This is the eighteenth post in a series on the Tarot Rug Project (also known as "Exploring the Tarot: 23 Artists Hook the Major Arcana"). To view the entire series, go HERE (that post will be kept up to date as new photos are published and the show travels).
THE DEVIL: Here is the "classic" Rider-Waite-Smith image:
"I can resist everything except temptation."
"Lead us not into temptation.
Just tell us where it is; we'll find it."
"The Devil made me do it."
This is yet another card in the classic deck that some people find very disturbing. So, everyone: take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are talking about a piece of painted cardboard--that's all! Yes, it's full of symbols, but we'll get into them in a few moments--it's really not a harbinger of doom. Read on.
Let's first have a look at Emily Robertson's interpretation of this classic card.
Emily Robertson is an award winning rug artist and teacher, currently known for her feminist and "sayings" rugs. A great introduction to Emmy can be found in a delightful video HERE, in which you can see dozens of her rugs. She is unbelievably prolific! I had the good fortune of being able to hook with Emmy for a few years while she lived close by, and share in her zany humor. She is a wonderful friend and a truly kind person. She is also an ordained minister, so it's especially wonderful that she did an interpretation of The Devil as her tarot rug.
In the original image (the tarot card), there are symbols galore, such as the ridiculous looking half-man/satyr, half beast, the chained man and woman, and more. But look closely at those chains, folks. Very closely. If either the woman or man chose to think rationally for a moment, they would realize that all they have to do to be free is to lift those exceptionally loose, floppy chains over their heads and just walk away.
So why don't they?
Not to mention that the Devil isn't exactly well-balanced on his tiny, precarious perch; either one of our chained people could knock him off that perch with one small push of an index finger.
So why don't they?
What is really going on here? Plus, the woman has a "tail" with a bunch of grapes (food or wine), and the man's tail is a flame (passion). Sound familiar?
This is a card about temptation, addiction, and oblivion. And often it's also about blaming our problems on external factors. (See "The Devil made me do it!" quote above)
All of us have moments just like this in our lives, moments of complete mindless behavior (oblivious to what is really going on) in which we may feel hopeless, stuck, enslaved to something or some one. "I just can't leave this bad relationship." "I can't believe I just ate that whole thing." "I just can't help myself."
I do not mean to make light of this, as some of these temptations truly do take us over and appear supernaturally strong. I certainly experience that, and frequently! But in just about every case, there is something about the situation that we are either unable to see clearly or unwilling to see clearly. We just do not take those chains off our own necks.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..”
In Emmy Robertson's interpretation, she has pared down the images. The Devil himself is only suggested via the tail-like arrows and the pentagram. In essence, he doesn't even need to be present, because we'll do his work ourselves, by unquestioningly accepting our own negative thoughts and by "sleepwalking" through our days, oblivious.
What is going on in this rug? Just as the Devil card is disorienting, so is the rug. Is she walking away from the man? Or is she leading him and he's following? Is he pushing her? Is he reaching out to her with a supportive touch? We can't tell. And what about the chains? In the rug, the chains are actually a mixed-media touch: actual pink plastic chains that Emmy has attached to the hooking. The woman appears to have broken one of the chains. And look at how loose the chain is around her neck--she could lift that right off and walk away. Is that a door to her right?
Are they freeing themselves, or sleepwalking into some type of addiction? We simply can't tell, and I love the ambiguity of this rug.
WHAT DOES THE CARD MEAN:
As I mentioned above, this card often turns up when you feel hopelessly stuck or enslaved by some situation, interior or exterior (although very likely you will be tempted to blame someone or something exterior to yourself). So...
When you get this card, ask yourself:
In general, the only thing to fear with this card is the kind of fear that occurs to us when we are afraid to look at a situation objectively and without blame, and deal with it for what it is.
Remember that you can catch up on all the other rugs in the exhibit at the link at the very top of this post. If you are curious about what's behind the exhibit, there is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section here (scroll down to the bottom of that post to get to the FAQ).
Thanks for reading. Your comments are always welcome.
Today's suggested resource is a rug hooking resource (not tarot): The Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild). Enjoy the hooked rug artistry at that site.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society