The Devil’s in the Details

Today, while I was doing one of those challenges I willing let myself get into, namely Angela Jamene’s Knowvember 2015, I was a bit indecisive as to which deck I’d use. To explain a bit further: “Knowvember” is essentially a Tarot challenge, in which you ask the cards a question set for each day and answer on the basis of what you get; but Miss Angela mentioned that one can shake it up a bit, use not just tarot but any oracle of your choosing. And I decided to rotate through mine, use a different deck or oracle each day.

In today’s case, I was originally thinking I should use the Goddess Tarot, which I consider wonderful and lovely and soothing; but I decided to delay using it a bit more, and was struck with the idea of using the Crystal Tarot. I cleansed all my decks and my oracles about a month ago, and I haven’t really used ALL of them in that time: but the Goddess Tarot I have already used for some questions, and the Crystal Tarot I used to read the cards to a very lovely and nice friend of mine, who as it happens is a theistic Satanist and a practicing witch. Sometimes they say energies cling onto the cards when you read them for others (and yourself), and it’s true, it does, they do have a small imprint of the souls of the people who you read them for; but to me that rarely affects the reading in general, and I just thought I should use it at the moment.

I shuffled the cards, being very careful and thoughtful as I asked the question, about my Goals; and one card slipped. I’ve differing opinions when it comes to cards that fall out, but most of the people I know and those who taught me (specially my dad) always said that you need to take in consideration what such cards have to say, because if they fall out, it’s because the message they have needs to get told RIGHT THERE RIGHT NOW. So I took it as the card for today’s question, and turns out, it’s the Devil.

I already explained in my post (which you can find here) how I interpret the Devil in this reading, what it says to me about my question and what I need to understand; but my hands itch for me to explain a bit more about this so, and while I should be doubling up my NaNoWriMo word count right now, I just can’t help myself.

This interpretation is personal, subjective and very much entirely mine and I don’t plan to win over people or change their minds at all. To each their own, and I know that this card, to a lot of people, mean something drastic and negative: the dark part of ourselves, the lowest, most bestial aspects of our psyche, the Id, solely interested in feeding, fucking and sleeping, which can be aggressive, volatile, violent, selfish and egotistical; as well as the Shadow, embodying our deepest fears and darker emotions, specially about ourselves. Some people think that when it comes up in a reading, you need to shut down a bit, take your life back a few steps, lay down the alcohol or the sex or the chocolate or whatever it is you are wallowing in, because that’s not what life is about: you’re engorging yourself in material pleasures instead of cultivating your inner peace. And that’s something I understand, respect, and admire: but I just don’t see it that way.

At the same time, the actual, archetypal figure of the Devil, with which this card is associated and from which it draws upon, is seen as dangerous, horrid and terrible, the epitome of all that shouldn’t be, and of that which hinders us: materialism, hedonism, sin, temptation, shallowness. And its understandable: ALL forms of belief have some kind of being that they consider either causes evil or just leads people astray from the Good Path. Thing is, not always has that figure been as controversial or ambivalent as the Devil (Please notice I’m not saying DEMONS in general, nor am I naming specifically Lucifer, That Serpent Called Dragon, Beelzebub, Azazel, whichever name do you want to call Him, Her, It, They, Shklee. I’m referring to the idea of the Devil and his archetype, not the specific personality others may adjure to it).

The Greeks, for example, had Eris as their goddess of strife and chaos, Ares as their god of war and aggression, the many deities born from Nyx (the Primeval Goddess of the night), most of whom represent dangers and negative emotions, and specially Ate, considered by some as essentially the Goddess of Bad Decisions. The Norse had Loki with his silver tongue and his penchant for mayhem. The Aztecs had two figures: the “Man of Wealth and Taste” Tezcatlipoca who embodied strife, cruelty, the night and all things terrible and the “Tempter and Defiler” Tlazolteotl, goddess of sin, seduction and sexual misconduct. But none of all where FULLY negative: Among the Children of Nyx there are quite a few positive entities, such as Philotes who embodies friendship or sex or perhaps Friends with benefits, for example; Loki, despite being flanderized (Thank you, TV Tropes) in later accounts was originally just a trickster who sometimes had to use his wits to end mayhem and who got along VERY WELL with Odin, who was just like him (and who was his sworn brother, not his father, adopted or not); and Tezcatlipoca was also the God of Slaves, which meant hurting them in any way incurred his wrath, and also represented civilization, intelligence and cunning, while Tlazolteotl was a mother goddess, governing over midwives and cleansing, and health. In fact, her role as a Temptress had a double nature: she incited you to commit sin, but if you truly repented from it and confessed to her priests (which could only be done once in a lifetime, and thus normally reserved until your dying moments) she took it upon herself: it was all her fault, after all, for tempting you, and swept all the guilt from you. BUT if you knowingly, after confessing, sinned again, then you didn’t get that reprieve, shame on you, you should know better already.

