Placement: The Major Arcana
Exactly what it says on the tin: The Devil, a.k.a. The Beast, The Adversary, The Prince of Darkness, Satan, Old Nick, Old Scratch, Old Hob, The Evil One, Father of Lies and Lord of the Hell,* or at the very least one of his little helpers, oversees a chained pair of smaller demons, or a man and woman, who sometimes also have horns and tails. In many versions, the Devil carries a torch upside down and lights the man’s tail on fire, but the unfortunate fellow either ignores this or has no idea.
Right side up:
It’s a trap. You are lured into a cycle of need, temptation and surrender, followed again by need, and then temptation, surrender, need, temptation, surrender, need, temptation, surrender, need, temptation, surrender, need, temptation, surrender, need, temptation, surrender, need, temptation, surrender… Wait, where was I?
Your tyrannical boss insists upon dangling extra work in front of you, implying each time that completion will earn you a juicy promotion, though it never does. On your way home, that Hungarian sponge cake with layers of chocolate buttercream frosting and covered in caramel slices and a sprinkle of coconut calls to you from the bakery window.
“Ignore your health goals,” says the Hungarian sponge cake. “Consume me and you will feel satisfied forever.”
At dawn the following morning, your complete collection of classic Doctor Who serials (including reenactments of each of the 97 lost episodes) commands you to keep watching for the fifteenth consecutive hour, despite the extra work that awaits you at the office, and the now-fully-eaten cake which is perhaps the last bit of unspoiled food in your refrigerator. The noodles you made on the weekend might still be fine, or was that the weekend before? Is the bakery open?
Some books on Tarot will assure you that this card will warn you before your life spins entirely out of control, but the point of a trap is that one sees it only when it has snapped onto your leg, or your finger, if the trap in question involves cheese. As Anais Herschel so colourfully puts it, “You’re ****ed.”
Alternatively, The Devil card tells you to be cautious in case of traps, but that is true for any advice or prediction. “Try not to be an idiot,” is generally a given, with or without cards, and is therefore not useful.
One would think, logically, that The Devil reversed would represent freedom, but this is not the case, just as The Fool upright and reversed are both foolish. The Devil reversed indicates resisting temptation, but in a way that is discomforting. Perhaps you resist so adamantly that you prevent yourself from enjoying any freedoms at all. Maybe it would do you some good to relax, have some cake, watch the “Pyramids of Mars” episodes from 1975, and tell your boss to shove it.
Another common interpretation of The Devil reversed is a false freedom, either a belief that you are acting on your own accord, while secretly being manipulated by some twisted puppet-master, or that you have overindulged to the point where your freedom is more of a freefall. Maybe you slip into a fatal chocolate buttercream frosting-induced coma of trashy fanfiction hallucinations, in which the Tenth Doctor finally captures The Master and… never mind.
*who very likely requires extra-large business cards.
Classic The Devil deaths:
- Skydiving with a parachute provides too little adrenaline for your needs
- Poisoned apple
- Hoodwinked into buying a timeshare on land that you could not in good conscience sell to anyone, and co-owned with an axe murderer
- Garroted with the E string of a golden fiddle
- A shopping spree at an ominous antiques shop managed by a man who claims that you won’t have to pay… money.
- Dire anglerfish
AN UPDATE ON OUR MURDER INVESTIGATION:
As of yet, the police have not discovered the villain behind the murder of our dear friend Michel Nolastname and neither have we. The tarot spread that we performed last week to help us find clues, indicated that The Devil card had something to do with Mr. Nolastname’s distant past. He himself was kindly and not at all devilish. It is more likely that someone or something fooled him into an unfortunate path.
Elsie Cabret learned that the orphanage where we believed he was raised was not where he was raised but where he was found, starved and delirious, as a youth too old for their care. They hired him on as a maintenance worker when he was well enough to perform such duties. None of the current staff ever met Mr. Nolastname, since we knew him as an elderly man, and those who ran the orphanage in his day are now all dead.
It seems that each one of us has a lead we are currently following. As I write these words, I am on a train on my way to the distillery where Mr. Nolastname’s favourite brandy is made. Perhaps I will find answers there. Wish us luck.