29 September 2009

The Devil major arcana card

The Devil card is one that many people find frightening. It has the strongest association with the occult, and other misunderstandings about Tarot.

So lets use the Tower card that we've talked about in the past to understand this card: use perspective. Let's put the Devil major arcana card into some context.

Tarot evolved in a very Catholic culture in pre-renaissance Europe. Sure, the Devil was a very potent symbol in its time, and it still communicates powerful ideas. But it is also time we introduce the Devil card to the 21st century.

Many cultures and religions have a figure like this. So restricting the card to just the christian understanding of 'the devil' isn't so useful in our global, multicultural time.

Some say that the representation of the devil on the cards is less a visual representation of the old testament entity, but more a suppression of the horned male god of the European pagans. It symbolizes the id unleashed, the natural world and the natural impulses of humans. The physical aspects of life were vilified, some say as a way of suppressing the nature-based religions by the advent of a politically powerful christian church. So in this view, the 'devil' became the cosmic bad-guy trying to make you do really bad things - like question church authority.

If that is the old understanding, how does this concept fit into a modern outlook? Has the Devil card been rendered irrelevant?

I think a better understanding would be one that reflects the idea of the "dark side"...both of our individual persona and in life at large, a la George Lucas.

I think the Devil card can be seen two ways...as the dark side of humanit: racism, bigotry, hate, anger, brutality, torture, theft, assault...the list is huge.

While few individuals are heinous criminals or despotic dictators, we all have parts of ourselves we judge as 'bad' or 'wrong'. Nobody is perfect. We all have our inner dark side: anger, bias, harsh words, selfishness, apathy to others...sadly this list is just as long.

The message of the Devil card isn't external arch-evil, it is our inner demons, and the way they are made manifest through our words and actions.

The message of the Devil card is to be aware of the dark side of existence, and meet it with courage, conviction and common sense.

In a literal way, this card is a reminder that bad things do happen, so common sense precaution is a good idea: get that emergency flashlight, don't walk alone in a dark city alley at night, don't throw gasoline on a campfire...

It also speaks to the inner dark side. Denial does nothing to bring balance. Denial of our true selves, dirty laundry and all, does nothing to serve compassion. If we ignore our faults, we can't learn from them or change them. Facing our inner demons takes the most courage, but yields the most profound changes...for the better.

Wishing you courage and balance to free you from the devils inside and out.


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