satanism today and tomorrow

Picturing the Devil in Tarot



I. The Devil as a Beast

Aleister Crowley's Tarot

Dürer's Tarot

Haindl Tarot

Mirror Tarot

Ludwig's Tarot

Osho Zen Tarot

Spiral Tarot

II. The Devil as a chimeric entity

Boris Monosov's Tarot

Golden Stairs Tarot

Marseilles Tarot

Mythic Tarot

Oswald Wirth's Tarot

Hieronymus Bosch's Tarot

Russian Tarot

Rider-Waite Tarot

Art Nouveau Tarot

Renaissance Tarot

Ansata Tarot

Tarot of the Beloved

III. The Devil in anthropomorphic form

Hans Rudolf Giger's Tarot

Cosmic Tarot

Prague Tarot

IV. The Devil as a surreal entity

Erotica Tarot

Aquarian Tarot

The ideas reflected in the Devil's image


1. A Beast or a Superhuman? Two opposite approaches collide in picturing the Devil. In most cases, artists show a Beast, an entity of the primeval Nature, whose power is interpreted as an animal one. The Mirror Tarot represents the most striking example of such vision. However, it comes to be a real challenge for artists to picture the Devil's wings, horns and hoofs as a naturally-looking combination, especially when they try to include also some anthropomorphic features. The Osho Zen Tarot develops an unusual approach and imagines the Devil as a lion among sheep.

Another vision of the Devil can be seen, for example, in the Cosmic Tarot, — as a superhuman, the Lord of a technocratic empire. His power comes from knowledge instead of natural instincts. Even the traditional wings and horns look like artificial gadgets rather than body parts. The Russian Tarot pictures a similar vision of the Devil as a Space Lord that reigns over the Earth.


2. Male or Female? The question of the Devil's gender was important not only for medieval scholars but also for Tarot artists. Sometimes the Devil is pictured as a hyper-masculine entity associated with Pan of the ancient Greece. Hans Rudolf Giger expressed the opposite point of view having shown the Devil as a woman constantly getting sexual satisfaction. Some other Tarot decks imagine the Devil as an androgyne; this idea stems from the alchemical symbolism.


3. The chained couple. This is usually interpreted as the chains of diabolic passion, which connect a man and a woman. However, sometimes the couple is pictured as not humans but semi-demonic creatures; this symbolizes the demonic element inside human.


4. Fire as the Devil's element. This is depicted as a torch or a flaming sword held by the Devil; sometimes fire is just a detail of the background landscape.


5. Serpent as a symbol of wisdom. Sometimes it's depicted lying near the Devil or twining round his body. Another vision of the Devil shows the serpent as his integral part, as the snake-shaped horns in the Erotica Tarot. Also the caduceus twined around with two serpents is present in some depictions of the Devil.


6. Other symbols. They include rune Algiz, Hebrew letters Ayin and Samekh, Sanskrit letter A, the symbol of Capricorn sign, and, of course, the Pentagram, which is usually shown above the Devil's head.

Information from "The Keys to Tarot" by Boris Monosov (in Russian) and the lectures in Tarot by Zau Targiski (in Russian).
Pictures from Zau Targiski's website

Translated from Russian by Milchar