The Card of the Week this week is a very special one. The Devil is the 16th of the Greater Trumps and the most unsettling of Tarot cards. I’ve chosen to use the Sacred Rose Tarot by Johanna Gargiulo-Sherman this week. I recently acquired this deck and have quickly grown to love it. The imagery is intense and has a classic Rider-Waite feel with its own little twists.
The Devil is a scary card. It carries a heavy message and portrays a difficult challenge. Let’s dive into this card and figure out how to understand and ultimately beat the Devil.
Materialism and Bondage
The primary message of this card is the misery and bondage caused by obsession with the material. This can mean wealth, property, physical addiction, or carnal lust. The Devil reminds us of all of the addictions and obsessions in the world that tie us to worldly things and prevent our growth. Most sickeningly, the imagery reminds us that it is of our own volition that we cause the bondage.
We are free to cut the rope at any time, and yet we don’t. We remain enslaved, our spiritual progress bound and diminished, refusing to advance further.
Perverting the Natural Order
The Devil reminds us that we are the creators of this perversion of the natural order, and this block to our own advancement. He parodies the Magician, whose triumphant gesture reminds us of the Hermetic axiom, “That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below.” He shows that we have just as much power to harm ourselves as we do to hurt ourselves. We set our own trap, and then we sprang it.
The preceding card is Temperance. How did that lead to the materialism of the Devil? Is the balance and strength of Temperance too difficult to maintain? Does it lead to ego and self-righteousness? To understand how the natural order of Temperance has been overturned, these questions must be answered.
Beating the Devil
But don’t worry! There is an escape. The Devil himself shows us a way out. On his brow is a pentagram upright, reminding us that the material world is held together by spirit. Between his horns burns a flame that begins to ignite the darkness. Even more than that, he doesn’t hold the rope that binds you: you do. Casting off the rope means understanding the bondage and obsession of the material world. It’s difficult, but it is the only path to spiritual advancement.
This card is a tough one to process, but when it shows up in a place of significance, it should be a wake-up call. Sometimes escaping the Devil isn’t that hard. Stay strong, understand yourself, and remember that progressing through the Major Arcana means encountering significant obstacles.
I’ve been waiting for this card! Thanks for your explanation, I can relate very closely to my understanding. While on the surface this card appears to be the great evil who swept a third of the stars under his control. My Rider-Waite deck has a naked man and woman chained to the devil. I can see that this devil did not create the people, they created the devil (in this case) by their own thoughts and actions, and have enslaved themselves to him. That our own perverse will, desires and imaginations can give birth to an enslaved evil. What have you enslaved yourself to?
One could also envision that if we live in a state of sin we have bound ourselves as slaves to sin. And yes the light of truth will provide release – although the Rider-Waite deck being in chains release via the flame is a bit less obvious.
The materialistic chains of the Devil make me think of the hardcore rejection of the material that was so common in some branches of Gnosticism. I think by combining the Devil with Temperance, we learn that though we must exist in the material world, we don’t have to be consumed by it.
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