By Sarah Taylor
“On the individual level, the Devil[‘s] … silence can suggest secret desires. These may be sexual desires, but they also may be desires for a different life, or for more passion in a life that has become dull. Often we do not know our own desires. Habit and fear and social conditioning hide them from our conscious awareness. In order to reach the total awareness shown in the later trumps [Major Arcana], we need to explore the dark areas of ourselves.” [Rachel Pollack, The Haindl Tarot — The Major Arcana]
At the centre of this week’s reading sits The Devil.
To the left and the right are two Seven cards; alternatives; a choice point, if you can take a moment to gather your wherewithal to know that you do, indeed, have a choice. It’s not a choice between The Devil and something else. The Devil is here regardless. The choice is in how you choose to approach The Devil and what it means — and how it can be applied in your life.
So let’s get a clearer idea of what The Devil means in the context of this reading, and what it does not mean. Clarity is nothing if not focussed intention, and here your intention is your great ally in a reading that is entirely liberating at its core. It is, in effect, the liberation of you.
I started out this article with a quote by a living tarot legend, Rachel Pollack. In the quote, she writes about “secret desires.” What we tend to do in our world with secret desires is to mask them with fear, so that we never go near them.
The Devil is a convenient and highly effective mythos that relegates those fear-enwrapped desires to a place we lock out of our consciousness. We erect fire and brimstone around it; we place warning signs on its perimeter; we construct belief systems to defend against its breach. Yes. There is much set up in our world to make sure we never go there.
Why? Why don’t we go there? Maybe personal freedom feels like too much to bear in a world that is constantly asking for your obedience, your conformity. Maybe liberation is risky. It certainly risks the status quo. It absolutely risks you beginning to feel and experience feelings and experiences that may be — well, inconvenient. Who knows what you might want to change when you understand the changes effected in you? “Oh! The places you’ll go!”
But as you contemplate The Devil, you can know this: what is implied in the reading is the previous card, Temperance. In some way, you have been through a period of learning to balance, to hold the tension of opposites without swinging one way or the other in an attempt to resolve them. You know what it means to mature into a sense of equilibrium.
You, journeyer, are supremely equipped to meet the central card in front of you now. It wouldn’t have appeared if you weren’t.
The Devil is there, as are the desires within you that it’s calling to your attention. Those desires may be connected with sex and sexuality. They may be creative. They may feel subversive — as if following them will overthrow regimes. They will almost certainly feel taboo. Yet, yes, you’re supremely equipped to meet them.
And the two cards on either side suggest the ways these desires are often met. They are your choice point.
On the left is the Seven of Cups, also entitled “The Illusions of Success.” The Seven of Cups speaks of an imbalance in the watery, emotional areas of life, and also of the one true path out of it. In the Rider-Waite Smith version of the Seven of Cups, the protagonist — you — faces seven divinely sent choices. But in truth there is only one choice to be made: the central, shrouded figure enveloped in a red glow.
The figure is the mystery. It is the release into trust. Everything else is window-dressing. To be caught up in the other cups is to be caught up in appearances. Victories may be sweet, but deliver little. The jewellery turns out to be paste. The tower turns to ivory. The dragon, the head, and the snake are two-dimensional.
And then there’s the card on the right, the Seven of Wands: “Courage.”
The courage to look within. The courage to stop resisting what is so vibrantly seeking expression in you (and damn the nay-sayers). The courage to call into question the boundaries and parameters that you have placed around the forbidden. The courage to explore what “desire” means to you.
Important, important: the trust that you have earned the ability to do this because you know what it is like to lose balance, and what it feels like to hold it; and the support you can ask for from trusted others who reflect your truth back to you without distortion or agenda. Those who have your best interests at heart. Those who love and accept you without any need to make you different.
It’s time to come out of the closet. What, you didn’t know you were in there? Then ask yourself where you hold yourself back, or where you feel the resistance of what no longer serves you. Ask your body where it wants to take you, trusting that it, your heart, and your mind are able guides (who will also tell you when you’re off-track).
Feel the freedom of your choices, your self-responsibility, and your desires. When you come to know yourself, and you stand in your own integrity, they will show you where you need to be.
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Astrology/Elemental correspondences: Seven of Cups (Venus in Scorpio), The Devil (Capricorn), Seven of Wands (Mars in Leo)
If you want to experiment with tarot cards and don’t have any, we provide a free tarot spread generator using the Celtic Wings spread, which is based on the traditional Celtic Cross spread. This article explains how to use the spread.