Understanding Tarot: The Devil

devil tarot card meaning
Tarot card art from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot Deck
The Understanding Tarot series is written by Claire Chilvers. It follows the Fool’s journey through the Major Arcana. You can find out more about Claire’s insights and readings at @ClaireChilversTarot

Facing Fear on the Road to Enlightenment

The Devil is one card that many refuse to believe is present in their lives. In readings, I have seen people shake their heads furiously in denial, determined not to resonate with the messages that this card brings us (even though every card in the Tarot is shown to us for guidance and with love).

Some find it easier to ignore The Devil that lurks in the darkness of our lives. But, truth be told, he is always present in our lives in some form or another – often represented as the ‘fear’ that lives within us. 

I am yet to meet anyone who is not afraid of anything! Or has never been held back by the worry of what might happen if they act (or don’t act) in a certain way.

Fear itself isn’t a terrible thing to have – it is part of being human to be fearful of danger, it keeps us safe, which is why we check appliances are turned off before we go out or don’t stand under a tree in a thunderstorm!

There is a sensible level of fear that we all have which is as it should be. But, when it takes hold of us and stops us from being the person we want to be, or stops us from achieving what we want to achieve, then that is when we can see that fear (aka The Devil) is making us dance to its’ tune.

So, before I write any more about this particular Tarot card, I want to ask you a question. Where were you a year ago?

Don’t worry you don’t need an alibi! I am asking because I have recently looked back over my own journals and have found that it is one year since my first article in this “Understanding Tarot” sequence through the Fool’s journey was published on Forever Conscious.

I remember my mindset, my ambitions, and the path that I (thought) I was on back then, and am now seeing I am in a very different place to where I thought I would be. 

What were your hopes and dreams a year ago? What were your intentions 12 months ago and what did you see for yourself a year from then?  

Of course, I don’t think any of us quite anticipated the changes that 2020 has bought us, and, I suspect for many of us, we aren’t quite where we envisaged we would be.

Just like The Fool on his journey who suddenly finds himself in the underworld, when just a short while ago he was sitting by a calming stream talking to an angel as seen in the Temperance card. He must be thinking to himself, “How on Earth did I end up here?”

At this point, as we follow the path of The Fool’s Journey, it would be so easy for The Fool to beat himself up about this obvious curve ball that has entered his life.

But, as with every Tarot card that has arrived for guidance and a lesson for him to grow, there is positivity to be seen in this card and the situation he finds himself in.

Which is why I asked where you were a year ago. Because fear and worry have been a big part of this year. And, as the fear of being controlled by external forces continues – be it shielding from a pandemic, being unable to work, visit relatives or enjoy freedom – it certainly does seem to resonate with the negative aspects of this card.

Even if you aren’t quite where you want to be or have had some awful situations to deal with –  it was a challenge that the Universe threw and now would be a great opportunity to congratulate yourself on what you have coped with.

Because now when we look back, it wasn’t just about fear. We have all been brave and courageous in our own way, and managed to get here despite all the setbacks.

Being proud of our achievements isn’t something we do easily (it is so much easier to look at our failings and faults), and that is also a sneaky way in for The Devil card to be present in our lives. 


The Devil Tarot card doesn’t just deal with fear, he is an expert in showing up to keep us small, to trample with his hooves on our self-esteem, and to stop us breaking away from his chains in the underworld and aligning ourselves with a higher level of consciousness.

This can be seen by the two people in the card, whose master can toy with them as he sees fit. They believe that being in that lowly situation is the only place for them, and have been there so long they are beginning to sprout horns and tails too.

The Devil card plays out in all of us – he is the voice in our head that tells us we are not good enough, or that we will be laughed at and wasting our time if we apply for that managerial job, or start our own business, or sign up for a college course or travel the world or dare to dream that there is something better for us. 

Sadly, he also appears in our life in other people too. As the person that destroys our confidence, or uses emotional blackmail to keep us serving them when our energy is drained and our confidence is low.

This person can be a demanding teenager that needs to stand on their own two feet, an elderly relative that is struggling with health issues, or a partner that realises that the best for you, will mean a compromise from them and is not prepared to do it. 

There are times in life when we are down-trodden and held back, or sabotage our lives by putting obstacles in the way of our success. And if we have had a lot to deal with it is easy enough for it to happen.

In the Fool’s Journey, the cards we have just passed depict a huge change or life transformation (Death), followed by a visit by an angel reminding us to live in the present and remain calm and balanced as we find our way in this new part of our journey (Temperance). And straight after this – up pops The Devil!

But, if you think about it, it is the most obvious place for him to appear. Think of your own life, when huge transformations have taken place – they are usually followed by the dizziness of coming to terms with the change, trying to keep calm and carry on whilst struggling with the inner demons of insecurities, worries, self-doubt, or even leaning towards unhealthy habits to cushion the short term effects of the emotional strain caused by big changes.

We have all made wrong choices and made silly decisions in these moments – which can play into The Devil’s hands.

But, let’s not forget there is positivity within this card – we have the opportunity to see these wrong choices for what they are and make a conscious decision to change them.

I often look at the two characters chained to The Devil and imagine how they feel when they suddenly realise the chains around their neck are loose enough to slip over their heads and be free.

If these two people look familiar to you, you may remember them in The Lovers card, way back at the early part of this journey – when the Fool learned in his youth all about the freedom to love and choose. They are the same people, but, as time has moved on they have forgotten this lesson. Something we often do too!

We all have the freedom to love and choose our own destiny. If your life hasn’t quite turned out how you expected this year, yet the thought of getting back on track and realising your dreams seems impossible, then maybe it is time to face the fears and uncertainty that is holding you back.

Remember, those chains that keep us locked in with The Devil in his underworld are easily removed. 

Changing the mantra, “I can’t because…” to saying “Actually…I can” became my motto when I finally saw in my own life how this card resonated with me.

That change in mindset made me notice those loose chains (metaphorically speaking) that were holding me back and it became easy to wriggle away from them. We all have that lightbulb moment when we get back our power and control of our lives.

What will yours be?

And, as for our Fool, we can look ahead to the next tarot card – The Tower to see what happens next.

It may seem like a bleak outcome, but it seems the walls are beginning to crumble but in the distance, the cards that beckon are all celestial bodies, The Star, The Moon, The Sun….energies higher than our world are waiting to be the guides soon.

A higher consciousness is beckoning for all of us as we bravely move away from this dark place which we have temporarily found ourselves in and continue on our journey.

Read more of the Understanding Tarot series here.

About the author

Claire Chilvers

Claire Chilvers is a writer and tarot reader and lives in Essex, UK. She offers tarot readings to clients in the UK and around the world via video calls (Skype usually), if you would like a reading please contact her at clairechilverstarot@yahoo.com.