Who Is the Devil?

“Do you think it’s possible to sell your soul to the Devil?” A friend asked me recently.

Wow. That raises so many other questions! Who is the Devil? Is there such a thing as a devil? Who am I, and do I have a soul, and if I do, what would constitute a sale? How would the purchase agreement be set up and who would adjudicate any possible disputes that might arise? And what would the Devil do with my soul anyway? Is collecting souls his hobby (you know, like the Tooth Fairy with teeth)? Moreover, I’m interested in the converse: if I can sell my soul to the Devil, does that mean I can also buy a soul from the Devil? Can I buy the Devil’s own soul? And what would I do with it? What could contain a soul, anyway?

I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that I don’t think a body can contain a soul. I think souls tend to lurk around in the vicinity of our bodies, but, to stay inside all the time? I just don’t see souls being able to be imprisoned like that. I think our souls go on walkabout from time to time. Maybe a lot more often than we think. Do the following words sound familiar to you? “What am I doing in this room? What did I come in here for?”

Okay, maybe that’s not a good example. Maybe our brains go walkabout as well.

The Devil
The Devil–in a multitude of decks!

Be that as it may. Let’s get to the tarot-related aspect of this question. Who is the Devil? There’s one in every tarot deck!

No matter what deck you use, though, people tend to become concerned when they see The Devil. And I think what’s so disturbing about this card is not that it seems so negative, but that of all the cards in the deck, this is the one that people most commonly think represents an actual person in their lives — and on some level, some people are afraid that they themselves might be, in some sense, the Devil.

Personally, I think it’s time we made peace with the Devil. Look how miserable he is! Poor thing.

Here’s the the thing about this card: it’s not so much a person, as a place. Where does the Devil reside? In Hell. In those moments when you feel that you or someone you know could maybe be the Devil, at least a little bit, consider that those are the moments when the person in question, whomever it might be, is dwelling, at least partially, in Hell. That Hell could be anger, it could be fear, it could be stress of all sorts, but what makes it Hell is not the negativity of the emotion that is connected with it. What makes it Hell is that you feel like you are trapped there for all eternity and it will never ever ever get better. And furthermore, you feel that must deserve it, because who goes to Hell without deserving it? At least, that’s the Christian doctrine that many of us grew up with. So we get stuck in Hell, we think we can’t get out, and we think it’s all pretty much our fault anyway. At that point in time, life basically sucks.

But like so many things in life, Hell is an illusion. No, hear me out on this. The SUFFERING of Hell is NOT an illusion. When you’re in Hell, you do suffer. I would never presume to suggest otherwise. But the whole being trapped there for all eternity and thinking it’s all your fault and feeling like you should, while suffering, be sure to feel guilty as sin about it….that’s an illusion. It’s just not true. Number one, there is a way out. Somewhere. I don’t know where it is, for you. But you sure are not going to find that way out if you’re sitting in a fetal position concentrating as hard as you can on how badly this sucks (like the person in the Gaian Tarot’s Devil — or Bindweed — card). Still, if that’s what you’re doing, you also don’t need judgement from me or anyone. Curling up in a fetal position is not a bad first step. It’s really fine. Maybe that’s the time that you need in which to regroup. Maybe you’re in shock (which can be serious, by the way). So I’m not saying, don’t do the fetal position thing, because that’s fine and it may be just what you need. It may calm you. It may encourage you to breathe. It may become a meditation. It may, truthfully, for you, turn out to be the actual way out — it’s possible.

But if it isn’t. That’s when you might need to work with the situation gently, applying good humor and patience wherever possible. If curling up in a fetal position regenerates your patience and humor, then by all means, repeat as necessary. Nobody said you had a deadline for getting out of Hell. Sheesh, if you’re there, might as well explore the place.

In fact, maybe exploring the place is the thing that you most need. Maybe that’s what you “deserve” — NOT the suffering, not the overall suckiness of the situation, but the chance to learn by exploring areas that are not your favorite destinations. What if even those moments of being “trapped by the Devil” were good for you? What if those moments were necessary (and they are in the sense that all things have a cause, and really a long line of causes going back through beginningless time)? What if your time in Hell was necessary for your overall well-being? How would it affect your outlook if you simply decided to operate on that assumption?

These are questions, and lots of them, and I don’t have answers for you. But if you think you’re the Devil, and you think I’m going to run away screaming from you, think again. I plan to make you a nice cup of tea. And if you think you’re going to get my soul, think again about that too. My soul can’t be contained. Even I can’t lock it up! So I’d say you’re in no danger, ever, of selling your soul to the Devil. I don’t think it can be done. I don’t think the Devil could hold your soul for a nanosecond. I think, truthfully, that your soul goes where it wants. If you’re not in touch with your soul at the moment, don’t blame the Devil, just go find it. Begin the Fool’s journey, even if you have to set out with literally nothing but your faith. Just go.

