ATU XV The Devil


Atu XV: The Devil

Letter: ע Ayin (AA, O)

Number: 70

Proximity: Sephira #6 (Tiphareth) to Sephira #9 (Yesod)

Ruling Pentagram:

Pent #26 “Renewing”– Water of (Sun) The Penetrating, Wind (Above/Below)

Water of (Tui) Joyous, Lake (Without/Within)

Berashith: “Elohim said, let us make man”

Corner Hexagrams:

(Upper right) Fire: Hex #18: 蠱’ (Ku) Correcting / Decay

(Lower left) Air: Hex #17: (Sui) Following

(Upper left) Water: Hex #18: 蠱’ (Ku) Correcting / Decay

(Lower right) Earth: Hex #17: (Sui) Following


Keywords (Dignified): Sexuality, Creativity, Hedonism, Carnality, Ecstasy, Abundance, Pleasure, Seduction, Naturalism, Dissent, Rebellion, Intemperance, Exploratory, Unconventional, Uninhibited, Daring, Taboo, Reckless

Keywords (Ill-Dignified): Repression, Obsession, Restriction, Fear, Entropy, Pain, Repulsion, Scarcity


Historical: Bat wings and horns have been a part of The Devil card since the earliest packs, such as in  the 97-120 piece Italian Minchiate packs, from the late seventeenth century. The Devil is often left out, and usually lost. He has been the most hated or reviled card since the earliest European tarot decks, and even today many readers will remove them from their packs, either for themselves or their customers, if they are a paid fortuneteller.
     The hairy-legged devil found in the mid-fifteenth century Pierpont Morgan-Bergamo Visconti-Sforza deck packs published today was an imagined replacement from 1975.  No one knows what the original looks like, as it was lost to the ages. On a fragmented sheet from the fifteenth or sixteenth century, located in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Devil has his trident, and bird’s claws for feet. His wings are bat-like in appearance, and, he has horns and a beard. He is not hairy, he has scales on his legs, inferring a possible connection to the Goat Fish of Capricorn, representing cautious and steady ascending and descending powers. A face governs over his crotch in some old packs,  probably as a more gruesome stand-in for a penis, an inference to Chronos as the infanticidal cannibal of his own children, or, as an indicator of lust and consciousness, centered on sexuality. This trend, of hairless horned and winged devils with clawed feet goes on well into the 1800’s. The hairy legs with goat hooves in place of scaled and raptor-clawed feet automatically infer Pan, or a Satyr, and were possibly added as an attempt to appeal to popular opinion of Graeco-Roman mythology, which was experiencing a revival, during the time the goat Devil began appearing. Eliphas Levi is credited, around the web, with popularizing this hairy Devil in the Tarot and this is probably correct, considering he had the most influence at the time. This Devil’s appearance was rumored to have been acquired by Levi from the tortured reports of Templars, imprisoned by the Catholic Church. If this is true it is an unacceptable, incorrect and offensive image for both Satanists and Pagans as it stands today.

Golden Dawn: Called The Devil, The Lord of the Gates of Matter, the Devil card corresponds to the zodiacal Capricorn the planetary Saturn and Mars, and places between Sephira #6 (Tiphareth) and Sephira #8 (Hod) in the Golden Dawn system.
     The Golden Dawn’s imagery of the Devil fluxed around the central theme of the horned God, sometimes depicted as a figure of transformation and other times as a slave driver. The appearance of The Devil never wholly returns to the classic Minchiate youth with horns and bat wings during the reign of The Golden Dawn. At this point the image of Levi’s was the standard.

Thoth: Aleister Crowley, who was very biased towards Eliphas Levi, keeps all of the imagery as it is, save that he places the goat on all fours and gives it a third eye. Then he does something very wild and very Crowley. He puts a huge cosmic dick and balls penetrating a vagina in the background. The testicles are full of tiny people. He veils it all in the flowery words of Nuith and Pillars extending into the Earth’s core, but it plainly depicts the sex act between God and Goddess. (If the Goddess is Nuit (Nwt) then the God would be Geb in traditional Kemetic religion, though Crowley probably intended Baphomet as a physical manifestation of the ineffable Had, or Hadit.) The card is made successful by this bold move and so, all is well.

