The Devil, The Star, and the Mystery of the Disappearing Demon

The concept of evil as a projection of human characteristics on nature.

When you first look at the Tarot card, The Devil, you might experience a deeply profound, spiritual reaction.  Something like, “YIKES!!!!

I mean, he’s big and he’s scary and he’s pissed off.  He’s sort of a goat but he has those bat wings happening and talons on his feet.  And, as Inga said in Young Frankenstein, “He vould have an enormous schwanzstucker!”

He’s the stuff of nightmares, really.  And he always makes me think of the planet Venus.  I know, I know . . . weird . . . but bear with me.

We all remember the childhood ditty that said:

“Twinkle, twinkle little star.

How I wonder what you are . . .”

Primitive humans actually had the same reaction to the stars, only it was more along the lines of, “What in the hell ARE those things?”  As educated, modern humans we look at the stars and we might think something like, “Glowing orbs of burning gaseous matter.”  Our ancestors, though, would look at them and think, “Wow . . . magic!”

As they studied them more and more, they realized that some of the stars actually moved around in the sky.  What they were seeing moving is what we call planets, but to the ancients they were glowing stars that were in motion.  And, of course, if something moves that means that it’s alive, as opposed to not moving which frequently means that you’re dead, or maybe a rock or a doorstop.

So, primitive humans had reached a point where they were able to observe the night skies, chart different constellations, and notice that some of the stars seemed to be alive.  And they went from their original question about the stars – “What in the hell ARE those things?”  to a deeper understanding.  This was verbalized as, “No, REALLY, what in the hell ARE those things?”

They started to make up stories about the apparently living creatures that were moving around the sky.  They decided that since the moving stars are above us, then they must be – you know – ABOVE us, as in superior to us, and so they came to believe that the moving stars were gods or angels.

All of that’s perfectly rational thinking, given the degree of knowledge that primitive humans possessed.  They went on to assign characteristics to the star gods, based on appearance and behavior.  Mars was blood red, so he must be the god of war.  Jupiter was huge, so he must be the main god.  Mercury was very zippy, so he must be a messenger with wings on his heels that let him flash around the sky very quickly.

When they looked at Venus, though, one thing stood out to a lot of the ancient star gazers:  Venus disappears.  In fact, Venus has very, very strange behavior, indeed.  Venus appears as a morning star for 263 days and then, for the next 50 days, Venus disappears and cannot be seen in the sky at all.  And THEN Venus reappears, but in the evening sky, where it remains for another 263-day phase before disappearing below the horizon for 8 days. At the end of these 8 days, Venus reappears as a morning star, and the cycle begins again.

So our ancestors looked at this very peculiar behavior on the part of this particular star god and tried to figure out what it meant.  Why did the star god keep switch-hitting between being a morning star god and an evening star god?  And where in the hell did it GO when it disappeared?  It was all very perplexing.

The Romans and the Greeks focused on the fact that Venus (as a morning star god) was always brightest right before the dawn.  They reasoned, then, that Venus must somehow be bringing the dawn into existence each day, and they named it, “the light bringer,” which in Latin is written as, “Lucifer.”

The Middle Eastern star gazers had a different take on it.  As we all know, Middle Eastern religions tend to favor angry, bi-polar male gods and so they reasoned that Venus was PISSING OFF god, and doing it on a regular basis.  When god got pissed off at Venus, he made the star god just disappear from heaven.  “All right . . . that’s IT . . . get out!  And don’t come back for 50 days, if you know what’s good for you!”

As the story evolved into judeo-christian theology, god wasn’t just making Venus disappear, he was throwing his ass out the door.  He was tossing the star god – now known as Satan – out of heaven and Satan was plummeting into darkness and hell fire.  When the expanding christian culture encountered the Greco-Roman god Lucifer, they said, “Oh, yeah . . . disappearing star god . . . we know about him . . . that’s Satan.”

And so Lucifer became Satan and Satan became the Devil and we ended up with this bat goat critter with an enormous schwanzstucker.

