Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences.
Culturally, The Devil is known by several names. In many traditional tarot decks, he appears as Baphomet, the Horned Goat of Mendes. The Devil is a multi-faceted card representing the lower-vibrational habits and detrimental behaviors that we can fall into. Depending on your religious upbringing, the image of The Devil may create fear and unease within yourself. In truth, Baphomet represents our baser instincts and acting on impulses, rather than being a symbol of inherent evil.
In many depictions, Baphomet perches over a man and woman who have chains around their necks. They appear to be enslaved and attached to the Devil’s perch, but the chains around their neck are loose–they have the power to remove the chain whenever they wish. This reminds us that we are capable of falling into voluntary enslavement. This is evident when we feel victimized in a situation where we have more power than we are exerting. Power imbalances are often suggested with this card.
The Devil warns us about taking hedonism to an unhealthy level. While some people can indulge in alcohol or chemical substances occasionally, these can quickly become a recurring, unhealthy habit. While these addictions are often the first that come to mind, The Devil encompasses all habits that do not serve our highest good. This could be gossip, self-defeat, dishonesty or any of the behaviors that cause us to feel shame in knowing that we can do better.
The Devil is a snapshot of the bondage we may have to the crudest, most visceral aspect of our human nature. On the positive side, the Devil acknowledges the animalistic nature we all have within and can be a wonderful shot of adrenaline to our sex life, but as with all things The Devil brings to the party, we must watch for things going too far.
The Devil drops us face-to-face with our shadow self. There is no finessing our truth here. If you have not seen the unforgettable Ted Talk Brene Brown does on shame, I highly recommend it. From a very young age, we are constantly informed of which behaviors are acceptable and because our very survival depends on these adults around us, we bury parts of ourselves that are not deemed appropriate. These rejected aspects of ourselves sneak out in our adult life to bite us, and those around us, in unexpected and sometimes shocking ways. We are unaware of their existence and it is only through gently healing and integrating those rejected shadow aspects that we can fully evolve. Until then we continue to project and fault those with the qualities we dislike about ourselves without realizing it. Our shadows can also hold the repressed ideas, instincts, impulses, desires, perversions, and embarrassing fears that we do not show the world.
It should be stated that shadow work should only be attempted when we are in a healthy mental state. It can be incredibly triggering. It can and will bring us back to traumas that shaped the person we have become. Ideally, this process would be facilitated by a professional., however, if you are attempting this work on your own, please check in with yourself consistently and make sure you are safe and well. Remember The Wheel of Fortune: if your mood dips and you need to take a break from this work it is okay. There will be brighter, stronger days that will allow you to resume your healing path.
Shadow work is an incredibly trying process and it is a life-long commitment, but if we want to fully realize our potential, it is vital. We all deserve to bring our entire selves–our broken, messy, wonderful selves–to the table. We all have amazing and exceptional gifts that could be exactly what someone else needs. When we stifle these, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and to those whose lives we have the potential to change. So often we discount the value that comes with our own unique perspective.
The easiest and least invasive way to begin shadow work is by paying attention to negative responses and limiting beliefs. For example, if you meet someone who rubs you the wrong way because they seem loud, arrogant, and rude. The hardest thing to accept is that the qualities that bother us most in others are often reflections of unhealed parts of ourselves. Take some time at the end of the day to reflect, and possibly journal, reactions you had that were unpleasant. See if you start to notice a trend. These rejected parts of our inner world will continue to rear their heads until we learn the necessary lessons.
Because of the delicacy of shadow work and the intense vulnerability it requires, I invite you to explore activities and journal prompts that speak to you. The work I have done is specific to my needs and may not be helpful. I will provide some links below which may or may not resonate with you.
This is a beautiful article on our shadow selves.
Here is a comprehensive guide to shadow work.
“Every pain, addiction, anguish, longing, depression, anger or fear
is an orphaned part of us
some disowned shadow
wanting to return
to the light
“People who cease to believe in God or goodness altogether still believe in the devil… Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.”
Until our paths cross again…