The Devil Had a Makeover

Eliphas Lévi’s writings in 19th century France markedly changed the meaning of The Devil in Tarot. Lévi identified this major arcanum with Baphomet, the Sabbatic Goat-demon. Prior to Lévi, the Devil had hooves, but also had a human-like head. The now goat-headed demon was seen as the animalistic/bestial side of us. He could now be defeated by rationality. The new Devil was internalized: the sinner driving themself to sin out of their own stupidity or beastliness. Lévi was a particularly strong influence on A.E. Waite. In RWS and derivative decks, the Devil as Baphomet forms the basis of our view of this card as more about sexuality and biologically based urges (such as addiction) than about pure evil.Yet when we read this card as a type of “personal slavery” today, we must ask: is evil only a personal problem? The world is more evil today. If we recognize that in our society it is usually the case that more evil is done to common people than any amount that they do to others, then perhaps a better read, one that may help more querents in a better manner may be something along the lines of: “evil has been done to you. Evil has been done to many others and you are not alone. You can either give in or find help in healing yourself. And perhaps one day, you and I and the others will fight the Devil, together.”

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The Three of Pentacles – A One Page Guide

I had previously looked at the Three of Pentacles as a fairly prosaic card… just a day at work. Ho hum. But it’s actually about the nobility of creation and creativity. The card is at once obvious and subtle. Why does Waite specify that the workplace is a monastery? After all, the monastery’s functions include far more than just work. And why does Waite specifically say that the worker of the Three of Pentacles is the same person who we see in the Eight of Pentacles? There’s a trail we can follow via the major arcana associated with the planetary influence (the World): a reference to Genesis, no less! The answer is that the Three of Pentacles is not just about work… it’s about ennobled work. If we put aside Waite’s mystical Christianity, and think about his message in terms of today, we might see that when this card is drawn by a querent with questions about their job, for example, perhaps it is to suggest that one should consider whether that job is spiritually rewarding. This is a card that says “Quit the stock brokership, move to Hooterville and grow vegetables!”

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The Two of Pentacles – A One Page Guide

The Two of Pentacles presents questions. Why are there dramatic waves in the background when the elemental influence is not water but Earth? Why did Waite go out of his way not to call the figure eight of the string game the Ourobouros, as the Golden Dawn group described it? And finally, and oddly enough, most importantly—what’s with the hat? Since we’re in Capricorn, we’d better take the Goat of Fear, some aliens called the Anunnaki, and Noah’s Flood into consideration as we try to make sense of these seeming contradictions. And contradiction is what makes the Two of Pentacles a tour de force. It communicates Waite’s Christian mysticism by pulling it out from what should be its opposite: spirit from material, Christianity from pagan; first power promising its own replacement by the ultimate power.

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The Four of Pentacles – A One Page Guide

The Four of Pentacles is one of those minor arcana cards with a short, though not particularly sweet meaning. The little king looks like a greedy little so-and-so, and that is pretty much the message. But there are a number of things we can note. One of them is that the illustration is, once again, in line with the astrological, elemental and qabalistic sources according to its position in the wheel, though the qabalistic source is given a bit of short shrift in this one. Capricorn and Saturn drive the emotional “tone” of the illustration. Capricorn is sometimes referred to as “the goat of fear,” and the Capricorn personality sometimes takes their natural strength of will to a rigid extreme. Saturn, of course, tended to eat his children. Earth merely provides the link to the very materialistic nature of this card. The point of interest is Chesed, which should be a force of love and charity, but in this case is so outweighed by the other, more negative aspects that all that remains of its “gift” are the divinatory meanings of legacy and inheritance. Our little king, “cleaving to that which one has,” his coins, becomes the personification of “You want this? You’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.”

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