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XV Le Diable

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Xv Le Diable


There usually isn't much disagreement about the meaning of this image, a personification of evil. What I find most interesting about it is the degree to which it expresses the concept of bondage, especially from the time of the Marseilles decks onward. You don't often see this in the early Italian decks, which usually simply show frightening monsters.

The Marseilles depiction is actually more disturbing, with its attendant bound humans (or demons -- we can't tell which). The message seems to be that the sinner is bound and imprisoned by the sin, and that just as virtue is its own reward, evil is its own punishment. The horns on all three figures convey intimations of lust. There's no association of the pentagram with the evil one here. That seems to have come later, with Levi.

There's a lot of lively debate concerning whether the earliest decks made for the Italian nobility even contained a Devil card, since none has been found for the Cary-Yale or the Visconti-Sforza. But for certain, the deck would not be complete without an acknowledgment of evil in or lives and in our hearts, for in psychological terms this is a picture of the shadow we carry around with us. That's why I prefer depictions of the Devil that emphasize his humanness rather than his monstrosity, and the usual Marseilles-style Devil is perfect. He or she might have wings and talons, but this is for the most part an androgynous, mindlessly angry extract of human traits. As disturbing as it is, the card illustrates a major component of all our lives; if we don't deal with it, we're in danger of being overwhelmed by it.
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What a superb introduction to the card, catboxer.

It is sometimes mentioned that the reason for the batwings on the devil are to indicate its status as a fallen angel. It is also, in addition to what catboxer presents above, quite interesting to note that this card very much duplicates the representation found on V - The Pope: a central figure, at whose feet are two smaller ones.

I have attached the 1998 Camoin version, which includes numerous elements found in different Marseilles versions, incuding the face upon the belly, and, quite significantly, the triple nipples upon the bosom of one of the figures (found on the Conver deck).
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The Camoin version of the Devil reminds me somehow of Kali, the Indian Goddess of destruction and rebirth (because of the sticking out of the tongue and the threatening posure).

Do you have any thoughts about the face painted on the belly?
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Picturing the devil with multiple faces, most commonly on the belly but sometimes on the knees or other parts of the body, was very common in medieval and renaissance times. Devils and demons were often depicted as androgynes as well. Certainly this was to emphasize the monstrosity of the Evil One, but there must have been other, more complex reasons that pre-modern Europeans chose to render the devil in this way, some of which they may not have been fully aware of.

I've attached a 16th-century German/Lutheran woodcut which portrays the Pope as the devil. You can tell it's the Pope because the flag atop the tower at the left displays (it's a little fuzzy, but you can make it out) the two-keys papal insignia. The devil in this picture is made up of multiple species of animals, is androgynous, and has multiple faces. One shows on its left buttock, and another is at the end of the tail.

All of this reminds of an incident that occurs early on in the Book of Mark, when Jesus is exorcising a demon. When he asks the demon its name, it replies, "My name is Legion," which I take to mean, "I am many." It seems to me that this and the medieval pictures of devils and demons, might express a pre-modern awareness of the nature of schizophrenia, and an interpretation of the disease as diabolical possession. I have never seen a pre-modern clinical description of this illness (if anyone knows of one I would love see it), but it seems reasonable that people who lived before our time must have been aware of the voices which afflict schizophrenics, and the sensation experienced by the sufferers of having been invaded and taken over by sinister outside forces. But of course, all this is merely speculation.
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Hi catboxer, thanks for the information! You are really getting me into my long-neglected Marseilles deck.

I found your comment about schizophrenia very interesting. B/W I think a demonic origin was also related to epilepsis in Medieval Age. The Greek considered it as the illness of the ppl beloved by the Gods.
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I agree with catlin that catboxer's comment regarding schizophrenia's symptoms and how it would have been perceived as demonic possession in the late middle ages (and, in some cases, nowadays too), is wonderfully represented by some of the grotesque images portraying a devil-infested humanoid form. It may also be quite correct that (one of) the Marseilles representation, in which the Devil has two faces (and sometimes additional smaller ones) upon his head and his belly, are remnants of this.

