The Devil is the 15th of the Major Arcana tarot cards and represents the negative beliefs, shame, and misguided identifications that keep us feeling trapped, small, victimized, or limited. It is an encouragement to face one’s fears with honesty and clarity and break free of the bondage that prevents the attainment of one’s true desires.

The Devil Tarot Card Upright and Reversed Keywords
The Devil tarot card upright and reversed keywords.

The Devil is associated with the element of Earth and the Capricorn zodiac sign. The symbol of Saturn, the ruling planet of Capricorn, is etched onto his raised hand. Because Saturn is the planet of limits, boundaries, and restrictions, The Devil speaks to both being hampered by one’s limitations, as well as overcoming them.

The Devil Keywords

Upright keywords

Reversed keywords

shadow work, limitation, shame, confronting fears, creative breakthroughs

avoidance of the truth, denial, empowering choices, breaking free of bondage

Description of The Devil Tarot Card

The Devil is the first card in Line 3 of the Major Arcana cards, and as such, it initiates us into the realm of the transpersonal or the superconscious. It depicts the same couple we met in The Lovers, but in this scene, they’ve become hostages of the devil. Their horns and tails signify their powerlessness and subservience to their unconscious animal nature or the lower aspects of self.

In the classic Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, The Devil is shown as the half-man, half-goat pagan deity Baphomet. His bat wings and inverted pentagram-adorned forehead create an unsettling, not-quite-human presence. He holds a lit torch in his left hand and raises his right hand in a gesture that resembles a priestly blessing.

Similar to The Lovers card, The Devil represents the power of choice we have as individuals. It also illustrates the freedom we have to examine our beliefs about which chains (or limitations) we’ve unconsciously agreed to and which we can actually remove at will. It reminds us of our duty to take responsibility for our choices and the power of our beliefs.

The Devil Upright Meaning

The Devil upright suggests that there are powerful unconscious forces at play, and in order to make clear and empowered choices, you must face what’s lurking in the shadows. This could involve facing limiting beliefs that are keeping you small, examining the shame that prevents you from pursuing your true desires, facing addictive behaviors, or exploring emotionally sensitive and difficult material with compassion and self-love.

The Devil suggests that fear is controlling your decisions and that when you summon the courage to face what scares you, you discover that you are more powerful and capable than your inner fears would have you believe. It asks you to examine if you are unconsciously cooperating with a controlling, fear-mongering inner voice that tries to keep you safe from your shadow self by keeping you small, avoidant, or in hiding.

This card can also reflect coming into contact with an authentic desire that has been repressed or denied due to social conditioning, fear, or shame. It could represent powerful creative energies that finally flow once they’ve been seen and acknowledged in the light of day. It can correspond to unconscious material coming to light and a feeling of freedom from previous limitations.

Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)

In a love reading, The Devil can speak to aspects of a relationship that are not being acknowledged or spoken about due to the fear or shame surrounding them. When both partners confront their inner fears with openness, the relationship can grow more mature. It can suggest that one or both partners are overly focused on material matters or attaining external status and that this is preventing deeper emotional engagement and honest communication.

This card can speak to behaviors and beliefs that hinder you, whether in an existing relationship or while searching for one. If you are operating from the unconscious attitude that you’re not deserving of love, this card can appear as a sign that this is blocking you from receiving the love you desire and creating a meaningful relationship.

Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)

In the upright position of a tarot spread, The Devil can indicate that you are operating from false or limiting beliefs about your capability and deservingness and that working to change these unconscious beliefs will free you from their control over you. It can also speak to external conditions in your workplace or position which are preventing your growth.

If you are overly focused on external markers of success at the expense of your inner satisfaction, this card can signal that your energy has become imbalanced. Alternatively, it can suggest that you are finally acknowledging a long-held desire and that you now can approach your career with more creative freedom and libidinal energy.

Love/relationship upright keywords

Career/finance upright keywords

confronting buried truths, overly focused on material matters, self-sabotage

confronting inner fears and beliefs, conditions which prevent growth, overly focused on external markers of success, creative energy

The Devil Reversed Meaning

A powerful force, whether conscious or unconscious, internal or external, may be working at odds with your desired growth or connection. When witnessed and accepted with compassion and love, this can be transmuted into a source of personal power.

Reversed keywords: breaking a toxic habit, detachment from unhealthy forces or thought patterns, decisions that empower

Alternatively, a tarot reading with the Devil reversed can also speak to breaking a toxic habit, freeing oneself from addiction, or detaching from unhealthy thought patterns. It can represent liberation from whatever has kept you trapped or operating from fear and shame. It signifies facing a challenging situation head on and finally making empowered decisions that serve your best interests.

It can represent emerging from a period of feeling stuck or trapped, where you finally feel that you can let go of shame, fear, anger, or resentment. You can be kinder to yourself and others and feel connected to the truth of your inner light and freedom.

Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)

The Devil reversed can signify that you are leaving an unhealthy or co-dependent relationship, or a toxic bond that was stunting your growth and cutting you off from your life force. You may have become subsumed in a circular pattern of relating or codependency that made you feel small and depleted. When you slip the chains off and walk away, you can feel more connected to your true power and freedom.

The Devil reversed can also represent that you are working to address destructive habits, unhealthy patterns, or lingering fears within a relationship. Bringing these to light will clear the air and allow for a more honest, open, and healthy relationship pattern to emerge.

Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)

In the reverse position, The Devil can signify that you are leaving a toxic job behind in service of your freedom and inner truth. Perhaps you were at the mercy of a tyrannical boss, an unhealthy workplace, or a position that kept you trapped in a limiting circumstance. Breaking free from this can be the first step that lays the foundation for something worthy of your time and energy.

The Devil reversed can also signify that you are undergoing an internal process of letting go of false or limiting beliefs that make you feel small or incapable of achieving what you desire. You could be releasing old aspirations that were overly oriented towards superficial material success. It can signify coming into contact with your true power, creativity, and limitless potential and realizing that you can pursue what you truly aspire to.

Love/relationship reversed keywords

Money/career reversed keywords

leaving an unhealthy relationship, confronting fears in a relationship, addressing destructive habits

leaving a toxic job, letting go of old habits or limiting beliefs, reconnecting with strengths and talents