Tarot Draw #10

I start my new job in two days. At-freaking-last. It is by no means a perfect situation, but it really feels like it should be a good fit in a lot of ways. The short, mass-transit-only commute is a huge advantage to me, as are the generous hourly rate and (from the outside, at least) the well-defined scope of the job.

One problem, though. I hate starting new jobs. You wouldn’t know it to look at the way my resume reads up until about 2003 (when I changed gigs like clockwork about every 12 months), but my most comfortable work environment is one where I feel like I know what I’m doing and have a good sense of the personalities and politics of the company. I’m going to have a lot to learn here, and while everyone already knows that, I know that one of my biggest challenges will be to avoid the temptation to dive in too quickly and to push too quickly. Intellectually, I know that the early part of the job will be my only opportunity to really learn certain aspects of the project (or at least the only opportunity to do so at a time when “just learning” is my primary job function), but I have a well-established pattern of wanting to contribute immediately, and sometimes that mindset has worked against me.

I’m aware, then, that one challenge will be to deal with the discomfort of being the newbie on the project. I thought it might be instructive to draw a card today, while this is really up for me.

Question: Entering a period of uncomfortable “apprenticeship,” what card can I look to as an ally?

Card: The Devil

Well, that's cheery.
Well, that’s cheery.

First impressions: Are you fucking kidding me?

About the card: Well, all right then. The background of this card is black, all the better to add to the shiny, happy, optimistic imagery. Perched on a black pedestal (altar, perhaps?) is the Devil…well, sort of. He has wings and goat’s horns, and looks more like Pan than, say, a “traditional” interpretation of Lucifer. Above his head is an inverted pentagram. In his left hand, he is holding a torch toward the earth, and his right hand is held up in a position that I am incapable of seeing as anything but the Vulcan salute.

No, Jason, the devil is not a Vulcan. He is not telling you to live long and prosper. Let’s move on.

In the foreground are two nude people, one female and one male. They both have horns and are bound to the pedestal/altar by chains around their necks. Each of the figures also has a tail – the woman’s tail ends in a bunch of grapes, while the man’s is flaming. Looking at them, I sort of want the figures to be the same ones from the Lovers card, though the connection might go no farther than the fact that they are both naked and standing before a supernatural being.

Although…well, okay, let’s look at the Lovers for a moment.


One other thing that stands out for me when looking at the two cards (other than, you know, the nudity) is that the symbols are similar. In the Lovers, the man is standing before a flaming tree (is that actually right? It looks like it to me, anyway) while the woman is in front of a fruit tree. So we have fire and earth both symbolized in the Lovers – but there the symbols are not connected to the human figures. In the Devil card, these elemental symbols are literally part of the figures. I have no real sense of what this means, but it sure is interesting.

The other obvious thing that jumps out in the Devil card is that the figures, while bound, aren’t exactly trapped. The chains around their necks are very clearly loose enough that they could slip out of them quite easily. So, why don’t they? I can make up all sorts of stories as to why that might be true, of course, but I’m not really sure it matters. The fact that the chains aren’t actually secure implies that one way or the other, they remain where they are by choice. There are lots of reasons why one might choose to be (or to feel) vulnerable and bound, some perfectly healthy and others not so much. Psychology aside, once I dispense with the idea that they are being physically held against their will, a fair bit of that “Oh, crap” value of the image goes away.

But what does it mean?: All of the “Hey, you know, it’s not actually what it looks like,” stuff aside, there’s not a lot in this card that gives me warm fuzzies about my question. When I flipped through the deck to pull out the Lovers so I could compare the images, I thought, “Well, what card would I have liked to see come up today?” The most obvious one is this:


Now that’s what I’m talking about. A person with well-prepared, consecrated tools and the will to use them? That would have been a little more comforting, is all I’m saying. Of course, part of the point right now is that in starting this new job, I will need to spend some time getting ready to really do it well. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to do the job (it’s nothing particularly new, just a lot of new systems to learn and some interpersonal dynamics that I expect to be rather challenging to navigate), but I’m stepping into an established group without a sense of where I’ll fit just yet. So while the Magician is a much more comforting image, it’s not accurate just yet. I’ll be there soon enough, and one of my temptations is to try and shortcut the process of learning so I can be helpful and contribute more quickly. It’s better to look at the Magician as something to aspire to, rather than my ally today.

