Home > Tarot > Major Arcana > The Devil


Upright: Shadow self, attachment, addiction, restriction, sexuality

Reversed: Releasing limiting beliefs, exploring dark thoughts, detachment


The Devil card shows Baphomet, or the Horned Goat of Mendes – a creature that is half man, half goat. Baphomet was originally intended to represent balance between good and evil, male and female, and human and animal; however, more recently, this figure has been associated with the occult and has become a scapegoat for all things considered ‘evil’.

The Devil has the wings of a vampire bat, an animal that sucks the lifeblood out of its prey. This is symbolic of what happens when you give in to your raw desires. The Devil has a hypnotic stare which ‘magnetises’ and entrances those who come near him, bringing them under his power. Above him is an inverted pentagram – a sign of the darker side of magic and occultism. His right hand is raised in the position of the Vulcan Salute – a Jewish blessing, later made famous by the film series, Star Trek. In his left hand he holds a large, lit torch.

At the foot of the Devil stands a man and a woman, both naked and chained to the podium on which the Devil sits. They appear to be held here against their will, but take a closer look and you will notice that the chains around their necks are loose and could be easily removed. Each have small horns on their head, similar to the devil—a sign that they are becoming more and more like the devil the longer they stay here. Both have tails—a further symbol of their animalistic tendencies and raw instincts – and both the grapes on the woman’s tail and the fire on the man’s tail signify pleasure and lust.

NOTE: The Tarot card meaning description is based on the Rider Waite cards.


The Devil card represents your shadow (or darker) side and the negative forces that constrain you and hold you back from being the best version of yourself. You may be at the effect of negative habits, dependencies, behaviours, thought patterns, relationships, and addictions. You have found yourself trapped between the short-term pleasure you receive and the longer-term pain you experience. Just as the Lovers card speaks to duality and choice, so too does the Devil; however, in the case of the Devil, you are choosing the path of instant gratification, even if it is at the expense of your long-term well-being. In effect, you have sold your soul to the devil!

The Devil card often appears when you have been tricked into thinking that you have no control over your shadow self or these negative forces, and you can never be free from their hold. You think you need it and you must have it, even if it means going against what you know to be right and true in order to obtain it. Deep down, though, you know it’s to your detriment and you are only doing yourself (and often others) a disservice when you give in to these lower needs and desires. To break free of these negative patterns, you need to acknowledge the hold that they have over you and the negative impact they are having on your life. For example, the first of step of Alcoholics Anonymous is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.”

When the Devil card appears in a Tarot reading, see it as an opportunity to bring these negative influences into your conscious awareness, so that you can then take action to free yourself from their hold. Shine your light on these negative patterns that have been standing in your way for so long, and over time, you will loosen the grip that they have on you.

Given that the Devil is a Major Arcana card, it is unlikely that you will be free from your addictions and dependencies overnight. This may be a recurring pattern for you and it will take a huge amount of willpower and strength to be successful in freeing yourself from their negative influence. But know this – it IS possible, and it is up to you to make it happen.

On the positive side, the Devil can also indicate a very strong attachment between two people, such as a mum and her newborn, or a new romance that is still in its ‘honeymoon phase’. Be careful, though, because with the Devil card, this healthy attachment can quickly turn into an unhealthy attachment and co-dependent relationship if you lose connection with your inner guidance or don’t protect your personal boundaries.

The Devil card can also represent sexuality and your wild side. You may be exploring bondage, fetishes and your deepest, darkest fantasies. If you can do this within a safe, sacred space, it can be a very enriching experience. However, it has the potential to turn into something that may be unsafe or detrimental to your well-being in the long-term, so again, establish clear boundaries, choose your partners wisely and have your ‘safe words’ ready to go.


The reversed Devil card can often appear when you are on the verge of a break-through or an up-levelling of some kind. You are being called to your highest potential. But first, you must let go of any unhealthy attachments or limiting beliefs that may be holding you back from your highest potential. Often, when you are called to something 'more', you must deal with your shadows before you can truly step into this new version of yourself. It may be addiction, unhealthy relationships, or a disengaging career. Let go of fear and release any self-imposed limiting beliefs that are standing in the way of your growth and expansion. It is easier than you realise.

The reversed Devil calls on you to confront your inner fears and anxieties to free yourself from the chains that bind you to your limiting beliefs and unhealthy attachments. Eliminate those things that you know are harmful to you and your inner psyche. It may be about creating a healthier diet, watching less television, quitting smoking, spending more time with your loved ones, or focusing more clearly on your goals. Take this opportunity to bring about positive change in your life by providing yourself with ongoing encouragement and motivation, and staying focused on the ultimate goal of freedom.

The Devil reversed can also appear when you are going into your deepest, darkest places – whether you are ready or not. When you take this path consciously, you do so with strength, confidence and courage. You seek to understand your innermost shadows so that you can either release them or integrate them into your life in a more positive and constructive way. When you take this path unconsciously, or with resistance, it can be very confronting as you may begin to realise you are very different to who you thought you were. You may be entering a period of anxiety or depression, or experiencing dark thoughts that you struggle to understand. If this resonates, then please seek out a trained therapist to help you work through this.

The reversed Devil may be also a sign that you are hiding your deepest, darkest self from others, keeping it a secret. You may have thoughts, feeling, fantasies, addictions, or habits that you don’t want others to know because you feel embarrassed, ashamed or guilty. But sometimes, holding onto the secrets can contribute to a growing level of guilt, and you may feel a sense of relief if you can indeed share your darker self with at least one trusted individual. There is also a need to accept who you are, and forgive yourself for the thoughts that you have. Of course, if you are at risk of harming yourself or others, please seek professional help immediately.

Finally, the Devil reversed invites you to practice the Buddhist principle of detachment – a state in which you overcome your attachment to the desire for things, people or concepts of the world, and free yourself from any restrictions. It doesn’t mean you don’t care for people or things; you simply release your dependence on them to be happy. You may also find that a cord cutting visualisation is helpful to release any unhealthy attachments to others, especially when the Devil reversed appears in a Tarot reading.