Major Arcana XV: The Devil

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The Devil from The Enchanted Tarot deck by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber

 

 

“Freedom means the power to act by soul guidance, not by the compulsions of desires and habits. Obeying the ego leads to bondage; obeying the soul brings liberation.” Paramahansa Yogananda

 

 

In my journey with the Tarot, I feel that The Devil speaks to us about liberation & connecting in to our personal power. My first instinct lately, when I look at the classic Rider Waite version of this card, is to ignore the chains and flames depicted, and focus on the aspect of this card that symbolizes the intoxication of moonlit attraction, playing in the garden of earthly delights, taking pleasure in indulging the intensity of carnal desire…but the shadow side of these physical attachments is becoming shackled to the unquenchable desires we search to satisfy in other people’s wells, in toxic substances, unhealthy relationship dynamics, obsessive thinking & worrying, or the numbing of pain & fear with any kind of escapism, just pick your poison, there’s plenty to choose from. There is also the element of this card that represents people who blatantly abuse their power at the expense of others as a means of control or manipulation. We seek freedom & transcendence but become entangled, confusing temporary escape with liberation. The Devil asks us to reclaim our intrinsic power.

The Devil card depicts The Lovers in bondage, they are standing together, but not in union; there is an imbalance in each individual regarding the in-drawing of the feminine energy and the out-pouring of the masculine; where the Lovers represents empowered union & the sharing of love, The Devil points to an imbalance of power, as in the dynamic of the codependent and the narcissist, where the codependent individual denies his or her own needs to obsessively meet those of a narcissist. The narcissist thus gains their supply of external power, and the codependent individual gains their supply of external power by feeling “needed,” & “valued” by the narcissist, both cut off from their internal well of strength, and essentially their spiritual and emotional freedom…this comparison between the Lovers & the Devil to me reads: Bond vs. Bondage. This aspect of The Devil card can also be exemplified in the psychological manipulation that occurs in religious cults to keep people bound to fear, which ultimately guides them to give their power up entirely & lose any sense of individual identity. When there is a lack of acknowledgment of the inherent connection to source/the all/god/divine/wholeness/the essential self within, there is a perceived separation that fosters the belief that we need to fill ourselves with something, anything, outside of ourselves to satisfy our inherent longing. Longing is the human condition, and it arises from our biological need to belong—to belong to ourselves, and to the collective. Belonging means survival at the most basic level, but there is also the spiritual component–we expand & grow through interpersonal connection. However, when this need for belonging overrides the individual’s own true path, trouble can arise. Vital lessons come to the surface when we are cut off from the “supply” we have come to depend on so we can satisfy some elusive longing. Crisis is usually what it takes to wake us up to our true selves, when we realize that power can only be cultivated from within, & any other method is playing with some destructive forces.

When we are in balance and connected to the essential self, aligned with our true hearts, and replenishing from within rather than grasping outward, we are empowered to bring light to the shackles, so that we may release that which keeps us in patterns of tension and holding. This “holding” is reflected as stagnation in our physical, emotional, & spiritual bodies, affecting the ways we operate in relationship to self & other. “Lucifer” essentially translates to bringer of the light after all, so when we pull The Devil, here lies a rich opportunity to use that light in service of the higher self, or to refuse and thus remain enmeshed with chains of distraction. I believe that this refusal to illuminate the shadow is the undercurrent of all power struggles. When we hold hands with our shadow, we rise into the understanding that this imprisonment is ultimately a matter which can be released with consciousness; it is a balance of relinquising control and acknowledging reality, “what is,” while at the same time taking the reigns of our personal experience. All that festers in the dark pool of denial directs the currents of our lives, creating the urge to blame, to point fingers—a failure to take personal responsibility for what lies within, & a disconnection from the true self.

I love joyfully experiencing the sensual pleasures of being embodied, and this is another aspect of the Devil. Engaging with our sexuality, tuning into our creative energy, self-expression, finding delight in all of our senses, imbibing a little now and then to fuel the fire & dance with the spark, playing around with the energy generated from the tension of temptation…and like anything, it’s all about how we move with that energy—when we use it with with presence, temperance, gratitude, & reverence, it is a healthy & fun human experience, but over indulgence, addiction, and attachment to material items and carnal satisfaction can quickly turn into a rickety carnival ride of flashing lights and hypnotic hits to the system that leave us essentially empty, always needing something more to fill the void. A good question to ask ourselves is, are we seeking immediate gratification or long term fulfillment? How does this action affect our well-being and the well-being of those around us? This engagement with the self simply requires presence with our true needs. I do not wish to tame the innate wildness, nor deny my desire for pleasure, I wanted to be on earth, in a body, and here I am! In fact, I think self judgement is one of the most profound pieces of bondage we seek to be liberated from; and we can see how our own judgment of self is reflected back to us as judgment from others.

