The Devil Tarot Card Meanings

Pamela Coleman Smith, 1909

The Devil Keywords: Materialism, Bondage, Hopelessness, Shadow Self

The Devil Tarot Card Description

The Devil is depicted as half-man, half-beast. He has the torso of a man, the horns of a goat, bat wings and the legs of an animal. There’s an inverted pentagram touching his forehead, representing evil and the darker side of life. In a gesture that calls to mind Key 5: The Hierophant, The Devil holds his right hand up in the Jewish priestly blessing, but this is only a half-blessing as his other hand is lowered and holds a torch.

The Devil towers over a man and woman in chains – The Lovers from Key 6. This also echoes The Hierophant who sits overlooking the two tonsured monks in Key 5. Both the figures in The Devil card have tails and small horns on their heads. They’re starting to become like The Devil. His torch has set fire to the man’s tail and the woman’s tail bears fruit – a reminder of their fall from the Garden of Eden. Notice that the chains about the necks of the man and woman are loose. They can remove them at any time and walk away. They aren’t being held against their will.

What The Devil Means In A Tarot Reading

The Devil represents your shadow self. It’s that part of yourself that you suppress or try to ignore. But when The Devil makes an appearance in a reading, it’s a sign that your shadow self is impacting on your life and you should deal with these issues in order to move forward. You need to recognise, acknowledge, and work on your shadow.

The Devil can represent our bad habits, negative thought patterns, harmful behaviours, addictions, dependencies, pessimism – anything that harms us. You may feel that you can’t control these behaviours, or that you’re stuck in a relationship even though you know it’s harmful to you, but The Devil card is telling you that you do have a choice. Sometimes the hardest part is recognizing this and realizing that, while it won’t be easy (this is a Major Arcana card meaning the situation won’t be easily changed), you can walk away if you choose to. The figures in the card can remove their chains and walk away at any time. For now, they’re choosing to stay with The Devil, but we see that the longer they stay the more like him they become. It’s likely that, if they stay too long, they’ll find it hard to recognize themselves.

There can be a tendency, when we see The Devil in a reading, to link it to addictions or a bad relationship, but there’s more to this card. Your relationship might be just fine, and The Devil may be speaking of negative self-talk and pessimism that’s holding you back or keeping you down. You might be sabotaging yourself with your negative outlook on life. But remember, it doesn’t have to be like this. You can remove those chains and choose to live your best life. The Devil is a warning to you that you need to confront that side of yourself. What you do next is your choice and what you choose will make all the difference.

The Devil also represents materialism. It’s the denial of anything other than the material, physical world of the senses. Denying your spirituality leaves you feeling empty inside. This, in turn, amplifies feelings of hopelessness and pessimism. You may feel that there’s no way out, nowhere to turn for help, but again, you have a choice here. If you can tap into your spiritual side, you’ll see that there’s more to life, more to your existence. This will bring hope and a sense of freedom as you’ll no longer be limited to the material world.  

Something to be aware of when The Devil makes an appearance is that circumstances outside of your control may be contributing to the negative behaviours and/or limitations surrounding you. In other words, there may be things happening around you to cause you to feel trapped or hopeless, etc. However, it’s unwise to use this as an excuse. Thinking ‘it’s not my fault, these circumstances are outside of my control’ can be very damaging to you. It will keep you trapped even longer. So, rather than saying, ‘there’s nothing I can do about it’, try to see what you can do to progress and move forward from whatever is bedevilling you.

The Devil Love And Relationships Tarot Meaning

If The Devil appears in a relationship reading, then something isn’t quite right. It doesn’t mean that the relationship is doomed – not at all – but it does indicate that there are issues that need to be worked through. The relationship may be co-dependent. If you recognize this, then now is the time to work on asserting more independence and putting your own needs first.

Or it may be that there is addiction, or substance abuse problems. If this is the case then please take time to think very carefully about how you wish the relationship to be in the future, honestly evaluate whether or not this is achievable, and seek help to get you through this difficult time.

You may feel trapped in a problematic relationship, one that doesn’t bring you happiness, and you may feel that there’s no way out. Remember though, that when The Devil appears, there’s always a way out. It won’t be easy to walk away, and you may need help, but it’s always possible.

Remember too that it may be your own negative self-talk and pessimism that is trapping you. To recognize this, you’ll need to confront your shadow and then you can take steps to remedy the situation. Try being more patient and understanding of your partner. Realize the impact that negativity and pessimism is having on your relationship, and work on changing your outlook. This won’t be easy, and the change won’t happen quickly, but once you’ve acknowledged that negativity is a problem it’ll be like you’re seeing your relationship with new eyes. A world of potential happiness will open up to you.

If The Devil appears in a reading about a new relationship, then you need to have your eyes wide open before you take things further. The relationship may work out just fine in the end, but it’ll be a bumpy ride for sure.

The Devil Career Tarot Meaning

The Devil can indicate a toxic work environment. If you’re reading about a potential job or career, then you need to be aware of this. If you’re reading about your current job, then perhaps your boundaries aren’t being respected, or you feel trapped in a job you hate. Remember though, that even though it isn’t easy, you can walk away. You’re not trapped in this situation forever. You have a choice. That’s not to say that if you stay, it’s your own fault if you’re being treated badly, or your boundaries aren’t respected – absolutely not. However, you should work on establishing boundaries and maintaining them. Know what you’re willing to put up with and where to draw the line.

The Devil can also indicate pessimism and negativity. You may be sabotaging yourself with negative self-talk and negative thinking. Don’t fall into the trap of holding yourself back. If The Devil appears in your career reading and you recognize that negativity is an issue for you, then take steps to remedy that. It may be that you read about your business, or a new project, and The Devil appears. This can often mean that you’re feeling pessimistic about things. The key to making progress again will be to work on lifting yourself out of that pessimistic frame of mind.

The Devil Correspondences And Attributions