil” for a cheap thrill, instant gratification, or opportunity you may or may not have deserved. This is your chance to acknowledge your error and work to correct it, or else face some pretty unpleasant consequences down the road. The Devil is all about pretty illusions with very little substance, so don’t be fooled by his tricks. What is worthwhile can only come with effort.
In career readings the upright Devil can indicate a toxic environment or power imbalance between yourself and a co-worker or boss. It’s possible your skills are being exploited and your affable demeanor is being taken advantage of, in which case the Devil is nudging you to speak up and assert some boundaries. Remember, bullies never back down when asked politely, so perhaps it’s time to show your own horns a little.
Financially, the upright Devil could be a sign that it’s time to rein in your compulsive spending and invest more wisely. There may be a gambling or shopping problem, with a tendency to hide your expenses. Set aside a savings account or establish a monthly budget to avoid going into the red.
The upright Devil can be an alarming card to pull in romantic readings, but actually represents a deep connection between two people who have embraced both their animal and human aspects, and are not afraid to experiment and explore with trust and respect. (Just keep those boundaries in place.) The Devil can also be a warning to step back and take some space for yourself, to not be too co-dependent on your partner. The Devil is all about unhealthy attachments, so take heed should his card appear and reevaluate any harmful patterns in your partnership. Similar to matters of love, the upright Devil’s appearance in tarot readings regarding friends and family signifies a need to demand as good as you give. Don’t fall prey to unjust dynamics. Don’t let yourself be scapegoated to cover for others’ crimes, and be wary of friends who are using you for their own personal gain.
The upright Devil is a sign that you have been neglecting your physical and/or mental health, with the effects already being felt. There is a possibility that you are taking risks by way of alcohol, drugs, and sex. This is your sign to pause, reassess, and seek necessary help.
In spiritual matters, the upright Devil can indicate a period of doubt, grief, or mental illness that has come to overshadow your faith. (This is commonly referred to in theology as a “dark night of the soul.”) Use this time to reflect, heal, and forge a new path in your awakening.
The reversed Devil marks an awareness on your part that something is wrong and in need of changing. This is often regarded as a “breakthrough” card, the reader’s first sign that they are not meeting their higher potential. A weakness has been allowed to fester and take over, but the good news is you have come to see this for yourself.
The reversed Devil is a reminder that it’s always darkest before dawn, that leveling up is usually preceded by a difficult period of setbacks and self-doubt. Are you being held back by someone or something, or are you holding yourself back? The Devil reversed demands that we face our inner fears and own up to our weaknesses. It is time to eliminate what no longer serves you, or conversely remove you farther from your goals.
The reversed Devil in career readings suggests a readiness to examine where you are at in your career and what you can do to improve your situation. Perhaps you have been stuck in an unfulfilling job for too long or have limited your opportunities through self-sabotage. The Devil reversed can also indicate having focused on the wrong things while pursuing your career ambitions, such as material status or undue amount of power, and finally seeing the error of your ways. Use the reversed Devil as your motivation to stand up for yourself or change what you don’t like in your field.
The reversed Devil could indicate a reckless approach to one’s finances. You may have lost a great sum of money due to gambling or an impulse buy, and are now scrambling to recoup your losses.
In romantic readings, the reversed Devil often reveals a close call on behalf of you or your partner that may have done irreparable damage to the relationship. This is your moment to stop and consider what needs to change, or if the relationship is too unhealthy to continue. If you are in an abusive relationship or one where there is a grave imbalance, the reversed Devil could be your sign to go at last and never look back. For singles who pull the reversed Devil card, love is absolutely within your reach though you may have to learn to be with yourself first. Don’t be too quick to rush into a relationship out of fear of being alone. When the reversed Devil appears in friendship and family spreads, you are on your way to freeing yourself from harmful attachments and expectations.
The reversed Devil could signify a recent lifestyle change or self-intervention after experiencing poor health. The reversed Devil can appear when you’ve had enough and are ready to quit your bad habits for good, in which case keep going. You have the strength to heal.
Spiritually as well as in matters of mental health, the reversed Devil can mark a grappling with one’s shadow self and withdrawal from the outer, material world for a time. This can follow a period of illness, grief, mental duress, or extreme life change that has left you feeling vulnerable or in a state of hopelessness. You may be ashamed of your feelings or find yourself resorting to secrecy, so be sure to keep at least one or two trusted souls in your corner that you can confide in.