The Tarot (Marseilles)¶
Description of Le Diable Tarot Card¶
A horned and winged demon with eagle’s claws (standing on an altar to which two smaller devils are bound by a collar and cord). In his left hand he bears a flame-headed sceptre. He is the image of Fate or Fatality, good or evil.
Divination Meanings of Le Diable Tarot Card¶
Fatality for Good.
Reversed Meanings of Le Diable Tarot Card¶
Fatality for Evil.
The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (RWS)¶
Description of The Devil Tarot Card¶
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, Éliphas Lévi 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.
The Symbolism of the Tarot (RWS)¶
Description of The Devil Tarot Card¶
Black, awful night enveloped the earth. An ominous, red flame burned in the distance. I was approaching a fantastic figure which outlined itself before me as I came nearer to it. High above the earth appeared the repulsive red face of the Devil, with large, hairy ears, pointed beard and curved goats’ horns. A pentagram, pointing downwards, shone in phosphoric light between the horns on his forehead. Two large, grey, bat-like wings were spread behind him. He held up one arm, spreading out his bare, fat hand. In the palm I saw the sign of black magic. A burning torch held down-end in his other hand emitted black, stifling smoke. He sat on a large, black cube, gripping it with the claws of his beast-like, shaggy legs.
A man and woman were chained to the cube—the same Man and Woman I saw in the garden, but now they had horns and tails tipped with flame. And they were evidently dissatisfied in spirit, and were filled with protest and repulsion.
“This is a picture of weakness”, said the voice, “a picture of falsehood and evil. They are the same man and woman you saw in the garden, but their love ceasing to be a sacrifice, became an illusion. This man and woman forgot that their love is a link in the chain that unites them with eternity, that their love is a symbol of equilibrium and a road to Infinity.
“They forgot that It is a key to the gate of the magic world, the torch which lights the higher Path. They forgot that Love is real and immortal and they subjugated it to the unreal and temporary. And they each made love a tool for submitting the other to himself.
“Then love became dissension and fettered them with iron chains to the black cube of matter, on which sits deceit”.
And I heard the voice of the Devil: “I am Evil”, he said, “at least so far as Evil can exist in this best of worlds. In order to see me, one must be able to see unfairly, incorrectly and narrowly. I close the triangle, the other two sides of which are Death and Time. In order to quit this triangle it is necessary to see that it does not exist.
“But how to do this is not for me to tell. For I am the Evil which men say is the cause of all evil and which they invented as an excuse for all the evil that they do.
“They call me the Prince of Falsehood, and truly I am the prince of lies, because I am the most monstrous production of human lies”.
Tarot of the Bohemians (Marseilles)¶
Origin of the Symbolism of Le Diable Tarot Card¶
The 15th Hebrew letter (Samech ס)
The Samech expresses the same hieroglyphic sign as the Zain (7th arcanum), that is to say, an arrow; a weapon of any kind; but to this idea is here added that of the arrow making a circular movement, of any circle defining and delimiting a circumscription.
This idea of an impassable circle has given birth to that of Destiny, of Fatality, circumscribing the limits of the circle in which the human will can act freely; so that the Serpent forming a circle of his own body, biting his own tail, has always been the symbol of this Fatality, of this Destiny, encircling the world in its embrace. It is the image of the year (the ring), and of the fatal and settled revolutions of time.
As a letter, the Samech is the link (Zain) reinforced and turned back upon itself. As a simple letter, it corresponds with the zodiacal sign of Sagittarius.
In every cosmogony the Devil represents the mysterious astral force, the origin of which is revealed to us by the hieroglyphic of Samech.
But a little attentive consideration of the symbol will show us that it contains several of the details which we have already seen in other figures of the Tarot, but under a different aspect.
If we place the Juggler by the side of the Devil we shall see that the arms of the two personages are using the same gesture, but in an inverse sense. The Juggler points his right hand towards the Universe, his left hand towards God; on the other hand the Devil raises his right band into the air, whilst his left points to the earth. Instead of the magic initiating wand of the Juggler, the Demon holds the lighted torch, the symbol of black magic and of Destruction.
By the side of the Devil, and balanced by him, are two personages reproducing the same symbolism that we find in the two women of the Lovers (6), and in the two supports of the gibbet of the Hanged Man (12).
The universal vivifying force represented by the 3rd arcanum, has here become the universal destroying force. The sceptre of Venus-Urania has become the Demon’s torch, the Angel’s wings have changed into the hideous pinions of the God of Evil.
General Book of the Tarot (RWS)¶
Description of The Devil Tarot Card¶
The goat-like figure recalls the sign Capricorn in which astrology teaches that the planet Mars has its exaltation, the name ‘devil’ means the evil, as is well known, and this alliteration holds good not only in English. It is the symbol of that which to exoteric human understanding is as much of a malefic nature as Venus is benefic. The counterpart of Venus: Mars, planet of pain and struggle, passion and sex-nature, but also of the energy necessary for the process of formation and generation in Nature. Allusion to sex-problems is found in the two human figures, man and woman, chained to the pedestal on which the diabolic figure is seated. That sex-nature binds man, is a natural fact of a more or less occult order.
So it has to do with generation in Nature in every sense and kingdom, though astrology teaches that Mars has a special connection with the animal kingdom and animal passion—passion which drives to the preservation of the body as well as of the race; fighting for existence in both senses of the term. So Mars always figured as the War-lord. Not only sexual energy, but every energy in Nature chains the result to the cause and object to subject. It is unnecessary to work this out any further. We shall be safe in interpreting this card as energy, desire, lust, war, struggle, difficulties, pain, loss, etc. But also as exercise, training; tests to which the personality will be subject.
The torch in the hand of the figure denotes, of course, the fire of passion and desire, which may rise to anger, etc. So it may well be said to represent the condition of “Adam and Eve after the Fall” (Waite) The struggle for existence, in short.
Papus in regard to this card points to the Hebrew letter “Samech which expresses the same hieroglyphic sign as the Zain (7th arcanum) … etc., a weapon of any kind …” We can see, that this generative force has much to do with the house of marriage.
Tarot Card Information Sources¶
- The Tarot by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, originally published 1888
- The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite, originally published 1910
- The Symbolism of the Tarot by P. D. Ouspensky, originally published 1913
- The Tarot of the Bohemians by “Papus” (Gérard Encausse), trans. by A. P. Morton, originally published 1892
- General Book of the Tarot by A. E. Thierens, originally published 1930