Mutational Alchemy Interpretation: This is one of the ATU with a reciprocal inverse. Hex #18 Correcting/Decay and Hex #17 Following are present. The image of #17, Following, which is in the position of Earth and Air, has the trigrams Chen, Thunder, the Arousing below Tui, The Joyous, Lake. It tells us that a younger girl (Tui) is being deferred to by an older man (Chen) and this causes her to follow him. The hexagram also advises wise men to go indoors and rest, when the thunderstorm moves in, over the lake.
      Compare this to the image of Balarama and Yamuna. He is the thunderstorm and she is the lake. She has been properly punished for her crime, and the balance is about to be set right. In showing her consideration, by not hacking the rest of her into pieces, she comes into line with the rest of harmonious universe, there is no need to press the issue further. In this scene, she is the one who has been spoiled, and the work is to put things right. Some might protest about the depiction of the God prosecuting and punishing the Goddess, due to modern sensibilities, but in our opinion there is nothing more supportive of sexual equality than allowing for both depictions of either flux being able to express fully. After all, we have images of several women in this deck ruling over, dominating and even destroying masculine symbols. Man itself is neither male nor female, the ternaries express this plainly. Man, male or female of gender, is of the Jen flux value, neither pure Yin nor pure Yang. This is where all of Man and the Magus’ power lies, and puts to rest the old fashioned notion that females cannot be Magicians. It may be that a female is predisposed towards the Yin flux, yet a male may also express the Yin flux. If the transgender and gay rights movement has taught us nothing about this, then Mutational Alchemy certainly has plenty to say about it.
     In everyday life, this process of rectifying that which is spoiled shown here will be the most common pattern. If something is decayed, its only purpose is to be strictly cleaned out and remade. The harshness of The Devil, is necessary for perfection. The Devil is often called the Lord of this World. If that is so, he is the Lord of the world only because the Earth is so terrible, so greatly degraded, in its human consciousness which rules everything here. As the Lord of all Nature, it is the duty of the Devil to correct this error and put humanity back on a straight and narrow path. I think we will find that Tolkien’s elves are more akin to how modern humans should behave. Instead they are orcs, dependent on everything else for their existence, fouling all in their wake. Yet, we don’t live in the Garden of Eden, and the seal already having been broken, the apple already plucked from the tree, the only way out of this terrible situation is onward and through to the rational end of technology. The good news is, if we do make it through this ordeal and emerge the victor, as a new subspecies no less, is we will have access to the full range of everything that is appealing about the elves and their lifestyle.
     So with the Pentagram “Renewing,”  we have the ominous text, “Elohim said, let us make man” The lines’ connection to The Devil of all cards gives us an interesting insight into the nature of the Elohim, Man and The Devil. Man is meant to be culled and the sinister lines of the Book of the Law summarize it perfectly. Only in Completion can there be a return to the solace of Eden, and this Completion is attainable only through much unnecessary bloodshed and suffering. This is brought upon ourselves through misdeeds. If a man carefully follows the edicts of scripture, whether it is through the Vedas or the I Ching, there is a chance of holding together enough, to achieve ignition. It is described by the penetrant Wind, above the Water, which is our crown lotus. This is the descending serpent. This being the first step on the path to Completion, it is often sought, yet hardly ever attained. It must be pursued vengefully, for decades, or more, before it will come to pass. Hard won, we can look back on our achievements with a certainty the rest of the way will be much easier, but long still.

The Scene: The Devil has long been dreaded and hairy in the Tarot, and we wanted to go with a more beautiful, Indian devil. Krsna’s brother, Lord Balarama, the original Vishnu, the original Krsna (as stated by an authentic Vaishnavite priest well liked in the West, Sri Prahbupad.) This very significant form of God is primordial, dark and perfectly suited to be our handsome devil for The Mutational Alchemy Tarot. Balarama’s form is Ananta Sesa, the primordial serpent, who supports the entire universe on just one of his scales. In the Body of Light, Ananta is traditionally associated with the soles of the feet. He is absolute truth and infinite illusion. In this scene, we are seeing him pull the river goddess Yamuna to him, with his plow, and is about to scatter her into hundreds of streams for her disobedience. Yamuna realizes her mistake, and beseeches him “My dear Balarama, you are the most powerful personality, and you are pleasing to everyone. Unfortunately, I forgot your glorious, exalted position, but now I have come to my senses, and I remember that you hold all the planetary systems on your head merely by your partial expansion of Sesa. You are the sustainer of the whole universe. My dear Supreme Personality of Godhead, you are full of six opulences. Because I forgot your omnipotence, I have mistakenly disobeyed your order, and thus I have become a great offender. But, my dear Lord, please know that I am a surrendered soul unto you. You are very much affectionate to your devotees. Therefore, please excuse my impudence and mistakes and, by your causeless mercy, may you now release me.”
     Now, the Devil should be scary, but Balarama is a far more terrifying figure of omnipotent and sinister energy than a mere satyr sitting in some kind of rape dungeon. It is the position of The Abrahadabra Institute that the son of Hermes, Pan himself, who should in no way be equated to these silly looking goat men on most Tarot cards, isn’t actually a very appropriate figure for The Devil card. He would be more at home on The Fool, Art or Lovers’ card.