In many Tarot decks the Devil is represented as a goat. An association is naturally made with the scapegoat but that is only half the story. Goats embody wild instincts and sexual energy. The male goat, the buck, is considered to be lascivious."A randy old goat" is a rather vulgar but familiar expression.
A horse’s or goat’s footprint was believed to be a sign of the Devil’s presence in superstitious thought. A lovely example of such a devil representation is in the Dürer Tarot deck, in which a wild snorting devil rides about on a billy goat.
In ancient times the goat represented the god Pan, who was responsible for the natural world and desires. This interpretation was used by Aleister Crowley for his image of the Devil. The grinning animal with its spiral shaped horns and “third eye” on it forehead looks right into our eyes.
The Devil stands in front of a tree with two round and transparent roots, inside of which are male and female spermatozoon in human form, representing fertility. The male genitals are easy to recognise in this image.
For Crowley, God and the Devil are one. When writing about “The Devil” card he claimed that, “it represents creative energy in its material form. In the zodiac Capricorn represents the zenith. It is the most elevated of all signs and is the goat that jumps over the top of the earth with delight.
This card represents Pan Pangenitor, the creator and destroyer of all things.” (Du Quette, A. Crowley‘s Thot Tarot, pg. 206). The Devil is also associated with the snake (the Garden of Eden) and dragons. One recalls the archangel Michael who defeated the dragon.
But is it really possible to defeat the Devil or evil? Up to now, apparently not. It is not possible from a psychological point of view, either. Good and evil go together like night and day, life and death. We are sometimes able to repress our malevolent instincts and urges that we abhor and detach ourselves from them and banish them into our depths, figuratively speaking.
When we draw the Devil card we are confronted with these repressed, dark and detested sides of us that we do not want to face under any circumstances – and we are shocked! We can turn our backs on reality, confront the Devil instead, and not deal with our repressions, in which case we remain bound to them. Yet the Devil card is an invitation to descend into the kingdom of darkness, into our subconscious. When the Devil card appears in a Tarot card reading the time has come to confront all the things we resist confronting. Our self-image crumbles. Who would not feel threatened by this?
But “the Devil” only loses his power over us once we have seen this abyss and know who we are in good times and in bad times. It is then that we no longer need him for our projections and we can rid ourselves of our chains. Only then are we free and our personality, healthy and complete.
The next time you draw the Devil card, think about this!