The Devil Tarot Card Meaning
Keywords: Control – Materialism – Temptation
The Devil Card Description
A devilish, horned figure crouches on a stone pillar. His appearance can be likened to the Devil, a satyr, the Greek god Pan, or the occult representation of Baphomet. He has a white, inverted pentagram between his horns. The Devil holds up his right hand as if to stop the viewer, while his left-hand points a torch downwards. Below the figure are a pair of male and female devils who are loosely chained to the dark, stone block. These figures are a mirror to the Lovers card imagery. The woman’s tail is a cluster of grapes which suggests the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden, temptation, and alcohol. The man’s tail is a burning flame, lit by the Devil’s torch, suggesting uncontrolled passion or anger. The darkness that surrounds these figures suggests that this scene is playing out in a dark, hidden place.
The Devil card is the fifteenth card of the tarot’s Major Arcana. It represents the material world, control, subjugation, and temptation.
Upright Meanings for the Devil Tarot Card
Often, the Devil card speaks to control. He has found a way to subjugate the two figures below him. In a reading, this suggests that something is exerting undue influence in your life right now. You may be the one trying to control a situation or a person. If this is the case, it’s a warning to detach yourself. This is especially true of problems regarding other people. You have autonomy only for yourself. Allow others the freedom to be themselves.
Along with controlling, it can represent feeling trapped. This is often entrapment from a relationship or job. In the case of a job, it will often be due to financial issues. In a relationship, examine whether your attachments are codependent. Are you afraid you can’t do better? This card can also indicate that too much of your decision-making is being ruled by fear and anxiety. In this case, it’s important to talk to someone you trust about your current situation. You may need the perspective of another person to point you towards the path to freeing yourself.
The Devil in the tarot represents the material world —and it can indicate excessive materialism. As the psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggests, safe shelter, food, and safety are very real and practical things that we need in order to feel secure. Once we have these solid foundations, we can move up the pyramid to self-actualization.
But the Devil card warns us that you may be getting stuck on just the material aspects of life. An obsession with acquiring material things, money, and influence will distract you from the spiritual and human connections that are just as important. Having nice things is great, but don’t get obsessed with it.
Traditional interpretations of the Devil card point to issues around addiction. This can represent any compulsive behavior that distracts you from your goals or authentic connection with others. It can be as serious as alcohol or substance abuse or as seemly innocuous as social media or smartphone addiction. Ask yourself what pleasurable activity in the short term is causing you to stray further from the life you want?
Thus, the Devil card is tied to temptations that lead you astray. These indulgent activities may make you feel better in the short-term, but you pay for it with dependency, and a feeling of emptiness later.
The Devil also speaks to the Jungian shadow self. The shadow is the part of us that we, or society, finds unacceptable. These “unsavory” parts of ourselves are tampered down but always manage to bubble back up to the surface in surprising ways. This can be an invitation to engage in shadow work by examining the parts of yourself that you reject. Do you tend to ignore jealous, greedy, or angry urges? Do you find yourself being unusually bothered by those traits in others? All of these things are normal, human emotions that you shouldn’t feel ashamed of. We tend to be the most judgmental of the negative traits in others that we repress in ourselves.
Love and Relationships for the Devil Upright
The Devil card typically represents a relationship that is ruled by lust and obsession. This card is closely tied to strong sexual energies and urges. It can represent having multiple partners or meaningless sex. It can be a warning to not let lust override your judgment. Watch out for risk-taking behaviors.
It can also represent a relationship that has a controlling and codependent dynamic. Depending on the context, you might be the Devil or the enslaved figures.
The Devil card traditionally points toward addictive behaviors within a relationship. Those addictions could represent sex addiction, substance abuse, alcoholism, and mutual enabling. But, on a lighter note, it can simply indicate an interest in the taboo such as fetishes, BSDM, or just garden-variety kinky.
Career and Work for the Devil Upright
These days, you can frequently find the Devil card appearing in career-related tarot readings. You can blame the ubiquity of corporate-culture on this one.
The Devil in a career reading often suggests a toxic workplace or boss. It can represent a job that you feel trapped in. Because the Devil card rules the material world, you’ll often find that it reflects a job you’re stuck in for financial reasons. The solution to this card’s appearance is complicated. The presence of such a heavy figure like The Devil suggests that this work environment is inherently detrimental to your health. Once a job crosses that threshold from just “bad” into toxic, there often isn’t a lot you can do to overcome it. Even though it may look like the perfect fit for you on paper (maybe it pays well, has great benefits, etc.), it’s not worth the damage it does to your spirit. In this case, the Devil card is an invitation to find your way out. Don’t allow pessimism to prevent you from taking care of yourself and finding a better opportunity for your health. Money or prestige isn’t everything.
This card can also appear as a solution to workplace conflict. As the problem in a tarot spread, it can indicate that you, or your boss, is being overbearing or using fear as motivation. Don’t operate your team like a taskmaster. Allow others more autonomy and freedom. You’ll be rewarded with teams who are happier, more innovative, and productive. Ironically, sometimes this card appears as the solution to a problem. In this case, your work environment might have become too relaxed and informal. You may be called on to be the “bad guy” who implements a more structured and ambitious strategy.
In terms of potential careers related to the Devil card, it can indicate highly competitive arenas such as Wallstreet investors or finances. It suggests the quintessential corporate job. It can also represent work related to the darker side of society such as the prison system, law enforcement, or criminal investigations. I’ve even had this card appear in readings for work related to EMS and trauma wards. The latter examples being careers where you need nerves of steel and a strong stomach. Of course, this can be work that dips into the taboo such as paid sex work.
