card meanings & reading
The Devil According to A. E. Waite
The Meaning of the Devil Tarot Card in Divination
Here is what the occultist Arthur Edward Waite, co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, had to say about the Devil Major Arcana card in divination.
The Devil Tarot Card15. The Devil. In the eighteenth century this card seems to have been rather a symbol of merely animal impudicity. Except for a fantastic head-dress, the chief figure is entirely naked; it has bat-like wings, and the hands and feet are represented by the claws of a bird. In the right hand there is a sceptre terminating in a sign which has been thought to represent fire.
The figure as a whole is not particularly evil; it has no tail, and the commentators who have said that the claws are those of a harpy have spoken at random. There is no better ground for the alternative suggestion that they are eagle's claws.
Attached, by a cord depending from their collars, to the pedestal on which the figure is mounted, are two small demons, presumably male and female. These are tailed, but not winged.
Since 1856 the influence of Eliphas Levi and his doctrine of occultism has changed the face of this card, and it now appears as a pseudo-Baphometic figure with the head of a goat and a great torch between the horns; it is seated instead of erect, and in place of the generative organs there is the Hermetic caduceus.
In Le Tarot Divinatoire of Papus the small demons are replaced by naked human beings, male and female, who are yoked only to each other. The author may be felicitated on this improved symbolism.
Inner Symbolism of the Tarot Devil CardThe design is an accommodation, mean or harmony, between several motives mentioned in the first part. The Horned Goat of Mendes, with wings like those of a bat, is standing on an altar. At the pit of the stomach there is the sign of Mercury.
The right hand is upraised and extended, being the reverse of that benediction which is given by the Hierophant in the fifth card. In the left hand there is a great flaming torch, inverted towards the earth. A reversed pentagram is on the forehead.
There is a ring in front of the altar, from which two chains are carried to the necks of two figures, male and female. These are analogous with those of the fifth card, as if Adam and Eve after the Fall. Hereof is the chain and fatality of the material life.
The figures are tailed, to signify the animal nature, but there is human intelligence in the faces, and he who is exalted above them is not to be their master for ever. Even now, he is also a bondsman, sustained by the evil that is in him and blind to the liberty of service.
With more than his usual derision for the arts which he pretended to respect and interpret as a master therein, Eliphas Levi affirms that the Baphometic figure is occult science and magic. Another commentator says that in the Divine world it signifies predestination, but there is no correspondence in that world with the things which below are of the brute.
What it does signify is the Dweller on the Threshold without the Mystical Garden when those are driven forth therefrom who have eaten the forbidden fruit.
Divinatory Meaning of the Tarot Devil CardRavage, violence, vehemence, extraordinary efforts, force, fatality; that which is predestined but is not for this reason evil.