Many decks picture a medieval Christian-type devil, complete with horns, hooves, a hairy tail, and a pitchfork. Usually at the devil's feet are two small, humanlike figures, one male and one female, with chains around their necks that are attached to the block upon which The Devil sits. However, it is important to note that the chains are loose and the people could easily slip them off, suggesting self-imposed limitations.
Whatever form The Devil takes in various decks, he is usually pretty scary looking. Occasionally, he is batlike or stylized depending on the theme of the deck and its designer's inclinations toward the figure. The Gilded Tarot portrays him as a muscular young man, whose face is half-hidden beneath a helmet-mask. In some decks, he has an inverted pentagram over his head or on his brow. In one deck, there is no devil at all, only two nude figures chained to a symbolically decorated block, straining toward an open doorway at the end of a long tunnel.
The variety of illustrations implies widely differing opinions of the card's meaning. For some, the devil is a creature of consummate evil; for others the devil is a mythical creature. Many psychologically-oriented people see the devil as a symbol of human indulgence, ignorance, egotism, greed, and irresponsibility. Thus, the illustration appearing on the card represents a point of view as well as the traditional meanings associated with the card.
Superficially, The Devil appears to be one of the more alarming cards of the Major Arcana. However, he does not represent satanic forces with evil intent, and it is important to remember this when doing readings. He is the Horned god of pagan times, connected to the fertility rites banned by the Church, which feared the power of pagan rituals, especially those including sexual activity.
When The Devil shows up in a reading, depending upon his position in the spread, he is telling you that you need to re-evaluate your relationship to material things, which are keeping you chained. It's time to look at whatever is limiting you and holding you back from personal growth, especially abusive, obsessive, or harmful relationships. You are being called upon to confront your fears about financial security and social and material success—the things of this world. The Devil is a reality check.
You need to recognize and acknowledge things you don't like about yourself—your personality, body, or temperament. It's time to let go of old fears, hangups, inhibitions, and ways you manipulate others to satisfy your needs instead of taking responsibility for yourself in a positive manner. Often there is a sexual component involved that is having a harmful effect on your whole life. Or there could be a nonsexual relationship that binds you and that must end before you can grow further.
The Devil is related to the old pagan god Great Pan, a god of nature and the natural processes of the physical world, including sex. The Greek form of Pan was Dionysus, who was known for cavorting with satyrs and in whose honor wild and uninhibited rituals that included a sexual free-for-all were held annually.
Whatever the situation, you are the only one who can change it. The two chained figures on the card represent bondage to the material realm. Their loose chains indicate your potential for attaining freedom by relinquishing obsessive ambition and excessive attachment to the things of this world.
Also known as “Le Diable,” The Devil corresponds to the number fifteen and to the Hebrew letter Samech.
The Devil is a mythical creature with no real substance, but symbolically it represents the bondage that we create and maintain for ourselves.
There may be obstacles in the environment that you find frustrating, or you may feel your options are narrowing. Someone else may be involved, but you have the ability to free yourself from the situation by using your willpower.
You feel trapped in a situation over which you feel you have no control, but close examination will reveal that your own attitudes and beliefs are causing the problem. The solution is to carefully examine your beliefs to learn how they are restricting you. Be careful of any quick fix to your problems, which are structural and not superficial. If you are willing to do the hard work, both on the inner and outer planes, you can solve the issues and achieve success on your own. Remember that Saturn rules The Devil card, and Saturn's influences are long-term.