I’ve been doing some extensive digging around concerning this card because, quite frankly, it’s been showing up a lot for me lately. I’m not in the middle of fighting addiction, going on a spending spree, I don’t feel ‘bound’ by anything significant and No, I’m not in denial about any of the above!
Looking at the card, I don’t feel any malevolent energy. I’m drawn by the upright pentagram, a symbol of magic that hasn’t been ‘sullied’ by reversing it.
Some things I’ve found interesting that I’ve pulled from my library: All quotes here come directly from Tarot Wisdom: Spiritual Teachings and Deeper Meanings
by Rachel Pollack (pg. 177-187) with exception of the Wikepedia information and link.
When the interpreters consider what evil is, they tend to fall back on the dualism of much Hermetic doctrine, that the physical world exists as a prison, or “husk”, for the true spiritual light. The goal - the “Great Work,” to borrow a term from alchemy - becomes to liberate the imprisoned spirit.
It later suggests that this liberation “can occur through the physical world by embracing the beauty of nature or the power of sexuality,”
If the world is in some way an imprisonment, then the physical world can become the means of our liberation. Through the body, through sexual practices such as Tantra or modern sex magic, we can awaken the kundalini energy and transform ourselves.
Interesting notations about the pentagram in relation to the Devil card:
The Golden Dawn version of the card introduces the goat-headed figure we often think of as the standard Devil and that other assumed icon of the card, the five-pointed star. In our sample, the pentagram, in fact, only appears in the Golden Dawn and the Rider, and upside down only in the Rider. Among it’s other meanings, the pentagram evokes the human body, for if you stand with arms out and legs apart, you form a five-pointed star. Right-side up, it means nature and physicality, and has been adapted as the symbol of Wicca.
Because of the previous reference to the similarities between the Hanged Man card (the bones) and this card, I include the exerp:
In the Hanged Man, [we learned of] the two Angels [who] descended to Earth and lusted after human women. The angel who refused to repent after raping the woman who rejected him was named Azazel. For the Jews, and thus many Kabbalists, Azazel became a Devil-like figure, similar to the Christian Satan…. Which many Kabbalists identify with the physical universe and sexuality.
There is a further twist with Tarot connections. In the legend of the two Angels, the archangel who binds fallen Azazel in the dark abyss is Raphael, the very Angel who blesses Adam and Eve in the Rider Lovers.
And more - the myth names the two women in the story. The one whom Azazel rapes is called Na’amah, sometimes identified as a demon herself, the sister of Lilith. But the other, who escapes Shemhazai ([the Angel}- he who becomes a Hanged Man) flies into the sky to become a star, is named Istahar. “Istahar” is a varient of the Babylonian Ishtar, one of the queens of the heaven.
Now, I did do a cursory investigation on Lilith herself, mostly looking for information on her sister. What I did find that was interesting, is that is more esoteric, occultist beliefs she is revered (unlike MOST other beliefs) as a goddess
instead of a demon. It was also mentioned that Lilith was thought in some traditions as being the first wife of Adam. It goes further to cite that under pain of death, Eve admitted to never loving Adam, while Lilith admits to having always loved him. Here is the Wikepedia Source
I find this part particularly interesting in regards to the LWB interpretation:
Do not lost your virginity on a bed of bones. If deceptions and subterfuge baptise love, they will enslave you forever
Could the woman standing in front of the pair with the pentagram around her neck, be Lilith? Just a thought.
Now, bringing us back to alternative ideas about this Devil card, I’m drawn to the idea of this ‘Satan’ or the Angel originally known as Lucifer “Morningstar”. Lucifer roughly meaning “light-bringer” and is identified with the planet Venus. How then, can a planet usually associated with Love then connect with the Devil?
Interestingly enough, if we trace the planet Venus in the sky over an eight year cycle, it forms a five-pointed star - the pentagram (but also the human body). It is also associated to nature, as seen when we cut an apple or pomegranate in half horizontally and see a five-pointed star in each half (ties back to Adam and Eve and Persephone quite nicely, eh?) Also to note, roses and other flowers have five petals in their blossoms. It is so suggested in this text then, “that the pentagram unites Heaven and Earth, with the human body as a link or a bridge.”
Venus is then shared by the Empress with the Devil. The Devil controls the ‘dark’ side of Venus, it’s rotation throughout the winter when it goes ‘dark’ in the night sky. Venus’ power then transfers back to the Empress in the Spring when her light shines once again in the night sky.
One last, and very interesting piece of information related to a Golden Dawn interpretation and fits nicely in many discussions thus far on the psychological (Jungian) interpretation of these cards. If the Angel known as Lucifer was considered the most radiant of Angels, and if he was bound to Earth as Adam and Eve were when they were cast out of Eden, then could we say that the light is within all of us?
Before Adam and Eve leave Eden, we read that “God made them garments of skin to protect them.” People assume this means animal skins to keep them warm in the harsh world outside paradise. But the word for skin, ohr , is also the world for light. The skin that God gives them is their own bodies, a fixed physical form that contains the eternal light of their true being. Our bodies protect us. As long as we live in the illusion of duality, the world of the ego, our own light will overwhelm us…. The Devil, in a sense, holds us safe until we are ready to go through the doorway to the final cards of the Major Arcana, where we will “heal the world” by rediscovering our true selves.
This would certainly make interesting ties to the Magician card, which begins the first line of the Majors.
So where does this lead us to in interpreting this card? My take on the information provided is that this Devil card in particular is reminding us that we all have a Divine light within ourselves. That as humans, we are bound physically to a material world and that perhaps, the easiest way to access this Divine Spirit within us lies in our connection not only with nature, but through our sexuality and through awakening the kundalini. Our bodeis are only “husks’ or vessels that contain this light, and the only perversion or “lies” held in this card is to believe that our bodies or what we can only ‘see’ is all there is, without acknowledging the extent of spiritual energy held within us. As the Death card reminds us - the soul never dies, it is eternal.