Unlike most of the other cards in the Rider Waite Smith deck, the Devil has a black background and is completely devoid of any indications of a sky or distant horizon. Crouched on a short black simple pedestal is a great and dominating figure of Baphomet (not Satan) facing the viewer. The feet are sharp talons that grip the pedestal securely. The bent legs are covered in hair that is thicker and longer as they ascend. The figure wears no clothing, however the great mass of hair about the waist protects kir modesty. Unlike most depictions of Baphomet, this figure does not have pendulous breasts. Ke holds in kir left hand a lit torch, but is holding the torch down towards the ground. Kir right arm is bent up at the elbow, with the hand holding a gesture towards the viewer. Baphomet’s wings are outstretched and can only be partially seen in the image. Bearing goat horns and goat ears, kir face is more human than goat and stares frowning at the viewer. An inverted pentagram is mounted between the horns. At the ground beside the pedestal are two humanoid figures chained to a great ring on the pedestal. On the viewer’s left is a naked female figure, with horns and a tail that ends in the ivy and fruit of a grape vine. She stands matter of factly. On the viewer’s right is a naked male figure. Also with horns and a tail, but his ends in a lick of flame. He appears to be ending some discussion with the woman. It is important to note that the chains about their necks are not fastened or locked. The loops are large enough that the figures could release themselves from bondage at any time.
That other Buggaboo. What this card is not: The downfall of modern civilization, the evil that seeks to attack and devour all that is good, the reason why your prize winning roses died, justification to clutch one’s pearls.
However, that very reaction is an example of the secret of this card, and why it is one of the most powerful and releasing cards in the deck. If you yield to fear, then you yield to the master on the pedestal. If you allow fear to hold power over you, then you allow the master on the pedestal to hold you in place. You slip the chain over your own neck, and then stand to argue that you are powerless when you can remove that chain at any time and continue on your way.
The figure on the pedestal doesn’t care if you serve kir or not. Ke doesn’t delight to have you as a servant, and won’t fight to keep you there. What ke does do, is show you what you are capable of deep down inside, past the learned social behaviors, past the parental expectations, past the restrictions that was pressed into you through your education. What you do with that information is up to you.
Do you remain chained to fears and other people’s expectations? Do you stand there, saying that you are helpless and bound while pointing at the master on the pedestal? You can’t help it, the devil made you do it.
Or do you remove the chain from around your neck, acknowledge your fears and your limitations, and then move on from the scene determined to walk out your life for you and not what you have been told you are expected to do?
Of course, there is a price for that freedom. (And it is not your soul. Stop it.) You now have responsibility for yourself. Sure, you can go indulge every base desire that you want, but you’ll have to pay the bill for it. You can also go withdraw from all social experiences and lock yourself away in a tower, but you’ll have all the drawbacks of isolation as well. When there is no master on your pedestal, there is nothing buffering you from the consequences of your actions.
And for some people, that is too much. So they remain chained to the pedestal, where they feel safe.
For the Querent, this card is a challenge. What do they want to do that they feel held back from? What excuses are they making to refrain from doing something that they want to do? Where are they giving themselves too much rope to swing with and are about to hang themselves instead?
I understand Crowley’s interpretation of this card better than Waite’s. The goat leaping off the mountaintops, daring to jump further and further for no other reason than he can. The fullness of living and existing and taking delight in all the senses. And the entire time, understanding there will be repercussions and consequences of doing so.
The Devil challenges the Querent to find their personal balance of freedom and restraint, even as it calls out the Querent for either excess.