the detail in The Devil

“This is is portrait. Look at his flat, yellow teeth, his ruddy face. He has horns, and he carries a foot-long wooden stake in one hand and his wooden mallet in the other.

Of course, there is no such thing as the devil.”

— Neil Gaiman, ‘Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot’

Yesterday I had a message on my phone, inviting me to an interview at short-ish notice for a job I really want: local, ethical, well-paid and not desk-bound. Attending the interview, however, is going to be tricky… In two minds about whether I should pull it off – let alone whether I could – I drew a card.

The Devil.

from the Stone Tarot

What the devil?

I mean, really, I had no idea what to make of this. The only time I have seen this card in a reading was 8 years ago, when I had a slightly disastrous free reading in the divination tent at Druid Camp with a lady who only wanted to talk about my supposed daddy issues (luckily, this was counteracted by a beautiful, healing reading with a compassionate tarotist, who saw me upset after this strange encounter and took it upon herself to help – otherwise my view of tarot would be very different). At the time, I was spending far too much time and energy obsessing over my relationship with an on/off lover, so The Devil made sense to me then.

Now, though, I have no idea.

[Side note on ‘intuition’: this is often characterized as getting a ‘feeling’ about something. Through my experiences with depression, I have found that getting a ‘bad feeling’ about something is not, in fact, at all intuitive: it is a tangled mix of conditioned thought patterns and brain chemistry. My first thought, on seeing ‘bad’ cards, is to assume all sorts of negative things about myself, my situation and any potential for positive change. Tarot is a wonderful tool because it allows me to sit with these negative assumptions and gently challenge them, but this takes time, and work.]

On delving more deeply into the symbolism of The Devil, though, a few things started to make sense to me…

  1. The Devil is ruled by Capricorn

This is the sign of financial and material gains, and also of hard work and responsibility. It confronts us with worldly ambitions of wealth and status, then shows us the hard road to true success.

  1. The chains are an illusion

Like the prison of Gweir in Caer Siddi (which I promise I will write about, soon!), the realm of The Devil can only imprison us if we allow it – the chains are loose, the key is within reach… all we have to do is walk away. So what am I allowing to imprison me?

The more I think about it, the more this card makes sense (though I’d rather it didn’t!). I am being confronted with a stark choice: to remain imprisoned by my sense of duty and loyalty to a situation which no longer serves me, or to shake off my sense of morality and attend the interview. The Devil confronts me with my own potential to be disruptive and destructive in this situation, something I would rather not face. This is the shadow side of the power I am reclaiming for myself.


In my Druidcraft deck at home, The Devil is represented by Cernunnos, and offers “the potential for achieving both freedom and abundance.” My, yes, that is exactly what I am after – a job with fewer hours and a higher hourly wage – but this is The Devil, after all, and I have to ask myself: what do freedom and abundance look like, for me? And what am I prepared to face, or overcome, in order to achieve them?

Author: angharadlois

"I'm only interested in everything."

2 thoughts on “the detail in The Devil”

  1. When you mentioned the associations between wealth and gains after looking at the card I immediately thought Pluto so it’s interesting you came to the chains and Gweir imprisoned in Caer Siddi, in Annwn, singing before its spoils. It’s my suspicion that Cernunnos/the Head of Annwn/Gwyn may be ‘the same’ person under different titles, but many would disagree!

    1. Yes… that makes sense. There has always been that underworld connection with wealth. On a mundane level, it’s where material wealth (in the immediate form of food, or the abstracted form of precious minerals) comes from. And on a deeper level, it’s where we go to face the challenges that allow us to find deeper wisdom, spiritual wealth. I wonder…

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