Through a fair amount of trial and error (ahhh, ok, maybe more than a fair amount,) I have found what it feels like to anchor into my truth in the moment, to really feel what it is like to trust that I know what I need to do in order to take care of myself in all ways, even when confusion creeps in & I feel groundless. To get to that place of self trust meant breaking free from the bondage of the false belief that my own intuition, mind, body, heart, & soul were not sacred. The Devil calls to us and asks us to take responsibility for our inner life and its outward expression, be honest about our boundaries, wield the sword of discernment; radical self love and self respect require conscious detachment from people, situations, and choices that are draining to our vitality. This is not always process we can do entirely on your own, and sometimes outside help is required, though real & solid help will always be a facilitation of your own personal power, not a replacement with someone else’s beliefs & ideas. Boundaries are freeing; bondage does not serve us to that same end. Honor the way the water has moved through the riverbed, kissed smooth over a thousand years; witness the purpose of this structure, the way it holds the nebulous flow of movement within it.

 

Ideas for Journaling and Self Exploration

 

  • What fear-based beliefs and attachments restrain me from embodying the freedom of the Fool– unfettered, boundless & joyful, within the framework of awareness & integrity?

 

  • What is my relationship to pleasure? Is there guilt around it? Do I want more of it? How can I cultivate joy & pleasure?  What happens when I do not allow myself to experience that which brings me joy & pleasure? How do I feel when I allow myself a fully present and embodied experience of joy & pleasure?

 

  • How does judging myself or others for having needs keep me imprisoned? How honest can I be about my true desires? How can my desire set me free?

 

  • What does power mean to me? What would it look like to “be in my power?” What makes me feel powerful? What makes me feel powerless? How do I connect to my intrinsic power, the inner strength that is not dependent on any external validation or stimulation? 

 

  • How can I set boundaries in a way that is empowering, seeing boundaries as an act of self love? How does a lack of boundaries become disempowering and draining of my life-force?

 

  •  Practice cord cutting ritual or prayer to release fear, blame, resentment & other attachments that drain your precious energy. I call upon Archangel Michael and also the violet flame of transmutation to clear negativity or stagnant, draining vibrations. I ask Archangel Michael to clear away with fierce love anything that is draining my life force or hindering my light, past -present-future, known or unknown, throughout lifetimes, acrosss time and space. I ask that any piece of myself and my power I have given away come home;  I ask that anything less than love be dissolved, and that the clear light of divine love heal me and all involved. Calling your power back with cord cutting & clearing  are incredible tools to use, centered in love & compassion for the highest good of all.

 

  • What happens when I feel I am over-indulging in pleasure seeking activities? What habits and addictions keep me bound? What shifts in feeling, thinking and action need to happen for me to experience the freedom of true self love?

 

  • In what ways have I disconnected from my self? What is happening, either internally or externally, when I disconnect from my body, or heart? How do I reconnect with my body, how do I reconnect to my heart?

Fling Open

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“Emotion is the chief source of all becoming-conscious. There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.” Carl G. Jung

 

 

You can trust that life will reveal itself. Your task is to allow yourself to expand into the revelation. When you come to the altar that sits at the edge of the wild wood,  settle into your soft center and take the medicine that gestates inside mystery, merging the seen and unseen with your creative urges. Conjure magic, own your throne, and allow yourself to breathe more freely and deeply inside the truth of who you are. Align with the wisdom, depth, light and dark of your instinctual self. Trust in what is being born through you, and in all the crumbling that makes space for you to arrive to the feast in your fullness. Allow yourself to be touched by the destabilizing destruction that dances alongside immeasurable beauty. To touch the world you must let yourself be touched. Hold every facet of yourself in the glow of the sacred hearth, with gentle kindness and searing honesty, honoring the fear, the grief, the peace, and the pleasure that comes in awakening to your power. Even if you turn them away, you will see them again, mirrored in another shining face, stormy circumstance, or in the stillness of your own reflection. Denial of your radiant wholeness was never meant to work long term, as much as you may have hoped it would, suppressing truth until grace capsized your little boat on a moonless night. Remember how you learned to swim?

Use it all as fuel for expansion, and respect too, the need to contract, integrate, and gather your strength when that is asked of you. Celebrate that there is no turning back, only turning into. This is your vow to be an embodied, emboldened guide through darkness, a bearer of light born from pain, a guardian of soul, a vessel for spirit, a glowing cauldron of all-that-is, heart speaking clearly: “Every piece of you is free to exist here.” A courageous traveler into the realms-we-dare-not-speak-of, and a bringer of truth from the depths. A connector. A questioner. A mystery walker. A forest dweller. A shadow loving moonbeam lighting up a path that leads to some kind of liberation, through every twist and tangle. Follow a heart willing to be unbound by the need for validation, showing up more completely because you witness and hold yourself close first, nestled near the fire in the quiet dark, knowing that beauty lives not only in that heavenly moment of wings-widespread, but in the messiness of loss, the reluctance to let go, and the giving of yourself to the call. Inside this dance you find yourself a part of. Inside this offering.

Let love lead. Stay lit. Stay the course. Stay with what is real. Stay with the changes. Stay with the knowing. Stay with the not knowing. Stay with your courageous heart. Choose it. Trust it. Share from there. Serve from there. Move from there. Your life is your work. Keep Shining. Fling open the door that was never closed to begin with, and notice how the light filtering in through the cracks still pulses, asking you to be present, igniting the spark over and over again, singing you through the dark to the other side. All of you. Together.

