Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Devil is out of the deck

A venerable teacher is going to speak to an advanced circle, including myself, on trump XV of the Tarot: the Devil.

He explains that the Devil card is missing from the deck.

I open a locked inner section of a cabinet, turning a key in a drop-down door. I keep my personal Tarot in this secret place. I want to offer the teacher the fifteenth trump from my own deck to illustrate his talk.

My “deck” is a beautiful hand-crafted book whose covers open on leather hinges. The cards in this deck are intricate black-and- white drawings, with some patches of color.

I remember the Devil in this deck as an elegant figure in a hooded red robe. No horns or chains.He looks like a handsome Renaissance prince, seated in a walled garden. The background is black and white. The intricate architecture of the design reminds me of the drawings in the Dream of Polyphilo.

I leaf through the book to find the Devil. The cards are held within the pages by little corner pockets like those you might find in an old-fashioned photo album.

The Devil card is missing. I check again. It is definitely gone.

With a start, I realize that the teacher must have been speaking of my deck. The teacher will give his talk on the fifteenth trump, with or without the card.

dream reentry

I traveled back inside the dream, to hunt the Devil. I found him riding a black horse through a field of grain.

I followed him into a church or cathedral. He was utterly at home here. He suggested that it is he who is worshipped in many churches, under different names.

The library room from the dream took on great solidity. The table with the huge books revealed carved dark legs, and a carved bookstand that seemed to be fixed to the table-top. Some of the books on the table are chained because if they are not kept under restraint they may go flying off by themselves.

The cabinet of polished wood with the locked compartment where I found my Tarot deck also contains glasses and goblets. The key to the lock is gold and resembles the Vatican keys.

I study the people in the library room. Some of the women are familiar; there are men I do not recognize. The teacher is wearing a fine pleated purple robe, with a soft Renaissance hat. I do not see his features clearly, but I have the sense he is my older or wiser self.

I know now that the Devil who is out of the deck is a prince of the church. He is often on the loose!


No Devil in a hand-painted Tarot deck has survived. This is one of the four cards missing from the Visconti-Sforza “wedding deck” (the others are the Tower, the three of swords and the Prince of Coins).

This is an "old" report, which appears (with the little sketch) in a hand-written journal entry dated December 8, 2001. I am planning to offer new classes in "Tarot for Dreamers" in 2012, so I am especially interested in how I have been dreaming Tarot since I was a teen.


Anonymous said...

The devil has two sides - Lucifer was "the bringer of light" before he made a move to take over and was tranformed into Satan. Was the fall a bad thing for Lucifer? In his fall, he emerged with the power he was after in the war of heaven... Might be an interesting dream conversation, if one had the guts to attempt it!

Interesting that the devil gets away in so many places...if it were my dream I would consider that I may have learned the lesson within the trump and no longer needed to contemplate its message. No more dealings with frustrations, inhibitions, blocks and fears? That would most definitely work for me!

I absolutely adore your interpretation of the card with the red cloaked mystic with his orb - perhaps contemplating/imagining ways to break through all the traditional meanings associated with this trump? Or perhaps a message that if we connect with the mystic, we can work through all the issues that bedevil us.

And, I am SO IN on a tarot class with you...although it would be a tough call on what decks to bring! I can so see myself with a travel chest full, dragging them to a distant locale to share my treasures...

Anonymous said...

Ok...that was bizarre...the above post is from me! I'll figure out commenting in the blogosphere yet!

Grace Looney (Just in case it does strange things AGAIN!)

nina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia said...

Well this post makes me laugh. I can't say that card reminds me of how the catholic church taught the devil to me. Though from the time I was made to wear fancy tailored dresses and horrible feeling plastic white shoes, I never thought the nuns answered my questions on this subject with any kind of creative thought. Perhaps they never had or refused to recognize enjoyable dealings with a prince...perhaps that is what creates a devil process and turns prince into devil? I think I'll stop here. I suspect I have a bit of a mistrust toward man made systems of visioning. Today I have hummingbirds in my trees and I have been watching a yellow monarch weave about, close to the tops of them. Yesterday hawk came back, to the nervous sound of doves. I wonder if the church would call my animal guides the devil?
I think this course would be an excellent challenge for me. I have no background in the tarot. One thing I know is there is so much available to see in just a single card. I do believe the course would be a nice challenge for me. I feel it would be as a playground for my mind that likes to play with patterns and processes, and the mind the loves to sense and feel into. Both part of seeing I suspect. All rather confusing to my more traditional up bringing.
I hope all you in New York see blue sky's and the sun soon!

fran said...

