Introduction To The Major Arcana, Part 9: The Devil

If you’re at all familiar with Jungian psychology, you know of the Shadow. The Shadow represents the unconscious, the part of the person that is not consciously acknowledged. Normally, the shadow side holds our primitive drives and negative features of the personality, things that are not consciously acknowledged because they are negative. However, our Shadow can also conceal positive things; in people with low self esteem, the Shadow often blots out positive personal qualities. The Shadow is everything about ourselves that we are blind to, everything about us that we ourselves cannot see.

The Devil is an important arcanum because it is basically the same thing as the Shadow. The picture shows the Devil. One hand is raised in the air, while the other points downward with a lit torch. The post with one hand pointing up and one down is found in other cards as well, such as the Magician. This is a gesture meaning “as above, so below,” which is a well known magical saying. The Devil sits on a platform with two people chained to it. The chains around their necks are large enough that they could easily free themselves if they were conscious of their predicament. They are growing horns and have tails, showing that they’ve been around the Devil long enough to become a little devilish themselves.

The Upright Devil represents the shadow side, doing wrong things, and being transgressive. Perhaps you are doing something wrong in your life, and you need to stop. Alternately, you may be trying out new, edgy activities that are transgressive by other people’s standards but not yours. The Upright Devil is an arcanum of mystery, evil, and vice. Maybe you’re being evil right now, or just “evil” from the viewpoint of society.

The Reversed Devil is the thing that is holding you back. The Shadow is obscuring the very thing that you need to move forward in life. The Reversed Devil is the red curtain concealing the very thing you need right now. Pay careful attention to the rest of your spread, because the rest of your spread is precisely what will tell you how to pull that curtain back. The Reversed Devil is a cliffhanger, a challenge to moving forward in life balanced on the edge of a knife. When you see the Reversed Devil, pay attention!

In a past-present-future spread, the Devil represents the following:

  1. As past, the Devil represents the parts of your Shadow that got you into your present situation, and also represents the Shadow that is being cast over your present by your past.
  2. As present, the Devil represents the thing that is hidden before you, right here, right now, that you are blinded to, like the proverbial fish who asks “What is water?”
  3. As future, the Devil represents a possible future, good or bad, that your Shadow is blinding you to.

That’s all for today’s arcanum. Next, we’ll look at The Emperor.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published