The Devil Tarot Card: Understanding a Complicated Tarot Figure

Updated: Aug 30

Lately the Devil Tarot Card has been stalking me. In almost every reading I have done for myself in about a year. I started to really dread him and I was afraid to pull a card and see his tail and crazy eyes. Again. Especially when reading about certain issues in my life. But recently, I decided to sit with my deck and say “ok Devil. Let’s talk. What do you want from me and what is it you have to say?”.


I was listening. But I was not afraid. Fear was gone and I was fed up with him. He popped up in the first 3 cards of my reading. This would have really ruined my day some weeks ago. But this time, I was looking at him very differently. He was not all threats and issues.

For the first time, I realized he was both the issue and the solution. He was telling me to face everything that was wrong and to literally wrestle and fight. To let my inner beast out. I was done playing nice. I was taking advices from him. Instead of running from him. I saw how I would overcome my current challenges with the help of the Devil himself. It was probably the first time I actually got to meet the Devil in Tarot. That I let go of all pre-conceived ideas and cliches.


WHAT ARE WE SO AFRAID OF?

With Death and the Tower, the Devil Tarot Card is easily the most dreaded of all. And it’s true, upright or reversed, you don’t really want to see him pop up. But sometimes his presence can be okay. Damn, it can even be good!

Keywords that come to mind when talking about the Devil Tarot Card include: Fear. Sex. Temptation. Suffering. Addictions. Prison. A charming program.

But as always with Tarot, it’s never black and white and it’s never all that simple.

Devil Tarot Card

The Devil Tarot Card – Housewives Tarot


The really bad rep of the Devil mostly comes from the context in which Tarot first saw the light of day: Medieval Southern Europe.

The Devil was the keeper of all things condemned by (a very strict) Catholicism. That would not necessarily fit our current views of right and wrong or good and bad anymore. Thankfully, most of us don’t live in a constant fear of judgement day.

That’s why need to learn to read the Devil Tarot card all over again.


What does the Devil stand for? And what are we actually afraid of?


Is he there to speak of a danger? Or simply to talk sex, money and power? Both.

Through my readings for clients, friends or myself I have found that the Devil is one of the most daunting, but also one of the most interesting cards. When he pops up, you gotta ask yourself what is wrong. And that’s good thing.

What issue is he pointing at? Once it is identified (with the help of neighbouring cards or the spread itself), look at the Devil again. In which direction is he pointing to find a solution?

Is he looking at the Magician and the skills you already own? Asking you to work hard and commit to changes? Is he followed by the 2 of Swords, indicating that between two things that you’ve been juggling with, one has to definitely be abandoned?


There are many ways to understand his message. And the message is never all black. If you look hard, you can find a little light that is showing you the way out. Because: that’s what Tarot does.


ABOUT THE DEVIL TAROT CARD

The Italian and French Tarot which laid the foundations of all our current decks were developed in the Middle Ages. Christianity was the main cultural and moral influence. The Church at the time was not letting much fly.

Naturally, everything bad and condemned by the ruling majority was summed up in the figure most feared by all.

Now, what’s everything bad for a Middle Ages mind? Sex, temptation, lust, obsessions, pleasure, jealousy, heresy but also money and power. For our 21st century minds not all things listed above are necessarily so bad. Who’s against pleasure, money or even personal power nowadays?




This is already one reason to see the Devil as a grey card rather than an all black one.



Even if there can be a silver lining to its presence, the Devil card is hardly ever entirely positive and inevitably casts a shadow over your spread.

The Middle Ages may be over but the basic meaning of our 78 cards remain more or less the same. Because they illustrate a universal human experience. Even after the big Rider Waite Smith putsch.




In the original Marseille deck, the Devil’s paws were yellow, his sides were blue, the chest was red and the head white.

Primary colours played a major role which is now lost in many modern decks.





Those colours stood for the 4 elements and the forces they represent. Impressive, precious and impossible to control.

The 2 characters by his sides were two polarities, yin and yang, wearing the same colours in a reversed order (blue chest – red pants, red chest – blue pants).  They stand for human passions, for the feelings we can’t control: Lust but also anger, ambition, jealousy etc.


If you put aside the guilt that comes with certain temptations (in specific contexts), the Devil becomes the card of psychic energy, magnetism and the ability to influence destiny.

When forces seem to be working against you and you feel like a recurrent problem is ruining your life, the Devil may pop up. To tell you that the bolder you’ll be, the more risks you’ll take, the most likely you are to overcome.


The Devil can speak of success achieved through unorthodox ways. Of rapid changes and a need to see and use opportunities in a flash. Be audacious, laugh at the face of danger and fear. And with the help of the Devil, you’ll come out victorious, no matter how hopeless your situation appears to be.

The Devil can be balanced by the cards surrounding it. Depending on its position in your spread and the cards directly around, the Devil presence can be less worrying. It can be a simple