People and Personalities for the Devil Upright
Individuals represented by the Devil card tend to be ambitious and charming. They may be charismatic and highly-sexual. Negative traits are a tendency toward being domineering or controlling. They often have a dark, dry, and sarcastic sense of humor. They’re prone to pessimism, anxiety, or depression if their spiritual and emotional health isn’t made a priority.
This card is ruled by the astrological sign of Capricorn and it can represent individuals born approximately December 22 to January 20.
Devil Reversed Tarot Card Meaning
Reversed Keywords: Freedom – Nonattachment – Defeat
Reversed Meanings for the Devil Tarot Card
The Devil card reversed can indicate that you’ve recently freed yourself from a difficult situation. It’s a positive indicator that things are getting better for you. Because the Devil card brought such heavy energy to deal with, make sure that you’re engaging in healthy self-care now. The after-effects of the situation might linger for a while, but they will go away. Be good to yourself.
The Devil card reversed is tied to both defeating something and for being defeated. This can manifest as overcoming a difficult situation or conquering bad habits and addictions. Even though you are improving, you may still feel deflated from the whole ordeal. Talk to a trusted friend or counselor to get perspective on what happened. Self-acknowledgement of how hard you worked is important.
This card reversed can be a positive indicator for shadow work. It can signal successfully uncovering or moving past issues that have plagued you. Of course, our shadow selves can never be completely banished. But this is a great card indicating that its negative aspects on your life are under control.
The Devil card reversed can indicate nonattachment to the physical world and outcomes. It’s tied to the Buddhist ideas of detachment from the impermanence of the material world.
Reversed Love and Relationships for the Devil
The Devil card reversed often represents freedom from a toxic relationship. Although the situation has resolved, you may still need time to heal.
This card can appear when nonattachment and strong boundaries are needed in a conflict. This is especially true for situations involving friends or family. This can be a warning to not get pulled into a negative spiral with another person. Resist the drama!
Reversed Career and Work for the Devil
Like in a relationship reading, the Devil reversed often represents an escape from a toxic workplace. This is the card of freeing yourself from the entrapment of a terrible job and/or boss.
This card reversed can sometimes indicate that the correct job to take is the one that will allow you the most freedom. That can mean listening to what your soul wants versus what will pay the most or be the most prestigious. It hints that outside pressure may be coming from a parent or your current group of friends. Don’t allow what others think about a career path to dictate your life. You do you!
Reversed People and Personalities for the Devil Card
Individuals represented by the Devil reversed are typically calm and cool-headed. They tend to be spiritual but should be careful they aren’t too uptight and virtuous.
Correspondences for the Devil Card
Astrology: Capricorn and Saturn
Numerology: 15 and 6 (see the Lover’s Card)
I am free from struggle and fear.
Some of My Favorite Examples of the Devil Card
I love the Wild Unknown’s Devil card because it’s probably the cutest, most positive portrayal you can find of the card. Here’s the thing, it’s traditionally an overly negative card. So, when you’re a Capricorn, like me, and you first discover it’s your astrological card in the tarot, it’s kind of… disappointing. At least Scorpio gets the edgy-cool Death card. And no one gets sacked with the Tower. Plus, we have to share it with Old Man Saturn, who already has way too much influence on our lives away! 😭 But, I digress… The Wild Unknown scores a win from me by personifying its devil as one of the cutest creatures ever, a goat. Goats are traditionally associated with Capricorn.
I love the Mystic Monday’s emphasis on the mental aspects of the Devil card. During difficult periods, who hasn’t felt trapped by their own thoughts? It can be hard to not ruminate when you’re in a situation that you feel you have no control over. In fact, we can stay in a toxic situation so long that we begin to forget there’s a way out. The Devil card’s influence can be a true mind game.
The Victorian Romantic deck was one of my first “indie” decks I ever bought. I’m a sucker for everything Victorian and Edwardian. In their deck, the Devil figure tempts the viewer with sacks of gold, jewels, and roses. But, beneath her feet is a lily, a symbol of peace, crushed. The metaphor is obvious, the worldly temptations of the Devil card are profoundly disruptive when taken to the extreme.
The Pagan Otherworlds Tarot draws on a folk horror aesthetic for its Devil card. The figure here could be a man in a costume or a strange beast. It carries a bundle of birch branches, like Krampus the Christmas devil of Scandinavian lore. Presumably, like Krampus, he whips his victims with it. There are disconcerting faces inside of his fur —possibly his victims? To draw a comparison to Krampus and other European holiday monsters, these creatures often visit the naughty to deliver punishments. This can represent the Devil card’s association of the price paid for bad behavior.
The Linestrider Tarot is an intense card. A horned animal skull ominously hovers over two intertwined figures. They contort themselves and hide their faces from the situation in front of them. This deception speaks to the fear and sadness the Devil card often brings. We can get so wrapped up in the issue, that we can’t see a way out anymore. This card challenges you to open your eyes and see everything fully. It also speaks to the unhealthy attachments we sometimes feel towards others. Even when both parties seem to be miserable, the bonds can be hard to break.
The Nomad Tarot uses the animal kingdom to represent aspects of the Devil card. In this case, the industrious spider (symbolizing ambition and productivity) captures prey in a sticky web that’s almost impossible to escape. Leaving the situations that represent the Devil card can feel impossible, but they aren’t. You can escape. The sooner, the better.