Welcome back to my once-neglected, but now well in the process of completion, series of blogs giving LGBTQIA+ persepctives on the Tarot cards.
If you're new to the series, new to the Tarot, or new to the idea of LGBTQIA+ perspectives on mystical and metaphysical matters, a quick summary:
The Tarot is a series of symbols depicting a spiritual journey, in which the traveller either meets, or themself becomes, each of the figures on the cards in turn; added into the more basic design of a deck of playing cards, drawing them and spreading them out can be an exercise in meditation or fortune telling. The traditional deck, or what's considered that by modern readers, has designs drawn by Pamela Colman Smith, a biracial and bisexual artist, whose inclinations inevitably found their way into the subtext of her designs. So I set about asking Tarot readers in queer groups, and queer people in Tarot groups, online, for their unique individual perspectives, and from the answers compiled this series of blogs.
Click on these link to catch up with the faces we've already met: the Fool, the Magician, the High Priestess, the Empress, the Emperor, the Hierophant, the Lovers, the Chariot, Strength, the Hermit, the Wheel of Fortune, Justice, the Hanged Man, Death, and Temperance.
Done it? Lovely. Now come with me to meet... The Devil him/her/themself!
This one's going to be a little bit different, because the queer meaning of this Tarot card lies in the surprisingly queer history of Tarot cards.
Like I said, the artist, Pamela Colman Smith - known to her friends and followers as Pixie - "never married; she had no known heirs except for a female companion who shared her flat", If you know what I mean, according to her bio that comes with the deck and its accompanying book. Her designs were tailored to the descriptions written by occultist A.E. Waite.
His descriptions were influenced and inspired by the writings of French Qabalistic philosopher, Eliphas Levi. Here's where "the Devil enters in", to coin a phrase. The image we all know and love/hate of the Devil is actually that of Baphomet, an idol that heretics were accused of worshipping in the middle east, in the middle ages; and Eliphas Levi gives us the first definitive description and/or design for how Baphomet looked: Half human, half animal. The animal side was itself half-and-half - half bat, half goat, hence the horns, the hooves and the wings. The human side, meanwhile, was half male/masculine, and half female/feminine - an erect phallus and lactating breasts.
Eliphas Levi, himself, was influenced and inspired by Simon Ganneau: a mystic ritualist who went by the honorific "Mapah" - a combination of Mama and Papa; Ganneau wore a combination of male/masculine and female/feminine features and fabrics when in the role of Mapah - most pictures of him/them show both a long beard and a long dress. His/their ceremonial school was known as Evadaism, a word made by combining the names Adam and Eve; it was a Gnostic belief that the "Divine Androgyne" was separated into our two primal parents in the Garden of Eden, and a return to our heavenly destiny meant finding our "other half" not outside in the form of another, but inside our own souls. He/they made his/their everyday living selling sculptures of Jesus made in this same androgynous - or as he/they put it, "bisexual" - image.
Ganneau, in turn, was a proponent of a proto-feminist, proto-socialist philosophy known as the Saint-Simonian school, after the founder of its fundamental principles, Duc Saint-Simon. He believed in the "Female Messiah" being what the church needed to undo its patriarchal distortion of authority and return to its roots as teachers of equality.
The card itself shows a Baphomet figure lording it over (or "ladying" it over?) two naked slaves - a male/masculine and a female/feminine figure; it's a dark mirror of the Lovers card, which shows these same two in front of two trees, a snake and and angel - I don't think I need to explain who they're supposed to be! It's traditionally taken to mean the letting out of things kept down in the shadows of ourselves or our lives. And that's traditionally taken as a bad thing coming up, that should have stayed down - like losing your temper, developing addictive and/or abusive behaviour, or drunk-calling your ex.
BUT... is there a single LGBTQIA+ person out there reading this who wasn't told at some point that their closet door should stay firmly locked shut, because what was inside was "sinful" or "sick" in some way? Sometimes letting out what's been locked up is a GOOD thing - the BEST thing!
(I'm also not going to kink-shame anyone who gets pleasure from being a restrained submissive like the chained slave characters in this card, or consensually dominant over them like the devil figure is, by the way!)
The Baphomet-image of the devil, in today's world, is currently being used by The Satanic Temple in the USA, whose mission, rather than being literal believers in Lucifer, Baphomet, or anyone else, is in fact to oppose any religious interference in politics or family relationships, by urging their listeners to live their lives free of religious restrictions and not curtailing either their passion, or their reason, because it's "sinful". Taking the human condition, which USA's dominant religious perpsective says is bad, and getting people to see it as good. Their current most active campaigning efforts are to use the name of the Satanic Temple, and its Baphomet-Devil image familiar to anyone who knows their Tarot, as the symbol of their work against the prejudice and restriction being inflicted on the lives of LGBTQIA+ people; "God" (as the most active churches in USA use that word) is against LGBTQIA+ people, or so those churches would have you believe; so, "The Devil" (or at least the image of it used by this secular humanist collective) needs to be doubly on our side.
The devil's great sin, that caused his great fall, was supposedly pride. So now, famous preachers will yell from the pulpit that Pride - meaning the pro-LGBTQIA+ protest parade month - is the manifestation of Satan. If they want to convince us to be on their side, they really need to stop showing the other side to be so positive!
Hail Satan, I guess?