A Piece of My Mind: Bedeviled

By Jeanne Fiorini

They say that effective writers “write what they know” and thereby communicate their particular knowledge and experience in a way that readers understand, relate to, and appreciate. While we are wrapping up another calendar year and I’d like to write something lovely about rainbows and fuzzy puppies, the truth is that the vibe of The Devil card has been “what I know” over recent months.

Not to be misleading, there have been some Ten of Cups moments, most notably the birth of my granddaughter Vera. (Isn’t that a wonderful name for a newborn Libran?) I call her “my little woodland creature,” with her round face, full head of dark hair, and brown saucer-y eyes that look right at you. Holding her immediately takes 20 points off my blood pressure and allows whatever slime The Devil may have tossed at me to slide away and melt into the carpet. 

But eventually I find myself heading back to my own house, where the “mother bliss” of The Empress is replaced by …..by what, exactly? This is part of the problem, the “What am I doing?” question. 

I think of The Devil as the most complex card in the Tarot. Not the most powerful or meaningful or difficult, necessarily, but the most complicated. Here are some attributes of the Tarot’s Devil, (being mindful that we’re talking Tarot and not theology):

  • The Devil is any force that makes you feel powerless in your life.
  • The Devil is the force supporting the illusion that the above statement is true, that anyone or anything can make you powerless.
  • The card indicates the presence of illusions and misrepresentations in general: things/people/situations that are not what they seem.
  • Challenges around money, power, sex, and control are often connected to Devil energy.
  • The card reflects ingrained, genetic, or past-life patterns that repress personal truth and self-expression.
  • Included in the force of The Devil are addictive tendencies, emotional manipulation, guilt and blame; our projections, our shadow, and our baggage.
  • With The Devil in charge, we engage in role-playing rather than authenticity, i.e. the “shoulds” overtake the genuine wants and needs.
  • The Devil is anything that ultimately makes you question yourself: “Who is really in charge of my life?” “Who/what holds the power here?” “What are my motivations?” “What is really going on?” “Who is responsible for what?” “How could things be different, how do I make it so….and what makes me think it can’t happen?”

Essentially, the Tarot’s Devil is the force that, once we become conscious of its presence and activity in our life, makes us say “WTF?” When did we start speaking in acronyms, I’m not quite sure….. but here’s the key point, and it’s the part that makes any Devil situation painful, the “when we become conscious” part: The Devil would prefer that we not become conscious at all.

The Devil can work its diabolical magic under two scenarios, the first one being that if things are set up well, a person won’t even be aware that he/she is being manipulated: manipulated by established expectations, by their own greed and desire, by well-worn patterns of behavior (either personal, familial, and/or societal), by the pecking-order of power and control, or by any other ingrained or reinforced way of being that has become a robotic modus operandi

The second scenario kicks in if/when a person becomes aware of such misrepresented notions inside themselves, whereupon The Devil insists that nothing can be done. “Sorry pal, that’s just the way it is. Gotta play by the rules, my dear, you know that.” And the noose around one’s neck remains in place. In either scenario, The Devil wins. 

It’s only when we engage ourselves consciously in the struggle for power (as represented by the fire under the tail of the male figure in many Devil cards) that we have a chance to (re)claim autonomy and self-direction. When this happens, we become the Indiana Jones in our own life story. It’s “put up or shut up” time and we realize that ignorance has its bliss and that consciousness requires a lot more effort. (Indie, get ready to unsheathe your sword!)

One of my favorite thoughts around The Devil card is attributed to Goethe and quoted by Sallie Nichols in her classic book Jung and Tarot (Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1988)..[The devil is] “that power that would only work evil, but engenders good.” This is the potential of the antagonist within The Devil to become a force of transformation.

It happens all the time: How long will the boss drive you crazy before you turn around and find another way to make money? How many days/months/years will you stay in a dead relationship before walking into the nothingness? How desperate are you for your “drug of choice” before you can see what it’s doing to you? How many times does that same lesson keep coming around before you understand what it’s trying to teach you?

The challenge of The Devil card is to DO one of two things: take some sort of action (wands) or find a new perspective (swords). It takes a dynamic force, (the male figure in The Devil card) to unlock the chains…have you unsheathed our sword yet? Understanding and/or empathy with (cups) your captor or worrying about what you might lose in the process (pentacles) will only prolong your imprisonment.

To be engaged in the struggle for freedom from external motivations is truly heroic. A person must have confidence in their own convictions (ah, to be clear about one’s convictions in the first place!), be willing to stand up for their personal truths, be willing to slash and burn the ties that have bound them to a less-than-authentic life. Ouch….and Hooray! Here is an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones; here is the revolution that is latent in The Devil card.

As a service to myself and those around me, I’m trying to burn off some Devil slime before the New Year arrives. There are some things that simply are not invited into the bright and prosperous place of contentment which 2011 promises; some things are too heavy, dark, limiting….and way over-worn.

I wish you all a season of hope, and happiness in a New Year having been set free of whatever chains bound you. Peace to us all.

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2010

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