Tarot: Symbolism of the Devil

Hermit’s view on Asmodeus as the Devil:

Trump 15 in the Revenant Tarot deck.
Trump 15 in the Revenant Tarot deck.

One of the most misunderstood cards in the Major arcana, the Devil is a card that is all about power, control, and the basic needs that drive us all. Asmodeus, Archdemon of the Dark Realms, is not only a literal devil, but also a master of manipulation. He uses other people’s power to get what he wants, even making it seem like the other side is winning, if it pleases him. He is a masterful being, who understands the deepest shadows of the soul. He is the perfect representative for this card.

Asmodeus is both selfish and generous, cruel and kind. He takes the alchemy of opposites put forward in the Temperance, and twists them to his own command. He wears white, in a mockery of the purity that many people pride themselves in. In cruelty, he is the King of the Darkest Realm, a killer, a torturer. He makes people his own, and does what he wants with them, but he didn’t get there simply by his own will. He is cunning, and nobody falls under his power that didn’t ask for it. No, his kindness is what got him where he is. If someone asks for strength, he gives it to them. If they ask for love, he gives it to them. If someone asks him for a jaunt in the park, just to talk, he will probably give that to them – after a laugh and a flabbergasted smile, maybe. Of course, he almost always collects his reward in the end, usually a more strategic position, or even just a bit of fun. Even gods get bored. What he teaches us, however, is that sometimes it is good to dance with our demons, especially our inner ones. If we understand what makes us tick, we can use that innermost wish to drive us toward our goals. However, if we, in dancing with the demons, get lost in them and give up control, it can be to our great detriment. For example: I am particularly guilty of all manner of laziness on a daily basis, but if I’ve overworked my body, mind, or spirit a day before, some laziness is usually called for, and makes for good healing, if done right. Too much restraint on that front (continuing to work hard) could lead to injury, whereas letting myself go will let me do better the next time. It is an interesting and sometimes dangerous line to walk, but sometimes it must be walked.

Of course, one of the other things Asmodeus teaches us is honesty, self-honesty in particular. Knowing what our true strengths and weaknesses are, what makes us feel powerful and what makes us feel like we’ve fallen face-down in a mud puddle after tripping over our own shoelaces. Asmodeus is, in some way, the most honest person in the entirety of the Five Worlds. He knows exactly where his strengths and loyalties lie, and uses them to his advantage, dodging around his own weaknesses where he can. He is by far not the physically strongest person ever, his mind and magic are his weapons. He’s learned how to be persuasive, and downright frightening. If he needs to fight, he’ll call in the big guns, rather than take on an opponent himself. When he’s faced with a much stronger foe and no backup, he will surrender without a fight. It’s not that he’s a coward, it’s that he’s able to control his own pride – one of his many weaknesses – so that he doesn’t get himself hurt or killed. If we know what we’re best at, we can use that to overcome our own weaknesses. Of course, power like that can hurt as well as help, which is symbolized by Asmodeus’s double-bladed dagger.

Asmodeus himself is a far cry from the Rider-Waite version of the Devil. He is, while still part beast, exactly what most people want to be, at a base level: powerful, healthy, intelligent, attractive, and completely in control. He is a representation of all of our animal wants, thus the wings, horns, and scorpion-like tail. Too little of these needs fulfilled, and we become powerless. Too many, and we become poisoned by them, and controlled by them.

The zodiac that rules over this card is Capricorn, the goat. This is much better represented in the Rider-Waite card, given that the devil in that version is half-goat, but the influence is there, nonetheless. Capricorn, in this card, not only signifies the human urge to climb every mountain and achieve all that one can feasibly achieve, but also the scapegoat – something upon which we can project our darker sides to make us feel better about our own decisions. Asmodeus is inviting the viewer to put all the blame on him for something that has gone wrong, knowing full well that he can then use that blame, worry, and inner turmoil for his own purposes. Another reminder to be honest with ourselves. Who or what do we blame for things that have been by our own power? Where is the scapegoat?

The rune on this card is Thurisaz, which can either be the thorn or the giant, depending on who is doing the reading. It is a destructive rune, that tears down everything we thought we knew about ourselves, and exposes our inner demons, but also one that can focus overwhelming energies into a single purpose. It is a rune that can’t be feared, if one wants to use it, because it will take that fear and overwhelm a person with it. Thurisaz takes that deep, inner, driving desire and turns it from a tiny thorn poking at your side, into a sickle that can cut down anything standing in your way. It is powerful and manipulative, in much the same way as Asmodeus, but as long as we’re honest with our deepest manifestation of the self, neither of them can control us.

Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s