15 – The Devil

15 - The Devil

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
seeking joy,
some disowned shadow
wanting to return
to the light
and home
of ourselves.”
― Jacob Nordby

“People who cease to believe in God or goodness altogether still believe in the devil… Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.”
― Anne Rice

Until our paths cross again…

 

 

 

 

 

13 – Death

13 - Death

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. 

Have you ever been outside after the rain and walked along the earth just drinking in all of those luscious, earthy, green and rich scents? Perhaps there are new sprouts shooting up from the earth, vibrant and resilient. Surrounding these sprouts, and responsible for the delicious aromas around you, is decay. The old slowly curls in on itself and returns to the soil, nourishing new life in necessary ways. While the brown, barely recognizable plant material may look less impressive than it’s proud, green counterparts nothing would grow without it! So it is with the Death card.

If you are familiar with retro horror films, you may have encountered a scene where someone flips over the Death card and everyone in the room gasps and looks pitifully at the seeker. Most tarot advisors approach this card in a more progressive fashion. Yes, the Death card represents natural endings, but these endings are necessary in order to move forward.

While not all of us can embrace the concept of death and finality, presumably we will agree that desperate attempts to resuscitate something that is no longer meant to live is worse. Sometimes, we need to be strong and recognize that something is over whether we are ready or not. By all means, take the time to grieve. Whatever is moving out of your life is a loss, and skipping over the possible pain, disappointment, and mourning would be cheating yourself out of the delicate thread that stitches up your life story. It all matters–especially the really challenging chapters. It is important to acknowledge this loss, but it is also imperative that you move forward. Much like in the Konmari Method, take the time to thank this area of your life for all it has taught you and wish it well (then light a match).

In tarot, the Death card often means the death of the ego, and rarely refers to physical death. However, this card often comes with challenges so it may be helpful to examine how, culturally and religiously, death is acknowledged in a multitude of ways. This is a reminder that we get to decide how we want to approach loss! Westerners tend to sterilize the process and spend their life fearing death, but around the world, death is embraced and the focus is on celebrating the life of the loved one that has passed on. There are traditions of making beads from the ashes of their departed, creating beautiful altars to honor them, and often there will be parties that look a lot less somber than the funerals many of us have attended. There is no right way to acknowledge our loss, but it is helpful to consider that it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as we make it. Although the challenge around death is understandable, death just is.

On this note, I invite you to think about, and journal if you wish, some of the losses you have experienced. This may be the loss of a personal perspective, the loss of a familiar way of life,  or anything that caused a blow to the ego. How was your life altered after this event? What sort of changes followed as a result–were some of them positive? What opportunities made themselves present after this loss? How about dedicating an art journal page to constructing a painting or collage of how you visualize your “ego?” Explore your connection with this concept and look for pain points. Through this discovery, you can begin healing another layer of your internal landscape.

“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
― J.K. Rowling

“The ego is the culmination of our preferences and dislikes. Our ego represents the firm edges of how we perceive ourselves. An ego death involves a merciless destruction of the autobiographical memory system that sustains a person’s collective of bodily and mental images. In order to provoke an ego death, one might choose to pare down their sense of self to a bare skeleton divested of all flesh and blood. It might even be useful to visualize a person’s own burial and then imagine a rebirth. A person who undergoes an ego death might experience a transformation in their life that duplicates a reincarnation.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster

Until our paths cross again…