Skip to main content

How to Read the Devil Tarot Card

Learn how to read the Devil tarot card from expert Ellen Goldberg, M.A. in this Howcast video.


Hello, I'm Ellen Goldberg, and I welcome you to a tarot moment with the School of Oracles. In this segment, we're going to look at the devil. Someone with whom one must have a conversation, the dweller on the threshold, as you progress, because some time or other we must confront our shadow. This is a very interesting and complex card, because now we begin the series of the last seven cards of the major arcana. They also represent, aside from all their meanings and symbolism, the seven stages of spiritual enlightenment. And can you believe it? This is stage one. Stage one is called "Consciousness of bondage," because if you don't know you're in prison, how are you ever gonna get out? It's the aching discontent we feel and the need and yearning we need for change that is the beginning of our ascent into a higher state of being.

This card is ruled by the sign of Capricorn, and so there is something, the goat, of course, and we see him as a goat-headed god here in this card. He has a very curious kind of hand. Let's see if I can make it. A hand gesture, it is not from some other planet or TV show. It's an old mudra, and it means, "what you see is all there is." And it's just that, taking everything at face value, which is something that helps us to really feel less than: less inspired, more depressed, because there is a great world beyond simply the material, but the devil would like you to believe this is it. You'll notice that he sits on a half cube rather than a whole cube, and that means he's best on half knowledge rather than whole knowledge. His hebrew letter, "ayin," means "eye," and it is our most important sense tool, but through it, we see appearances only. Notice how the woman in the, "two of swords," has a blindfold when she goes in for inner peace, where many of the characters that we meet, like the hermit, have his eyes closed to show that they're looking with interior vision. We cannot rely just on appearances. But the devil is kind of a joke the way he's drawn, with kind of chicken feet and a furry bottom. And, his light, his torch, rather than being held aloft, is turned downwards, igniting and inflaming the passions of the man, as in the lover's card, and this might be called almost a reverse image of the lover's card 'cause the lover's card is number six, and this is card number fifteen. Of course, right away we see it in roman numerals, but if you added one and five they equal six and it refers back to the lovers. And here the devil is in the same place as the angel, and the man and woman are in their respective places as well, but here they are beastialized. They have horns, they have tails, each of a different type. The man's passions are being inflamed, and he looks at the female.

The female in this card is not looking for advice from the heavenly angel as she does in the lovers, but whatever suggestion the self-conscious mind, represented by the man, is giving to her is going to bear fruit, and that is why she has a tail that looks like a kind of a lovely bunch of grapes or fruit, because the sub-conscious brings us whatever we really truly believe and put into it. This card is a necessary card. If you have to confront it and feel a little frightened to meet the dweller, to look at your own shadow, then bring the wonderful angel that you have met in the previous card from temperance to stand at your side with you, you don't have to do this alone. In a fine book, I don't know if it's still in print, called "The Rabbi's Tarot," it was said that in the long history of mankind, there has been no one who has found their way to god without first having gone to the devil to learn the path there. When this comes on a higher polarity, its frustration as a spur to action, it's hard work and endurance, things that we get from Capricorn. It's understanding the limitations are not real. Look at the chains around those peoples' necks, they're so loose, they could lift them up easily if they wanted to. Their bondage is illusionary. On the lower polarity, you're caught in your personal hell. You know when Dante went down to the inferno, down to the very lowest rung, and he finally meets the devil, is he jumping up and down on hot coals? No, he's frozen in ice, all he sees is him from the neck or shoulders up, and even that must be as tall as the tallest skyscraper. A giant frozen in ice. Frozen in our own hell is hell on earth, and that's a lower polarity meaning. And also, there is evil in this world. But, I would remind you that in the book of Isaiah, in the Bible, from the Old Testament, the Lord says, "I am the Lord thy God and there is none else. I create peace and I create evil. I the Lord do all these things." You may notice that there is an inverted pentagram right on the Crown Chakra of the devil himself.

The pentagram is the symbol of man, but that's when the point in the center is upright. When it's inverted, it shows man's poor estimation of his own power, it shows that he is allowing matter to rule over spirit. In early Christianity it was often said that God rules the world with a right hand and a left hand, and that's why the association with, "ayin," in the Sefer Yetzirah is mirth or laughter, because if you think there are two separate beings, that's a joke. There is only one thing, but even the divine has a polarity. On behalf of the school of oracles, I thank you for being with me. Bye for now.

Popular Categories