Alchemical Study Group - XV The Devil


"Instead of a bridal bed and brilliant wedding they were condemned to a strong and everlasting prison."
--The Parabola of Hinricus Madathanus Theosophus (pg. 164)

The charioteer from the Chariot has now met the Great Goddess in all three of her aspects--birth, nurturing and destruction--and dies. He descends to the underworld, where he is trapped by the Devil and transformed into an image of his parents combined into one being. Similarly, Hermaphroditus, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, united with the nymph Salmacis to form a dual-sexed being that was trapped in the Carlan Lake.

The Devil is Hermes/Mercury showing his sinister, venomous side. The Devil is still part of the descent begun with the Wheel of Fortune, and which is necessary in order for rebirth on a higher plane.

The Devil here is portrayed by a red dragon chained to the vessel we found in the Death card. In the center of the vessel, the substance formed is blacker than black; the goal of the nigredo has been reached. The dragon is an ancient symbol for the forces of darkness. In the Middle Ages, art commonly represented the Christian Devil as a dragon. States The Bestiary from the 12th century, "The Devil who is the most enormous of all reptiles is like this dragon. He is often borne into the air from his den, and the air around him blazes." Saturn, the dour and destructive god of time whom we encountered in the Hermit card, also is called a dragon and old serpent, a reference to the ouroborous symbol.

The alchemical process of the Devil is coagulation, in which matter is reduced to a solid state in a homogeneous body. That body is comprised of the Lovers, who have united the masculine and feminine principles into the single form of the hermaphrodite. They must now coagulate in darkness while awaiting rebirth. The drawing is influenced by Plate 5 in Mylius Johann Daniel's Philosophia reformata.

The number of the Devil is fifteen, which reduces to six (one plus five equals six), the number of the Lovers.

Tarot wisdom: Gnostic philosophers maintained that matter entrapped spirit, and equated it with evil. The Devil represents this imprisonment -- enslavement to our baser instincts, the negative side of our libido, what Jung termed the shadow. This can manifest as a state of anger, jealousy, or fear. It can trap us in an addiction. Or, at its worst, it can lead to destruction and violence. However, our libido is also the source of our vitality and strength; it governs our very survival. Our shadow is only that part of ourselves that we have not integrated. It is only evil when it remains unconscious. When we are unaware of this part of ourselves we can project these negative traits on others, then, thinking that we are good, and the others are evil, we can do our worst -- as in war, when each side thinking that goodness, and God is with them unleashes death and destruction on the other.

When we make our desires conscious we can choose our behavior ourselves. We can probe superficial desires, and discover that at the root of desire is the longing for the unity that we call love. When we find this greater source of satisfaction, addictions drop away, as well as the illusion of nonunity.


Source Image

The main source images for the Devil is the Dragon from Johann Daniel Mylius, Philosophia reformata, Frankfurt 1622

The drago is the devil and he stands on a winged alchemical vessel (which reminds me of the eye of Sauron)


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Leisa said:
The drago is the devil and he stands on a winged alchemical vessel (which reminds me of the eye of Sauron)

I pulled this card in a one-card reading asking about the querent´s future financial situation. I am a bit at a loss with interpreting (too used to RWS symbology I think). Any suggestions as to the special symbology of this Alchemical tarot card with regard to the question?
Why a hermaphrodite (apart from the historical picture this was derived from)? Anima and Animus, both chained to their shadow, unable to free themselves and reach for a higher goal. Telling my client to stop worrying for his financial situation and look for better points to worry about? :) Yes, might be it...

If anyone could quote more extensively from the Place book (which I cannot get unfortunately), it would be very nice. Leisa? :)

Kind regards



Marchal said:
I pulled this card in a one-card reading asking about the querent´s future financial situation. I am a bit at a loss with interpreting (too used to RWS symbology I think). Any suggestions as to the special symbology of this Alchemical tarot card with regard to the question?

OK, that is how I worded my reading (borrowing a little bit from different sources - especially from Leisa's posting above):

"In the Alchemical Tarot deck The Devil is portrayed by a red dragon sitting on an alchemical vessel. The vessel is winged with the wings of Hermes/Mercury.
In the center of the vessel, a black substance is formed; the alchemical goal of the nigredo has been reached, coagulation, reducing matter to a solid state and entrapping it. The vessel and its nigredo center give the impression of a staring eye - an all-seeing devil`s eye or a reminder to try
and develop a "third eye" with wich to look beyond the conscious mind.
The dragon spits fire of destruction and misery.
A hermaphrodite with two heads - one male, one female, a parody of Trum VI, The Lovers, - is chained to dragon and vessel, seemingly unable to break free and follow a higher path symbolized by the crowns on both heads and a searching
look on the two faces. The hermaphroditic figure is naked apart from two crossed triangles - male and female - covering the genital region - the nakedness is very sensual and reminds of strong sexual energies - among other often hidden energies - in the Devil card.

The Devil card usually points to our - illusionary but strong - bondage to inner mental and emotional forces that hold us prisoners, demons within, our Jungian Shadow, devilish influences of the subconcious, such as fears, prejudices, socially created "realities", tabus, "beast parts", suppressed
aspects of our personality which cause blind spots, limitations, deviant behavior and hinder our true development and progress to our true Self.
In that sense the alchemical process of nigredo can symbolize the necessary attempt to join conscious knowledge and unconscious Shadow for becoming Whole.
The "third eye" is looking at and seeing those shadow aspects of personality, is aware of the inner darkness and sheding necessary light on it.
The Devil card is about self-deception and greed as things that bind us -perhaps there is more to your situation - and more important aspects - than "just" your budget? Perhaps you are too fixed on your financial situation and would have to look at why that is so and what other factors you might be missing at the moment? Perhaps your view should broaden and reach out beyond the narrowly materialistic?
On the other hand the card is about "gluttony", addiction, substance-abuse, compulsory behavior, self-defeating patterns of living, habituation, dependency, controlling obsessions, e.g. sexual ones - it may be that one of these cause budget problems and endanger your financial situation?

The card is about chains - which can be broken, but in order to slip them off it seems you will have to make them conscious and visible to yourself first.
The devil´s chains are usually illusionary - the Devils is a trickster - and subject to the free will of our true Self and the power of successful shadow work - so your prospects are good
as the master of your own fate. I wish you all the best for that way."

Any other ideas or aspects you would add?

Kind regards



The Devil is the coagulation, the material fleshy stuff that contains what is really us. It is the red dragon that has irons clapped to the ankle of the HermAphrodite union of III-The Empress and IV-The Emperor, and is an obstacle between them and overcoming their enslavement to habit and vice. The sky is dark similar to XII-Death and XVI-The Tower. Even with the experience of minor conjunction, VI-The Lovers, the personality still lacks the focus to continue the work. It must let go of the material attachments represented by the Devil in order to progress. This is not something that happens once and it is over; no, the Devil is encountered over and over again. But the HermAphrodite stands atop the dragon. The chains can become the chains of mastery over the dragon. The dragon spits out its fiery rage of frustration, heat for the alchemical furnace.