The Devil Tarot Card Meaning and Art Vivid Waite Smith Tarot Deck
About the Deck
These cards are featured in my book, "A Concise Guide to the Tarot" by Loren Lundgren. I took the information for the meanings on these tarot cards from "The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, Being Fragments of a Secret Tradition Under the Veil of Divination", by A. E. Waite, 1911, now in the public domain. I edited the tarot card descriptions and meanings for clarity and brevity, modernizing the text. I scanned in the original black and white illustrations of the cards drawn by Pamela Colman Smith, from the 1911 book. I digitally retouched and painted those illustrations in detailed color.
Loren Lundgren, © 2021
DescriptionThe main figure is entirely naked; he has bat-like wings, and his feet have the claws of a bird. His right hand is upraised and extended, which is the reverse of the blessing given by the Hierophant. In his left hand there is a great flaming torch, inverted toward the earth. A reversed pentagram is on his forehead. There is a ring in front of the altar, from which two chains are attached to the necks of two figures, male and female. These are analogous to The Lovers, like Adam and Eve after the Fall. They represent the chains and fatality of the material life.
Meaning of The Devil from the Vivid Waite Smith Tarot Deck
Ravage, violence, vehemence, extraordinary efforts, force, fatality; matters predestined but not necessarily evil.
Evil fatality, weakness, pettiness, blindness.
According to Many Schools of Thought
The Devil. In the eighteenth century this card seems to have been rather a symbol of merely animal impudicity. Except for a fantastic head-dress, the chief figure is entirely naked; it has bat-like wings, and the hands and feet are represented by the claws of a bird. In the right hand there is a sceptre terminating in a sign which has been thought to represent fire. The figure as a whole is not particularly evil; it has no tail, and the commentators who have said that the claws are those of a harpy have spoken at random. There is no better ground for the alternative suggestion that they are eagle's claws. Attached, by a cord depending from their collars, to the pedestal on which the figure is mounted, are two small demons, presumably male and female. These are tailed, but not winged. Since 1856 the influence of Eliphas Levi and his doctrine of occultism has changed the face of this card, and it now appears as a pseudo-Baphometic figure with the head of a goat and a great torch between the horns; it is seated instead of erect, and in place of the generative organs there is the Hermetic caduceus. In Le Tarot Divinatoire of Papus the small demons are replaced by naked human beings, male and female who are yoked only to each other. The author may be felicitated on this improved symbolism.
Fatality for Good
Fatality for Evil.
Immense Force. Illness.