The Devil

Transcending Limitations

"Thou hast no right but to do thy will.  Do that, and no other shall say nay.  For pure will, unassuageed of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.  The formula of this card is then the complete appreciation of all existing things.  He rejoices'in the rugged and the barren no less than in the smooth and the fertile.  All things equally exalt him.  He represents the finding of ecstacy in every phenomenon, however naturally repugnant; he transcends all limitations; he is Pan; he is All."
-Aliester Crowley, from The Book of Thoth, 1944

Luigi Scapini, The Medieval Scapini Tarot, Italy, 2005
Italian artist and scholar researched decks and made a recreation in this medieval era Tarot.

The Devil is the fifteenth key to the Major Arcana in Tarot.  The Element of The Devil is Earth and the zodiac affiliation of The Devil is Capricorn.

Qualities of The Devil are Passion, Creativity, and Lust.  Alternate names for The Devil are Obsession, Typhon, Satan, and Lucifer.  Symbols are Pentagram, Flames, Shackles, and Baphomet.

In German The Devil is called Der Teufel.  In French, Le Diable.  And in Italian, Il Diavolo.


In his most archetypal form, the Devil is represented in Tarot by the horned Baphomet, the leering satyr, half man and half goat, with forked tail and bat wings, the occult symbol of the inverted pentagram emblazoned upon his forehead.  In some decks he is portrayed as a hermaphrodite, with full breasts, or with feet shaped like raven's claws.  A naked man and woman are chained to his stone pedestal, depicting both his dominion over and enslavement of them.  Sometimes the couple are also shown with horns and tails, transformed into demi-demons by their master.  But if one looks closely, it becomes apparent that the shackles around their necks are, in fact, loose.  If they have indeed surrendered to their baser instincts, it is most likely of their own volition.


The Devil demands honesty in all self-assessment and requires a confrontation and acceptance of one's raw desires.  He forces admission of addiction, impulse, and manipulation.  He is a signifier of entrapment, lack of fulfillment, reliance on the material rather than the spiritual.  To move past him, one must go deep, face faults, and find forgiveness.  He welcomes indulgence, gluttony, and temptation.  And yet, the Devil can be embraced as well.  He offers fertile soil for creativity, igniting passion, fueling the flowing pyre of ideas and imagination.  In the dark spaces, there emerges the poetry of shadows.  We place the chains around our own neck.  To be freed of the Devil's shackles, we must remove our own masks and face our own demons.  

Margarete Petersen, Margarete Petersen Tarot, Germany, 2001
Created from a series of meditative, dreamlike paintings, this contemporary tarot is accompanied by a book of attributions written in the form of freeverse poems.