The Devil - Setting Yourself Free in the Tarot
The Devil is a card about coming to your own rescue
Hit play below to listen to the lesson, or scroll down to read it in text form.
To give you a bit of context whilst you reflect on your own relationship to the card, here are a few key things to know about the Devil.
The Devil is the 15th card in the Major Arcana, and represents a kind of narrative turn into the Majors’ dramatic final act. The stakes from here on out are high - which makes this a powerful card that needs to be investigated, not avoided.
In the Rider Waite Smith tarot, it’s illustrated like this: Two human(ish) figures stand naked and chained by the neck to a stone block. Each human figure sprouts horns and a tail - the masculine body’s tail sports forked flames, while the feminine figure’s tail blooms into fruit. Lording over them, perched on top of the stone, is a demonic figure - the Devil. He’s hairy and winged and taloned, and he stares directly, and unsettlingly straight out of the card. One hand is raised in greeting, another holds a torch, the burning tip of which nearly connects with the masculine human figure’s burning tail.
There’s a lot to unpack in this card - more than a mini-lesson could possibly attempt to cover. You’ll have to take some time and reckon with what stands out for you on an individual level. But here are a couple of things worth paying attention to:
It’s worth noting that the Devil’s illustration is a dark inverse of the iconography in the Lovers card. There, an angel looks down on two naked human figures, who stand in front of a fruit tree and a burning bush. To me, the Lovers is a card about the choices and commitments we make, and in a way - the Devil is too. While the Lovers represents the powerful potential of our choices, the Devil asks you to consider if the things you’ve chained yourself to are working for you or not.
The Devil is a strong thematic departure from the card that came immediately before: Temperance’s gentle discipline is gone, and the Devil’s dark threat looms. It’s a representation of the moments when our worst selves creep up on us - just when we thought we were doing fine.
But it’s not a hopeless card. Look closely, and you’ll notice many tarot readers’ favourite detail in this card: the fact that the chains around the human figures’ necks are actually big enough to lift over their heads. And their hands are not bound. It’s possible, despite the road they’ve gone down, to set themselves free. It’s possible for them to escape. They just have to realise they can, and decide that they will.
It’s a potent message - one that will definitely resonate somewhere in your life, even if it also creates hard work you may not want to do.
In your tarot journal, you’re asked to reflect on what this card means to you, now, in this moment, and what actions and thoughts it inspires in you. As you journal, pay attention to what you’re personally picking up in the card, but also consider what the key themes and symbols in the card might be telling you. Where are you trapped? How can you free yourself? What new commitments do you want to make that better prioritise your wellbeing?
This mini-tarot lesson was brought to you by me, Chelsey Pippin Mizzi, founder of Pip Cards Tarot. I hope you gained a little context to help you continue reflecting on the card in your own way, and I’ll see you tomorrow for another mini-lesson.