Very interesting dream report and reentry. I've always found dreams and journeys with the tarot to be very rewarding, so I'm looking forward to participating in that workshop. In our study group we have been taking turns teaching and one member had us choose three trumps that we have a positive feeling about and then three that we have a negative feeling about. Then we journeyed to those cards. My journey notes for the Devil were:

The Devil pointed to his pelt and the outlines of his penis and said that his was the most earthy of appetites, that the body was of the earth and his was the realm of the densest of matter. He reminded me that our bodies are material and that we cannot ignore or avoid this. This place is in the deepest darkest cave and is the densest matter. Our lower chakras link here. The bodies are our spacesuits when we visit the earth and cannot be so lightly ignored or transcended. We came here to be in matter. I tried to talk to the chained figures but they only grinned. When we are grounded or held when we are here. The Black Stone is the heaviest form of matter and the symbol of the secret of matter. There was something here about Chimera being related to this card, that the melding of forms in matter has some relation to this, but this is unclear.

Which changed my understanding of XV a great deal and has opened the card up for me in new ways. I am especially intrigued by the bit about Chimeras. Looking forward to hearing more on tarot, Robert!


Ben Miller said...

To me, I often see trump XV's devil as a playful figure who follows his own will. If it were my dream, I'd make a connection between this and the prince's absence. Perhaps he cannot be found because he is out following his will? This also seems connected to the tendency of the books who would fly away of their own accord, were they not locked down. I might be led to wonder what is restraining them and whether or not that restraint is of benefit to me.
Also, if it were my dream, I'd see a connection between XV The Devil and its decimal sibling, V The Pope. I can imagine V The Pope as one who sits within the structure of his church--a structure which, to me, implies that which is known and set out, and to an extent predictable. On the other hand, I'd see the Devil as one who freely unleashes himself into the unknown wonders of the Path of Self. The blackness of the horse suggests to me that the rider is being carried by legs of the abyss. This adds some interest to my perception of the dream, as Lucifer is sometimes called the Carrier of Light and often seen carrying a torch in the Tarot. The torch-bearer riding on the whims of the unknown makes me think of insight (the torch) gained by descent (the black horse).

A class combining Tarot and dreaming would be fun.

Anonymous said...

One of my friends says that in his experience, Taro cards are energy portals which atlanteans left for us. He travels trough them often to learn about himself more.

fran said...

Hi Robert, looking at your drawing I was struck by how much it looks like the symbol for Saturn (similar to 'h'), and many associate that card with Capricorn which is ruled by Saturn. And Saturn has a rich and deep history that I can see a bit in your Devil figure.

Robert Moss said...

I am enjoying all the rich and imaginative feedback on the Tarot Devil.

Grace - thank you for your Luciferian speculations.

Nina - I like your description of those fierce temple guardians or Dwellers at the Threshold. Yes, we must face and integrate our own darkness before we get to the good stuff, as Dante has to look into the black of the abyss on his way through Peter's Gate, into the mountain of Purgatory and his encounter with his radiant guide.

Patty - churches make Devils according to their collective agendas, I do believe. You won't go wrong if you follow hummingbird, butterfly and hawk.

Fran - Thanks so much for your most interesting take on the Devil. Yes, in many representations, the Tarot Devil is the very essence of fleshly, material, sensual life here below - which, freed from guilt and obsession and chains, can be the force of Pan.

Ben - I like the link you make between the Devil and the Pope or Hierophant. There is speculation that in some early decks, printed by Cathars, the Devil WAS the Pope.

Fotogirl - I relish Atlantean theories, and it is certainly possibly that in some version now lost to us, a set of images like the Tarot carries knowledge from that vanished order. In the decks we know, however, we see the work on enterprising Western magicians who cobbled together images from several much more recent and worldly sources; I describe that history briefly here:

Robert Moss said...

Fran - interesting catch, your Saturn association. Not on my mind when I sketched that image, and therefore all the more worthy of exploration.