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6 Comments

  1. Very interesting! In contemporary theology, the idea of hell as a physical place isn’t supported anymore. Yes, hell exists, but it’s much more of a psychological or spiritual state of mind. When someone doesn’t come in to their full potential (as in, becoming the best person that they can be) and instead choose to distance themselves from their own greatness and goodness, then THAT is when a descent into hell is happening. It’s not something that happens in the afterlife – it’s something that is lived, too. And there is a way out of course! It takes hard work, guidance, and trust, but there is!

    Another very interesting thing is the idea of the devil itself. My idea is that it’s a bastardization of the primal forces of the forest, and of life itself. It’s a distortion of the “dark” or “shadow” sides of things, and it’s very easy to convert this both into a tool of fear and subjugation and as a means to force cultures who embrace this, to convert to other religions. Making a monster out of something that isn’t monstrous at all is certainly a way to influence. I have learned to see what I thought was “the devil” as one of the very powerful forces of the world – to me, I always have found this in the deepest, darkest parts of the wood. In the Wildwood tarot deck, one of the cards, “The Guardian,” is the perfect example of this. The god that I work with as well has this wild, dark aspect that can be unfamiliar and terrifying, but once you really had an idea of what it is, you see it as one of the oldest aspects in the world – and also a very loyal, strong, protective force!

    Great conversation for any diviner or tarot enthusiast; the Devil card is one of those that really must be analyzed with a particularly elevated discernment. Blessings to you and your work!!

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment…with which I completely agree! Interesting that you mention the Wildwood…the Wildwood’s Devil is one of the things that most attracts me to that deck (though I’m still learning the Wildwood, haven’t had it all that long). I am fascinated by the idea that somewhere in the things that scare us the most are the things we perhaps most need.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s truly a fantastic death. The moment I saw it, I knew that I had found it! All of my decks are cherished by me, but the lessons and wisdom of the Wildwood by far have the most powerful resonance. One of the cards that most fascinate me (but I’m a hopeless wreck, I’ll be honest, they ALL fascinate me) is the Guardian. I used to be terrified of it and confused at the same time, because I just didn’t understand. Over time I then learned its lessons, and now it’s the card that my deity has chosen, to symbolize Himself whenever wants to let me know that He wants to tell me something. And I agree with you wholly: not only do we sometimes need what seems to be the last thing we’ve ever wanted, but also we need to understand and embrace that Guardian side of ourselves, and on others. It’s almost like a rediscovery of one person’s whole dynamic. In any case, I hope that you really enjoy the Wildwood. An awesome deck!

        One thing that I forgot to put! I just realized how familiar the concept in Christian theology of the repercussions of not fulfilling one’s potential, is with the ideas of shamans and wyrd. Shamans that deny their destiny often end up sick or distorted; same thing with the concept of wyrd, where if you don’t become the person you are supposed to be (the highest and best version of your self) you will suffer effects from that. It’s very interesting… It took Christianity a while, but at least it’s there in theology! And it was only very recently that the Pope announced, “Nope, Hell is NOT a real place like we’ve been taught. It’s a spiritual, psychological, emotional darkness of the soul that destroys people.” Progress is good!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow, I didn’t know the Pope had said that. I am really starting to like him (even though I’m not Catholic or Christian)! I am fascinated by your discussion of shamans and wyrd; I had not heard this before, but it makes a lot of sense and seems very apt when thinking about the Devil or the Guardian (and I agree with you, I love the Guardian–it’s the card that tells me I must spend some time working with the Wildwood). Thanks for your comment! This is turning into a highly interesting discussion!

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      3. Here is a link: it was Pope John Paul II who announced it. And I was raised Catholic. I’m certainly not Catholic anymore, but I am very intimate with that world. The current pope, however, is extremely progressive. I really like a lot of what he’s doing.

        http://www.ovrlnd.com/Cults/poprejectshell.html

        Thank you! Hope I’m not annoying you! I rarely get the opportunity to talk to others about stuff like this, and when I read your treatise on the Devil card, I knew that I had something to say! And I really love the Wildwood deck, too, because it doesn’t sugarcoat lessons, and it doesn’t present the forest in a purely romantic setting. Some of the cards are terrifying, sucking the marrow out of your bones because that dangerous, powerful energy is part of the Woods. And there’s a lot of animal medicine in there, which of course I love.

        I really look forward to the rest of your posts (and I may annoy you from time to time)! 🙂

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      4. I’m not sure it’s possible for you to annoy me–you always have very interesting things to say! Thank you! And thanks for the link! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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