In terms of the image as given, I would add, is the dual nature of evil which can be reflected upon. On the one hand, it can infest the mind, such that each part of one's life becomes 'codified', bureaucratised and 'legalesed' - ie, it becomes vitually inhuman with coldness - the image of the face on the head of the devil.

On the other, one can lose oneself in the very engagement of whatever the activity is, virtually trancelike or drug-induced like, whereby the warmth becomes the heat of the moment - the image of the face on the belly of the Devil.

Each of these become the two forces of evil which can infest the individual, blocking (the previously worked upon card of) Temperance, which permits Love, through the heart, to transform each of these evils.

Each of these also traditionally have a gender, but bound to the throne of evil. In Anthroposophical literature, these have been re-named (respectively) Ahriman and Lucifer, each in opposition to each other, whilst the redeeming aspect would certainly have been agreed by those who may have been involved with the design of those early cards: the Christ, surprisingly not included in crucified form in such environment!

It is also interesting to reflect on the ever-so difficult middle East situation, and consider how mediaevalists may have perceived it: each side appears to be, to some extant, in the grips of these extremes - as if, and despite the incredible attempts made by so many, both the Ahrimanic and Luciferic forces are preventing the redeeming Christ forces from emerging in Loving compassion.

Attached is a re-make of the 1701 Dodal version of the card, again depicting these dual faces.
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cary yale visconti


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Kaz:

Thanks for posting the Devil cards from the Visconti decks. Interestingly enough, no original Devil trump or Tower trump exists for either of those decks. Some people have even speculated that neither pack ever contained a Devil or a Tower, and it does seem odd that those two cards are missing from both decks. The images posted here are both modern cards created as replacements by the Italian artist Luigi Scapini, in the style of the Visconti artists.

Or maybe not so odd; in the case of the Cary-Yale, 19 of the (we assume) 86 cards are missing -- over 20 percent of the pack. Personally, I think it's just coincidence. Four cards altogether are missing from the Visconti-Sforza; besides the two trumps it lacks the Three of Swords and the Knight of Coins. If it wasn't for the two missing minor cards, I might be more inclined to be persuaded that there's more than meets the eye in the fact that Devil and Tower are missing from both decks.

I think Scapini did a credible job with all the replacement cards for both decks, but there still is something about his work that is unmistakably modern, and careful scrutiny shows subtle but important differences between his work and that of the 15th-century craftsmen. On the Visconti-Sforza's devil, the small figure on the right side, in particular, looks like something out of an anime comic book, or seems to have a Disneyish quality. This is not to slight Scapini's ability, though. He's one of the very best tarot artists working today.

My favorite replacement card is the one in Lo Scarabeo's 1997 gold edition of the Visconti-Sforza by A.A. Atanassov. He faithfully copied a late 15th/early 16th historical model, which gives the card a lot of authenticity. The model is from an obscure uncut sheet of six woodblock cards found in the binding of an old book. It found its way into the collection of Edmond de Rothschild, and when he died it ended in the Louvre where it resides today. It may be the scariest and most grotesque devil card ever. The original is uncolored; other than that there is very little to choose between it and Atanassov's rendition (attached).

By the way, this may be off topic, but has everybody seen Scapini's Stained Glass Tarot? It's incredibly beautiful, and Mark Filipas's review tells us that Scapini actually works in stained glass sometimes. I've noticed that European artists are as often as not trained in the crafts of artistry, unlike here in America where the arts and crafts are generally kept separate. Anyway, I'm not usually a deck collector, but I absolutely must have this one. I'll probably buy it on my next payday, exactly one month from now.
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Oops!! Sorry, I forgot --

http://artoftarot.com/filipas6.htm

for the Stained Glass Tarot.
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