The Devil Card #15 represents the extremes of life, immediacy, impatience, and our intrinsic animal nature.
Tarot cards offer a range of meanings to draw insight from. Both negative and positive aspects of each card can resonate with various aspects of your life.
A stout character, The Devil sits on an altar looking haggard and pugnacious. His bat wings spread out over a black sky as he perches with harpy feet. Fur covers his loins and ram horns curl out his skull; he is part man and part animal. Chained before him are two human devils, one male and one female. They are naked and horned. The man has a fiery tail and the woman has a tail made of purple grapes. In The Devil’s left hand he holds a fiery torch, and his right hand is held up, palm out. Perhaps this is a greeting or a gesture meaning “stop”--quite opposite interpretations; The Devil is manipulative and intentionally confusing.
Also interesting to note is that The Devil’s face is slightly pinker and paler than the rest of his body. His expression is weary and angry, and his mouth is shaped in a grimace. There is a weight about him. Despite his bird feet and bat wings, imagining him in flight seems far off and difficult. We often think of flying as enjoyable and liberating, but even in a strong gust this Devil will probably have to exert incredible muscular force to remain flying. Often we think of The Devil as careless and free-wheeling, but flying is not that way for him. To fly, to appear free, actually requires much effort and strain on his part.
That the human devils are chained below The Devil’s feet in a dark world shows that they are incapable of exaltation. They cannot transcend and live in a world with neither sun nor moon. There is no time or beauty. Everything down here happens in extremes: sex, fire, frenzy, fear, enjoyment. Despite all these opportunities for pain and pleasure, there is no world here, no empire to show for. Despite all the devils efforts’, nothing is created because nothing here is sustainable. Here the devils seek immediate experiences only, so they never get the chance to attain knowledge or wisdom through extended effort and patience, through trial and error. The Devil does not take care of himself because he does not love himself. He is motivated by pain and tragedy or a sick curiosity derived from the latter.
Though the card depicts the dark world represented by The Devil, as humans this card is only part of our experience, not the entirety. It is true: we are part animal and sometimes the world feels bleak and low down. Sometimes it is refreshing to askew our higher goals for more immediate experiences of pleasure or pain, and doing so can sometimes bring us back to ourselves in a deeper more compassionate way.
In the Minor Arcana, the Eight of Pentacles tarot card represents a great effort to achieve. This usually corresponds with extended periods of hard work and development.