The Major Arcana are the twenty-two cards of the tarot deck that tell the big stories. The are the archetype influences, major plot points, strong energies. Some of them, like The World, are welcome energies. Some of them are alarm bells.
The Devil is one of those cards that can bring a level of tension into a reading. The traditional version of this card shows the big, scary monster version of a cloven-hooved, behorned, throne-sitting monster of a devil, ruling his hellish domain. Robbin Wood takes the card in a different direction, which I very much like. The Devil is less about nefarious beings tempting and enslaving us than it is about our own greed, desires, and materialism trapping us. In this picture we see the two naked, desperate, would-be thieves. Clearly danger is on its way. Escape is at hand. All they have to do is leave that treasure chest behind. Will they do it? Probably not. Their faces show their determination to have this thing at all costs, but it’s impossible. Ensnared by their own weaknesses they will be captured, tortured, punished. All they have to do is let it go.
When this card comes up it is a sign that the influence is not of a spiritual nature, but of a worldly one. Animal tendencies are taking over the higher functions: lust, greed, selfishness… Our basest instincts and emotions are brought to bear.
However, is that all bad? One of the authors I have read is Anton LaVey, the founder of the controversial Church of Satan movement in the 1960s. In his works, he promotes the pursuit of personal pleasure and fulfillment in this incarnation as the prime purpose for life. His movement said that we should not be afraid of our animal instincts but embrace them. Do that which pleases you. Of course, it might very well please you to be helpful to people and to build and create, but you will do it because it is what you want, not because you are afraid of the consequences.
“Do what thou wilt.”
So, what do we do with that? I’ve grown to believe that The Devil is not always a negative card. It forces us to face the animalistic side of ourselves. We are creatures and cannot free ourselves completely of our instincts and desires. All we can do is balance them with our more spiritual pursuits and try to place them in harmony with everything else. When this card appears it is a call to evaluate that side of existence. Are you letting your desires get in the way of what you want to achieve? Are your motivations, or those of others, not for the greatest good but for baser satisfactions? Alternatively, is it possible that you are in a state of denial, trying to separate yourself from the animal side? Do you need to address your own beast, and maybe give it a good brushing and a treat?
In general, The Devil warns of excesses, and that should always be considered. For myself I will need to ponder this card a bit. I can see where my own baser elements could be getting in the way of higher purpose. I can also see where it might not be so bad to dance with the devil a little, provided that I can maintain my overall balance. Today I will be alert to temptation and manipulation. I will be cautious not to be driven by fear but by choice. I will not try to defeat the devil, but I might need to play chess with him a little. I will not blame circumstances, or chance, or nefarious forces for the consequences of what happens today. I still have the most control over what I manifest in my life.
It sure would be nice to have a few cards around this one for some context! Oh, well. That’s the nature of the Card a Day game! Today will not be boring!