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What does the Devil card mean?

May 14, 2015

Devil RWS2.0 Tarot eCardsHere is a pithy meaning for the Devil card:
Addiction is a form of slavery.

Yes, that’s pretty darn pithy, and I’d like to expand upon it and illuminate it a bit more.

Having an addiction can feel like you’re a slave to whatever it is that you’re addicted to. (Here’s another way to put that: You may have entered into it for the pleasure, but that was just the bait in the trap. Of course, the transient pleasure of satisfying the addiction is a continuing part of the trap, but the real chain that binds a person is the altered structure of their brain, which the addiction crafts over time in order to control the person. This turns them into a puppet, and it can be quite shaming, which explains why many alcoholics say that although they are addicted to alcohol, they hate it, or at least that they have a love/hate relationship with it. In fact, if we’re talking about a substance such as drugs or alcohol, although we say that the person is a “substance abuser,” we could just as well say that the substance is abusing them.

There is a way out, but its difficulty should not be discounted. The way to repair an addicted brain is through the repeated refusal to give in to the demands of the addiction. Over time, this repairs the neural connections, but it is not nearly as easy as the un-addicted person may think. For example, my father smoked for about 30 years, and after he finally quit, he told me that quitting smoking was the hardest thing he ever did.

It is important to remember, however, that a person can be addicted to things other than drugs and alcohol.  Indeed, we can have addictions to many things, such as compulsive gambling, eating disorders, obsessively playing video games, and sexual addiction.  (An excellent illustration of the debilitating effects of sexual addiction, for example, can be seen in a compelling film called “Shame.”)  Also, there are gradations of how dysfunctional an addiction may be. For instance, being addicted to jogging is certainly not anything like being addicted to crack. Nevertheless, if something is controlling you instead of the other way around, you may want to examine its effect on you.

So (to bring this back to Tarot) if the Devil card comes up in a reading, it may urge a bit of understanding, if not compassion for an addict you may know, because they are enslaved and living in a sort of hell, whether they realize it or not. (See also this pithy meaning for the Devil card:  This doesn’t mean that we should enable their addiction or stick around to suffer the consequences of it, but, as Plato once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Finally, this card may be a reminder that whenever we are tempted to judge someone else for their addiction, we should remember that we all have some sort of addiction, even if it’s seemingly minor such as chocolate or coffee.


Note: Each of these pithy Tarot meanings is just one facet of its card. Find more of them on my Card Meanings page.  Also, get my Pithy Tarot eBook or the FREE app that uses my pithy Tarot meanings … and LIKE my Pithy Tarot Facebook page!




  1. This card kept coming up for me when I was feeling really trapped in an unhealthy repetitive behavior. I have to admit loving this card and the behavior, it was challenging to let go of, but my life is much improved.

    • Thank you for your comment. It reminded me to mention that addictions can be many things other than substance abuse. I have added a bit about that in the post above.
      PS: I’m happy to hear that your life is improved!

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