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 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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The Devil: Waite’s Symbols and Beyond

We return to our series on the symbols of the RWS tarot deck with the Devil. Waite appears to hold an old-fashioned view of the Devil as a force that acts of its own volition, tempting and coercing the actions of man. We turn to the Devil as illustrated in the Tarot of Dreams, a beautiful card. The deck’s Fool character is pictured in a gilded cage, with door open, beneath a human looking devil. The message of the illustration is that the Fool is responsible for his own punishment, and can free himself at any time. It is a reflexive approach. In olden times, when someone sinned, they might say “the devil made me do it.” But nowadays, of course, hell is empty and the devils are here… in ourselves, in some cases, or in the powerful positions of our society.

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