Back to the Devil, then. What in this card can be an ally? I guess I see two things here. The first is the vulnerability symbolized by the figures’ nudity. It’s rather difficult to be anything but open in that state, after all, and while it might not be comfortable, there’s something to be said about embracing that. One of the things that I find difficult about learning sometimes is that asking for help feels uncomfortably vulnerable, after all. A reminder to sit in that place is probably a useful thing. The other helpful piece is the realization that the figures aren’t trapped, despite what it looks like at first. If I’m not trapped in this place, then I have the ability to leave it. So the challenge, I think is to choose to remain in that place of vulnerability and discomfort as long as it is the right place to be, learn what it has to teach me, and then step into what comes next.

3 thoughts on “Tarot Draw #10”

  1. Mind a tarot newb (or at least non-pro) chiming in?

    You asked for an ally — and got the Devil. How could that be, right? I kind of think of The Devil card like the Lord of the Lawyers, all about contracts and drawing up the fine print of how things will work. He’s Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate.” Sure, in the traditional scheme of things, the devil gets you to sign a contract giving up your soul, but the contracts you sign are up to you. This isn’t a loosey-goosey, go-with-the-flow card, it’s a “make sure that you work out the details and get them in writing” card.

    If the Devil is your ally, then it might be a reminder that, as a newb, you’re entitled to ask for clarification, to get it in writing, to ask the questions that need to be asked so that you really know what’s going on. You’re already a believer in knowing what the bylaws are, in negotiating the system that works best for everyone — The Devil is just a reminder that even as the New Guy, maybe especially as the New Guy, you’ve got the law on your side.

    Just as long as you keep an eye on what you’re signing away, of course. You stay in those contracts by choice. Know what the cost benefit analysis is.

    This is a GREAT card to pull starting a new job. 🙂 You want to BE the Magician, not have him as an ally. Having the Devil in your corner gives you an advocate, someone with a keener and more cynical eye than you might have.

    Rock on, dude.

  2. Yes, everything Jo said. Plus, your insight in connecting the Devil to the Lovers is spot on. The Devil is #15. 1+5=6 which is the Lovers. The Devil can also be seen as the external expression of relationships (while the Lovers is more internal). How do we negotiate these relationships, (contracts again) including work/business ones? Being the new guy is all about negotiations. When negotiating, that Devil/Pan is the guy I’d want in my corner. 🙂

    Good luck on your new adventure. I know you will do great!

  3. What Jo and Amy said… and…

    The Devil (one of my favorite cards, though not so much in the RWS deck… I’m a Thoth girl when it comes to the Devil) means a lot of different things to me depending on context and where I’m at in my life. But often, he’s about what I sell my soul for and (as Amy and Jo already pointed out) contracts.

    My gut sense here is that it might not be so much about negotiating new contracts, but noticing the old ones that you’re still following. You just got out of a job that made you fairly miserable (if I might project all over you for a moment.) And yet, chances are you established some patterns at the last few gigs that are going to follow you into this one. I think the Devil might be saying, “Dude… pay attention to what you’re doing.” What served you and helped you negotiate the last job is not necessarily going to serve you here. He wants to you feed your soul, not waste it. If he’s your ally, then find ways to be on fire in this new position. Find ways to work hard and relish your achievements. Give your soul to your passions. I’m just thinking about how excited you were about the training exercise you presented for your interview… find ways to get to that level of engagement with your skills and your desires on a regular basis, and you’re going to thrive.

    Notice that he’s not touching the two figures on the bottom of the card. They’ve got chains around their necks, but those chains are really loose. They could take them off and walk away. What are the fears and insecurities that keep you chained? Just something to contemplate. The fact that he’s telling you to “live long and prosper”… really, not all that far off. (Although I doubt Arthur Waite and Gene Roddenberry hung out much.) But the sentiment? Pretty apt. I think he’s telling you to really *live.*

    And since you drew a major arcana rather than a minor, that usually signifies that the question you asked and the subsequent answer is important. Kind of like a spotlight shining on it. Not that the minors are less significant — this just means that this is potentially a big moment.

    And good call on attaching it to the Lovers. Those *are* the Lovers in the Devil Card. It’s one of those things we tarot enthusiasts call “dignities” — how the cards have conversations with each other visually. But I’ve always been more afraid of them than I am of him. That, however, is a conversation for a different draw.

    I’ll stop here. Because believe me, I could go on and on. I love this card so much. Good luck at the new gig!

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