Key 15: The Devil







Lord of the Gates of Matter; Child of the Forces of Time

“The Twenty-sixth Path is called the Renovating Intelligence, because the Holy God (blessed be He) renews by it, all the changing things which are renewed by the creation of the world.”  (Sepher Yetzirah)

One’s first impression when confronted with the image of the Fifteenth Key of the Tarot is of shock as our Christian programming kicks in, yet interestingly, the Christian Devil image originates from the pictures of Baphomet discovered after the Knights Templar were ruthlessly destroyed.  Indeed, it is thought that Mathers also used the images of Baphomet and Pan to create the Golden Dawn Fifteenth Key.

The main change in the Golden Dawn Temple Tarot Devil is that we have reunited him with his phallus as the pro-creative force of nature.  It is this sexual energy that gives the Devil card such negative connotations, such as obsessive desire magnetizing limitation, bondage and lust, yet it is a force we all experience for pleasure or pain and without it life just wouldn’t be the same.

Around the phallus is coiled a serpent, indicating that there is another side to the sexual energy which, when recognised, becomes a powerful spiritual force.

If we take away the Christianized ideas of a Devil we are confronted with a symbol of ones Totem animal – our primeval survival instinct, which, when actively invoked, will guide us through the astral realms, in particular the lower astral.   As Totem animals move through the different elemental realms their forms or bodies change to harmonize with the elemental realm traversed.  This attunement with the elements can be seen within this card as the Devil figure holds within his being the four lower astral elementals: in his hands are Fire and Water, his bat wings symbolise Air, and his feet and legs represent Earth.  His head represents Capricorn, denoting the heights we can travel within these elemental realms.  His claws hold the elemental pentagrams within Nature manifesting as the cubical altar of the material universe.

Tied to the altar are two demons, demonstrating the limitations of our material world, which can produce symptoms of depression and delusion.  Yet they also symbolise two Adepts harnessing elemental forces with the invoking pentagram above the Devil’s head (also indicating an animistic reality). 

On the Devil’s head is an inverted pentagram, showing that the focal point (Ayin: ‘Eye’) is on material matters, which would be considered evil if not for the pentagram above.  As an ironic example, during the time of the Reformation, many sacred places in Nature were destroyed, in the zeal to force people to worship the One God, yet in doing so, man inadvertently created Atheism, through the discouragement of connecting to that Spiritual Force within Nature.

The Banner of the West is seen in the background, denoting light shining through darkness, which is not fully comprehended. It is also an indication that this so called demonic figure is an aspect of the Hiereus, who carries this banner in the 0=0 ritual.  Therefore, this card shows us our fear, which in the Golden Dawn we are told leads us to failure.   In overcoming this demon of fear we have the realisation of the true reality of material nature which is neither frightening nor terrible.


Puberty.  Strong, sexual desires.  Obsession.  Magnetism.  Bondage to sexual experiences and material success.  Limitation.  Fear.  Resistance.  Projection of will without love.  Authoritative  father figure.  Link to ancestors.  Secrets.  Great occult power.  The Divine locked within matter.  Commitment and endurance.  Focussed concentration on spiritual or material need.