All of this would be kind of hilarious if it didn’t represent an amazing projection of our own very human fear, anger, and malice onto the universe.  There is no crazy god with a white beard throwing devils out of heaven every 50 days.  Bats aren’t evil, they’re just . . . you know . . . bats.  The goat is being used as a symbol of rampant sexuality but the truth is that goats aren’t nearly as horny as people.  

Bottom lining it, we’ve taken our very worst traits – our, “evil,” if you will – projected it onto nature, and then declared nature to be evil.  And then we made war on nature.

And, yep, our first reaction is probably appropriate:  Yikes!

The Angels of the Tarot

 

There are ALOT of angels flying around in the Major Arcana of the Tarot.

the-lovers

The first one to appear is in The Lovers, hovering over Adam and Eve, arms outstretched, while the crafty snake twines around an apple tree.  One assumes that this snapshot was taken BEFORE Uppity Eve decided that she just had to have a goddamned apple for breakfast, because the angel seems to be protecting or blessing them as they stand there.  After her snack, of course, god went into a major psychotic rage and the angel drove them out of the garden with a flaming sword. (“She ate AN APPLE! That bitch ate one of my apples! How dare she? They’re MY apples. I’ll show her!  I’ll throw her skinny ass right OUT of Paradise. I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”)

Jewish tradition holds that the angel who tossed them out was Jophiel, which is odd because she seems like a pretty nice angel.  She’s known as, “the angel of beauty,” and she’s shines beautiful thoughts into people’s hearts and helps addicts and artists.

wheel

The next angels to appear are the Cherubim and we see them in both The Wheel of Fortune and The World.  Cherubim have four faces, one of an ox, a man, and eagle, and a lion. The human face fits on the front and the lion face goes on the right and ox goes on the left and the eagle face goes . . . somewhere else.  Must be on the top or the back, right?

What else?  They have two sets of wings that join together.  The top set is to fly around with and the bottom set they use to cover themselves up.  For why, I don’t know. (Ezekial 1:6)

So, as near as I can tell, they look sort of like giant dragonflies only they have four faces which are placed right, left, middle, and somewhere else.  And to think they didn’t even have LSD when they wrote this . . .

We should note that cherubim are NOT cherubs as we know them on Valentines Day cards.  The cute, cuddly little guys who shoot arrows into your heart are actually putti.  That’s right, they’re putti.  Cutey puttis. Look it up.

Also, apparently the Cherubim guard the gates of the Garden of Paradise so Uppity Eve can’t sneak back in for another apple, though it’s not clear if Jophiel (remember Jophiel?  Nice angel? About 5 foot 4, blonde hair?) is a Cherub.

Also, Satan was a Cherub.  Who knew, right?

temperance

The next angel, who is pictured in the Temperance card, is . . . well . . . the Temperance angel.  I’ve done a lot of research on him/her and no one seems to know who she/he is, although they all agree that he/she is either of both sexes or no sex, which would make he/she an it, rather than she/he. We know that Temperance is one of the christian cardinal virtues so perhaps the angel is merely supposed to be an allegorical reference to our better self.

devil (1)

The next to the last angel is The Devil.  And perhaps I’m taking a leap here that isn’t justified.  There are so many christian symbols in the Tarot that it seems logical that if they’re referring to The Devil they probably mean Satan who, as noted above, is a Cherub and NOT a putti.  NOT A PUTTI!

On the other hand, he could be Beelza Bubba, or whole bunch of other fallen angels.  Or the idea of evil itself. Still, it seemed better to err on the side of caution and include him.

judgement

And the last angel is the angel blowing the horn on the Judgement card to summon the dead out of their graves.  We can probably go out on a limb and say that this is Gabriel the Archangel. Anal retentive biblical scholars will point out to you that the bible doesn’t say it was Gabriel and, in fact, the bible doesn’t even mention Gabriel and in fact the only archangel that the bible even mentions is Michael.

But we all know it’s Gabriel.  Gabriel’s the one with the horn.  Everyone knows that.

Angels.  What a trip!  If you want to take a deep dive into angelology (yes, there IS such a word) Wikipedia has an extremely detailed article here.

If you’re interested in exploring your personal relationship with angels and spirit guides  DailyOm has several good courses with guided visualizations here.

AND . . . you can buy my ebook, “Just the Tarot,”  here.