15:   The Devil

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The Devil tarot card
BOTA (Builders of the Adytum)
The Devil tarot card
Cosmic Tarot
The Devil tarot card
Universal Waite

1.   Temptation; materialism; primal instincts; physical pleasure/sex; wild desires; unbridled passion; giving in to impulse.

       "The animal within."

2.   Addiction; powerful bonds (bondage).

3.   Lust, greed, ambition, voracious power.

4.   [Rarely] Violence/the wrong use of force.

5.   [Rarely] Black magick.


"Think about what you are doing in your life that may be excessive."   Think about things that you're doing in your life that may be contrary to your best interest.

This is not a good card. This is a dangerous card; it is a warning.

More than one writer has noticed that the chains on the humans' necks are quite loose.   The human figures could remove them ... but they don't want to.   To some extent, they enjoy their "captivity."

Note also that the human figures are starting to take on the characteristics of The Devil ... they've sprouted horns on their heads, and they've grown fiery tails.

The Devil figure is a parody of the Magician.   The Magician points upward with his wand; the Devil points downward with the flaming torch.

Note also the similarities between this card and The Lovers   —   a man and a woman, both naked, with a large "angelic" figure hovering over them.   And the man is reaching for the woman's hand.

The Devil's right hand is making the "ש" gesture; "ש" is the first letter in the Hebrew word that is transliterated "Satan."   This same gesture is used by Jewish rabbis, since "ש" is also the first letter in the word "Shalom" (this is the origin of the famous Spock/Vulcan/Star Trek hand gesture meaning "Live long and prosper" ... Nimoy saw his rabbi making this gesture during synagogue services).

One interpretation of this card holds that if it comes up in the context of marriage, it's a good sign, because it indicates "powerful bonds!"

One writer says of this card, "Inhibitions can enslave as easily as excesses.   They can keep you from following your passion to the highest heights."

The Devil is one of seven cards in the Rider deck that show a large, dominant figure "presiding" over two smaller figures standing below it (forming a triangle of sorts):
The Hierophant
The Lovers
The Chariot
The Devil
The Moon
Two of Cups
Six of Pentacles

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Here's what Arthur Edward Waite says about this card (in The Pictorial Key to the Tarot):

The 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.