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My clients get a bit agitated when they see card 15 – The Devil. They completely hone in on the upsetting image of a scary looking beast that appears to keep prisoners in chains. Even if he shows up reversed, many associate him with – as one client put it: torment, bad luck, and sadness.

This archetype appears as the first card in the third line of the Major Arcana – the steps on our journey in life which represent enlightenment.

The card has come up more frequently in my readings and although there is a message for my clients I believe there’s also a meaning for me because I’ve been given the opportunity to delve a little more deeply into this card.

“I know this pain
Why do you lock yourself up in these chains?
No one can change your life except for you
Don’t ever let anyone step all over you
Just open your heart and your mind
Is it really fair to feel this way inside?”*

The lesson or guidance represented by the Devil, I think, is to consciously listen to our inner voice. How many times have you repeated the same actions over and over with the same results and wondered why nothing in your life changed? And all the while you were going through these actions, how many times did the voice inside your head say, “Really? You did this last time and it didn’t work. What makes you think it will work this time?”

This card is screaming “PAY ATTENTION”!

In a Celtic Cross reading for a recent client, the Devil appeared in position ten “the outcome,” indicating where things are headed if nothing changes. We talked about how my client wanted to start up his own business and why he wasn’t really getting anywhere with it. He continued to tell me how much fun he was having enjoying his adventure sports hobbies. When I asked him what the voice inside his head was telling him, he began to grasp the meaning of the Devil.

“You could sustain
Or are you comfortable with the pain?
You’ve got no one to blame for your unhappiness
You got yourself into your own mess
Lettin’ your worries pass you by
Don’t you think it’s worth your time
To change your mind?”

On its most basic level it warns you of being out of balance – in my client’s case, living a hedonistic lifestyle which was contrary to his goals. When we dance with the Devil we choose what pleases us over what we have to do to achieve our goals – we continue to choose the physical and material distractions of life over the perceived discomforts on the path toward our objectives. The Devil warns us that we may be repeating an unhealthy pattern of excess that ultimately leads us to being so comfortable within a strange psychological bondage that we can’t see how we are hurting ourselves. Without realizing it we become obsessed with behaviors and habits that are bad for us, and our lives.  We wonder why we are so unhappy.

Breaking the chains becomes quite possibly at first, the hardest thing we have to do in order to get that balance back. We must not only listen to the voice in our head, but we must do what it says! It is easy to hear the voice, but it is not easy to do what it commands.  We must be conscious listeners to our inner voice if we are to break free of the chains that bind us.

The reversed Devil, in my interpretations, is reminding you that you have broken the chains in the past and you know how to do it again. Its message is that you recognize that you may be holding too tightly to a desire – something you want, a situation you feel you need to change or a habit you need to break. You’ve learned how to hear your inner voice.

The Devil upright defines a lifestyle in which a person feels chained in, constrained, and bound by earthly things such as money, material possessions, health, home, self-indulgence, or even cruel behaviors. But reversed, the Devil tells a different story. Because now the characters (represented on the card quite possibly as you or me) have learned to let go of the chains that bind them; they were never fully constricted in the first place, only they chose to see it that way. Therefore, the Devil upright indicates being a slave to your desires, rather than acting how you think is best. And the Devil reversed indicates that you have found a way to persist and move beyond the things that enslave you, either physically or psychologically.

It is okay to “Dance with Devil” – but it’s not okay to let him be your only partner because you may get yourself tangled in his chains.

D E V I L – Key Words

Losing independence, addiction and enslavement, caught up in the material, overindulgement, choosing to stay in the dark, pleasures, lust, and desire.


*Lyrics to “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips.
*Linda & Chris have been traveling and living in the Caribbean on their sailboat, Troubadour. Read about their journey at http://sailingtroubadour.blogspot.com

Image: Getty Images “Woman in Chains”