I’m loosing of my point, sorry; the thing I want to say is, I just don’t click with that notion. Hell, the origins of the figure of the Devil casts it as ambivalent as those other figures, and not just as a tormentor or a destroyer, but as a being with an actual purpose. After all, in Judaism for the most part he was thought of less as an arbitrarily evil entity who antagonizes God and mankind, and more of a specific part of Celestial Choir, one who God appointed to led man astray, tempt him with sin. Why? Well, there’s an old parabola or metaphor or whatever it’s called about it, which compares the Devil with a prostitute hired by a king to tempt his son, usually in the middle of his duties. If he lays with her and gives into it, then he isn’t fit for ruling because he will cast aside his responsibilities in order to frolic around; but if he resists, then he is ready to take on the role. The prostitute may want him to pass the test, but it’s her duty and her role; and in those times, that was the Devil. “Satan” after all was originally a title, and one that meant adversary, yes; but which was given to the prosecutor during a legal case in those times; and that was his position, the Prosecutor of Heaven, who after testing mankind had to decry who passed his tests and who didn’t.

In this sense, I connect a lot with this kind of figure, and while I don’t really connect with Satanism or worshipping the Devil, I understand there’s more to a figure than just what the followers or detractors may say, and everyone has an opinion because everyone is different.

The same happens with the Devil card, which I in fact identify with a lot. To me, it does speak of materialism, hedonism and the dark side: but that’s not a bad thing for me. After all, we NEED to spice up our lives every now and then, we need to liven up things. Yes, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean we have to shunt off all pleasures to space and live lives of dull austerity. You can enjoy things, you can have your cake and eat it too; the only problems are letting it rule over you, get so entranced and so obsessed with them that you just can’t quit for a moment’s respite, and of course, hurting others in order to get what you want. So long as you don’t hurt anybody, and that includes yourself, you can do whatever you want shouldn’t feel guilty about it; but of course, you shouldn’t loose yourself in it. Life’s all about the balance, after all.

Thus, if anything negative can be said about the Devil card, if anything can be mentioned about it, is that it warns against extremism, at least for me. To me, an upright Devil card means you should follow through with your temptations once or twice because all work and no play makes John a sad boy; but not loose sight of your goals, because if you stay too long resting on your laurels they’ll definitely strangle you. It may also mean that you have temptation surrounding you, and you should think what’s best for you and what you want to attain. On the other side, an inverted Devil card means that you definitely are letting your addictions ruin you and you need to take your life back: please notice that this doesn’t necessarily mean just that you, say, have a bad addiction to cocaine, or that you should stop having sex every day, it runs much deeper than that; it might also mean you need to get some time off your work because you’re working yourself to death, that you need to stop denying the fact that you HAVE cravings, because a lot of your energy goes onto fighting those urges.

This is way I love the interpretation that the Gay Tarot (which I’ve never had between my hands, but which I want to get one day) gives to this Arcana. In it, the Devil is renamed “Self-Hatred” and it shows a man standing in front of a picture of a normal, traditional family, which evokes the fact that a lot of people spend years of their life fighting up their sexuality because of societal pressures, expectations, other people’s opinions, and just the way they were raised. Having to fight yourself so much, having to see yourself as a failure because you can’t conform to that ideal, or even shoving yourself into that ideal and finding it unfulfilling and difficult to keep up with because it isn’t what you truly want? Yes, it’d be safe to say that most LGBT people around the world have felt like that, if not ALL of us at some point; AND it’s not confined to it.

After all, how many lawyers, professors, doctors, whatevers exist out there, wondering how their lives would be if they just said NO when it was imposed on them, not necessarily by their families, but by the world at large? Sometimes we let ourselves fall short of what we actually want: maybe we don’t think we’ll be successful, maybe we don’t see how we can live off of being a writer, or a painter, or studying marine biology, and we get pressured into jobs we don’t enjoy or lives we don’t want because of that. How many of us just don’t know how to say NO when we need to, or say YES when we have to? I think the Devil embodies that as well. After all, as I said in my instagram post, an often overlooked aspect of addiction is that, it’s not limited to drugs, sex or food, but it can apply to EVERYTHING that we like or we do: including working, being angry or living a correct and uptight life. Extremes, in general, are something that we need to be careful about, not just extreme debauchery or extreme selfishness but also extreme passivity.

After all, if we don’t go on to do what we want, to get what we want to get, how can we attain it? Whether it is because you got too caught up in the here and now or because you have no drive to actually get things done, it’s equally problematic for it. We have to enjoy life, every moment of it; work hard and play hard, because there’s never one side without the other.

And that, to me, is the Devil, at least in Tarot. The reminder that we have to liven things up every now and then; and that we also need to step back every now and then.

And with that said, I hope you enjoyed reading that, and wish you all goodnight. Blessings ^^

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