I’ve written previously on my card of the year, which is the Devil. In this post, I am taking a journey through the various artist renditions of this card. This is mainly a visual post – there are 22 images from all sorts of different decks currently in my collection.
To start off with, above is the Jean Noblet Tarot, one of the oldest Marseille type decks. In fact, the accompanying booklet for this deck states, “The originality of this extremely elegant tarot resides in its age and its unusually small size. It is the oldest known tarot of the popular “Marseille” tradition.“
The Marseille tarot themes are clear: bondage, domination, enslavement.
However, my favourite Devil cards are those that show him as Cernunnos, also known as The Horned One. Below is such an interpretation, from the beautiful Legend The Arthurian Tarot by Anna-Marie Ferguson. This, to me, is what the “Devil” is all about, or at the very least, this is how I see him: presiding over nature, over the wild, over free animals and untouched wilderness. He stands for the raw power of nature, and nature magic.
Also by Anna-Marie Ferguson, we have the The Llewellyn Tarot, whose companion book notes,
“Before Christianity triumphed in Britain, the Horned God was an important figure as lord and protector of animals and god of the hunt. The delicate ecological balance between man and his environment was the charge of the Horned One, and since lives could depend on his favour, his worship was particularly difficult for Christianity to eradicate. It is not surprising, then, that the image of the nature-based Horned God conveniently became the image of the devil for the incoming Christian religion. Part man, part beast, hairy pelt, cloven hooves, dressed in animal skins and often horned and larger than life – these describe the personification of the spirit of the woods and wild, known under such names as the Horned One, Cernunnos, Wild Herdsman, Herne the Hunter, the Woodsward, Pan, Piper of the Dawn, etc. His appearance was meant to symbolise the integration of the animal cunning, strengths, and senses with the human consciousness and culture, resulting in a supernatural, supreme being of acute animal instinct and human intellect.“
Unfortunately (for me, that is), most decks do not reflect this interpretation in their depiction of the Devil. Instead, we have various renditions of the same themes found in the Marseille decks, that is oppression and the worship of material desires (money, sex, drugs etc) without any recognition for the spiritual side of life.
Destructive and toxic relationships between 2 people often show up in the Devil card: the manipulative control over each other, issues of codependence, and power imbalance. Sometimes in such relationships the key Devil energy is fear: fear of leaving, of being alone, of losing financial assets – these are the fears that keep two people chained to each other, sometimes for far, far too long. Shown below: Bohemian Gothic (from Baba Studio, left) and the Sun and Moon Tarot (right).
Sometimes temptation is the main message in a card: below we have the Victorian Romantic Tarot (left) and the Jolanda Tarot (right).
Above: Fey Tarot (left) and Alice Tarot (right).
Above: Bohemian Cats (left) and Efflorescent Tarot (right)
Above: Anna K Tarot (left) and Alexandr Daniloff Tarot (right).
When the Devil comes up in a reading, the person often feels as if they are bound and cannot escape or leave a situation. Not surprisingly, we find some Devil cards where the protagonist is in chains or tied up: below, on the left is Tarot of the Absurd, and on the right, the Vision Quest Tarot.
Above: Alchemical Tarot Renewed (left) and Cosmic Tarot (right).
The Gaian Tarot has retitled the card, Bindweed – again, we have a person bound by this plant, looking absolutely in torment. The artist, Joanna Powell Colbert, writes in the accompanying book:
“The Bindweed card depicts a life lived desperately out of balance. The figure is in despair, bound to his own addictions. He sees no way out. His internal struggle is reflected in the world around him, where non-native invasive plants and birds crowd out native species, causing a severe imbalance in the ecosystem.“
And finally, one of the most original, striking and powerful Devil cards that I have come across:
This is the artwork of Julie Cuccia-Watts, from her MAAT Tarot. What an exceptional card, beautifully rendered.
That’s as far as I have time to go through today. I have every intention of updating this blog more regularly, however a teething baby and a mathematically challenging astrology course are keeping me rather busy – in a good way. After all, what do they say, the Devil makes work for idle hands, or something like it 😉
Until next time,