 

 

I started this in January ’15, first inspired by a magical trip to the Pacific Northwest. But I came back to it in December ’15, deeply moved by a tarot and oracle reading I gave myself, where The Moon, Queen of Wands, The Sphinx and Medusa came to show my some deep layers of my being. The ever-growing complexity of the threads we weave. What will they become?

 

 

Meeting The Self

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Releasing our winged things from their cages

 

The path of self love means learning what it feels like to hold hands with black holes, so we can know the difference between spaces that can be filled with music, and those that will swallow us alive. It is taking off the blindfold and setting fire to the manuscripts of old beliefs we have locked in our marrow, igniting ancient stories with a single flame. Self love is smiling as we watch each stained page curl the way our hands do when we grieve, morphing into grey petals that set sail like paper ships into the nighttime sea, living waters bearing witness to the first exhale after years of holding our breath—and then the way it feels to become the tides, filling our lungs again, salty and deep.

Self love is finally understanding there’s no need to catch every ember in our palms just to feel our skin, we will remember–it’s enough to let the burning light in every touch of sweetness & taste of terror fall around us, disappearing into our hair, illumination against the vast and wild darkness. Self love is slowly collecting the threads piled on the floor of the stoic fortress we constructed, just before it collapses, so we can sit at our loom in the ruins and weave a new prayer, leaving one side open, always open. Self love is giving it up and becoming bosom buddies with uncertainty. It is making love to the mystery, taking off the clothes we’ve worn threadbare, and letting the remnants take their course down the river at dawn. Self love is stepping past the shallows and singing our bodies into deepest part of the river, untying the chords that bind stones to our feet, learning to swim unhindered, naked, and loving it.

Self love is unearthing the bones we were sure we had buried so far down, we would never have to see them again. It’s cradling those bones in our arms and loving them because they belong to us, and then softly putting them to rest beneath the moon, full & aching. The web-weavers’ cabaret begins, and we light up the stage, glowing bright like a birthday cake baked for billions, tiny lights dancing in the smoldering summer sky. We release our winged things from their cages, untamable treasures calling for a reflection, so they may learn to see what lies within, until the inevitable shattering clears it all away– the way energy provokes energy in this deliberate movement across the ice bridge, our frozen songs melting into the dark opening between danger and beauty.

Self love is watering the earth with our blood, setting our arms down to clean the heart of tired longings and spastic wiring, freeing our hands to touch the seedlings as they push their way up towards the sun, through layers of history, alive with innocence, weary with knowing. The path of self love means walking alone with our heads down, sure that we’ve learned what it means to rely on nothing but ourselves, then looking up to see the faces of a thousand beloveds walking beside us, loving us into this foreign land. And then we know that self love means forgetting everything we thought we knew, as we rise into a vision of existence where every step forward is the right one, because we chose it, until finally we can fall on our knees at some entryway, bruised & blooming, in reverence to the sacred heart, home.

 

Inspired by one of my adventures in the mystical landscape of Joshua Tree, California.

Brilliance In Being

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What is possible in the spaces in between?

 

Humans have holes. We try to fill them. When our compulsion to control outer circumstances to quell inner doubt doesn’t quite work, we wonder why nothing we planted took root and bloomed the way we dreamed it would, was it the sallow soil, our own failings, or something like divine intervention? We are reminded that there is no easy answer or quick fix that will soothe us deeply enough to make us forget the fundamental insecurity of our existence. But inside the Mystery we can tend to our hearts like a fertile garden, rooting into the dark questions, becoming fortified in the action of growing toward the light. Otherwise, we are lost in a fiery battlefield of misplaced power. We can break free of the story that someone else will swoop in like a faerie tale hero to do the work for us. We can break free of the need to know how our voice can possibly matter, and trusting that it does. We can break free of being complicit in our own oppression by staying silent and hoarding our gold. As the ground beneath us shakes and shivers, our willingness to stay open to our curious creative nature will expand possibilities unseen by those who believe they have the luxury of control and certainty. Sure, tides are predictable, but this storm is wild and if nothing else, it will reveal to us that which can never be taken away. We can harmonize with the depth and strength of our collective spirit, or drown denying the power of the ocean. We must settle into the land of un-knowing and let there be space for unraveling…reveling, even, at the gifts ripening below the surface, electric heartbeats quickening for the openings we can’t see, yet. We must leave a space for waves to crash against hollowness, softening sharp edges…filling, emptying, filling, emptying…breathing through the storm dance, the rhythmic seizing and sighing, then stillness. We must stay gentle with ourselves through the darkness, even when we want nothing more than to run, hide, consume, deny, or turn away. This is a courageous act of self love, and self love is true freedom. Our brilliance is in being. That is all we have to do. Remember.

 

I started this in January ’16, and came back to it in December ’16, inspired by a tarot reading I gave myself, which is part of a month long series of daily card pulls and journaling that has been opening me in some very rich ways. Here The Devil Reversed, The Queen of Wands Reversed, and the Four of Pentacles came to reveal some insight.