Like Death, the Devil (XV) card is misunderstood, but not merely as much. The symbolism can be rather straightforward. This card is actually an inverse or a mockery of the Lovers card.
Instead of an angel, there’s the devil. The devil itself is a satyr, a half-man, half-goat mythical creature that was largely characterized by lustfulness. Yet, it has a lion’s face, bat wings, bird claws, and a (relatively) large belly. The Devil is the seven deadly sins: The large belly is gluttony. The lion’s face is pride. The bat wings are anger. The goat lower body is lust. The bird claws are envy. Crouching on the pillar is sloth. Chaining up the man and woman is greed.
It has the inverted pentagram above its head, symbolizing the elements over the spirit, or the carnal side of life winning.
Instead of two lovers at its sides, there’s a man and a woman chained by the neck to the Devil’s throne. The man casually, almost carelessly, reaches out for the woman who ignores him. They both have tails, horns, and curly red hair, a sign of lust and taking on the Devil’s traits. Her tail is grapes, symbolizes forbidden fruit and too much wine and revelry, and his tail is of fire, which is set alight by the Devil’s torch.
The Devil is the one who sets alight the flames of lust and wanton desire. Those who fall prey are his slaves, right? Do the man and woman have to be chained to him, and who is in control, here? The Devil is just staring and sitting there, and the man and woman are apathetic, doing nothing about their situation.
The Devil is actually powerless. Its facial expression is empty. It’s just a series of images depicting the dark side of humanity, the part we don’t want to face, and our shadow selves.
When a client or querent pulls the Devil card, they’re made to contend with their dark sides, the part of themselves they may disown or pretend doesn’t exist. It may also simply be the carnal side of themselves that they fully accept but don’t attempt to temper or balance out.
The Devil card can also indicate good things, like business acumen, shrewdness, and an understanding of people and what they really want and need. What people really want and need, after all, can often be boiled down to the creature comforts of food and sex.
When the Devil card is Reversed:
The Devil reversed doesn’t necessarily mean goodness or lack of carnality. It can indicate carnality without any control. Likewise, it can indicate a crippling guilt around having normal human desires that causes someone to deny themselves all pleasures.
It can also indicate addiction or weaknesses to certain pleasures or escapes that get in the way of having a meaningful existence with healthy, nurturing relationships with others.
It can also show where a person is entitled or demanding, materialistic but unable or unwilling to do what it takes to get worldly success.
In a three-card reading, this card means…
Past: In the past, the querent was shrewd, worldly, and perhaps successful because of it. However, they may have traded spiritual depth or meaningful relationships for material gain.
Present: Right now, the querent is almost single-mindedly focused on business, lust, or achieving something of material gain, using every trick they have up their sleeves.
Future: In the future, the querent will become ruthless or more cunning in their pursuit of what they want. They may not be afraid to do whatever it takes to get what they want.