Quantum Tarot: The Devil


It's really my night, tonight, isn't it. The last card I drew was the Tower, now I've drawn the Devil, also known as a black hole. I think I'll go to bed. But first -

A dark, traditionally demonic shape that I remember discussing in my look at the Seven Cups crouches in silhouette, a red beachball-sized plasma sphere cupped between his knees. Does he have pretty fairy-wings in marbled reds and yellows patterned like slices of oval agate? No - that is matter and energy being sucked inward. Two pentacles balance on his head: a dark, inverted one in front of a larger light one which has been warped into non-Euclidean geometry by the forces of extreme gravity, and larger, fainter, broken pentacles are hinted at in the gathering chaos behind him. Could the Devil be the inescapable event horizon of the black hole, or even more deep and mysterious, the Singularity at its heart itself, while the swirls around him are being sucked in and spaghettified by the extreme forces?

A black hole is one of the most simple objects in the universe. We think it has an event horizon as if that were some kind of shell or force field; what it actually is, is merely a word to describe the point at which, no matter how much thrust you have, escape is no longer possible from the gravity well of the black hole. No matter how great your machinery and fuel is, once you reach that point you are being sucked at incredible speeds down a gravity well towards a Singularity, a mystery that none will ever observe or understand - pretty much like a god or a devil. You are falling so quickly that you escape light itself, and an observer perched at a safe distance would see the soles of your feet hang still in space as your head and shoulders get stretched out and disappear. This optical illusion is called spaghettification, and I really hope it never happens to me because it sounds painful.

Sometimes in our lives, just sometimes, we are trapped by awe and wonder. Sometimes we glimpse at a distance a tempting Mystery. That Mystery may be sex, it may be the dazzling abilities of our own thoughts, it may be the glitter that alcohol sprinkles in our blood, it may be the allure of vast sums of money or gold-fever, it may even be a covetous envy of a friend's immense Tarot collection! Whatever it is, the Devil tempts us: we see that Singularity, that glittering mystery through the darkness of our own roaring blood, and we go for it.

The advice that I always give with this card is that we need to put the brakes on before we hit the event-horizon. If we do not, we are certainly doomed, compelled by our own actions and the Devil's gravity to be sucked towards the object of our desire that will destroy us. Even before we hit the event horizon the forces on our mind and our body are enormous - only the disciplined will certainly resist and hold themselves back from destruction. the less disciplined will never even realise that they are plunging towards their own doom: they will see the Singularity - be it sex or drugs or rock'n'roll - as the only thing that can save them.

Good night, everybody. Sleep well.


For me, one of the clearest, most obvious correlations in this deck is that of the Devil to a black hole.

The image of being sucked in by the overpowering gravity of a BH is such a wonderful metaphor for the insidious magnetism of the Devil. It also hints at the immense power contained within this card - don't forget that one theory of cosmology has it that BH's are "seeds" for new universes.

I like nisaba's idea that once you get beyond the BH's event horizon, that's it, you're trapped. According to relativity, this is the point where the BH's gravitational force is so great that time itself appears to stop. You are literally "stuck", in time and space. It makes me think of Dante's vision of the Devil in the Inferno, frozen solid in an immense block of ice...

Cheerful stuff.

And don't forget, when you manage to get all that stuff unstuck, you get the Tower ;)


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Thanks for that last sentence, Kay, you're such a cheerful, encouraging soul. After all that focus on the Tower and the Devil last night, I went to bed, slept deeply without nightmares, and woke after dreaming of handling and going through my mini Visconti deck. From one of the newest and certainly the most modern Tarot decks, back through to the most ancient of all of them. Ahhh....

swimming in tarot

Oh, dear. I'm not the first to think that a black hole is material re-gathering for the birth of another universe? In this deck, I tend to look at the Devil and the Fool as unorthodox book-ends, from the big bang of matter expanding, to the black hole of matter contracting...accumulating...becoming denser with every addition...perhaps until every particle has been reabsorbed. Then? It explodes of its own internal pressure, another Big Bang! In that manner I can make sense of the big bang. Otherwise, I'm always wondering what happened before the explosion, and where all the "stuff" came from.

Visually, the fool and the devil in this deck are a little similar, having horns on their heads, and wing-like things behind them. I don't know if that's intentional or not.

ETA: I'm not sure why a star would explode if it had no fuel left.


swimming in tarot said:
Visually, the fool and the devil in this deck are a little similar, having horns on their heads, and wing-like things behind them. I don't know if that's intentional or not.
Oh, totally intentional of course.

[;) :D :bugeyed:]

swimming in tarot said:
ETA: I'm not sure why a star would explode if it had no fuel left.
It has no fuel (hydrogen) left to sustain the process that keeps the star burning (nuclear fusion if I remember rightly). But there's still lots of other "stuff" - matter - left lying around. At this point, the star's core collapses in on itself and if the star is big enough, this creates a massive gravitational force that crushes the matter in the star's core to the point where the whole thing explodes.

swimming in tarot

Ah, thank you! Little by little, things are starting to fit together....


My understanding is that black holes don't actually have to explode. They can remain stable for aeons, or even never explode. In fact, they are an incredibly stable thing. But once something happens to create an instability, that;'s when tehy become dangerous. When their spin changes, or an extra-large amount of mass falls into them, or something else that upsets the apple-cart. *Then* htey become dangerous.

I've been reading Brian Greene, a physicist specialising in a certain area of string theory, and in one of his books he deals with black holes in passing. He sees two types of black holes: the huge, gravitationally crushed ones we are discussing, and another black hole, miniscule, made of one-dimensional vibrating strings that make up quanta, so folded and crushed down that they don't have room to vibrate any more. They have minimum mass, so they have minimum gravity, but they have maximum compression, so they have maximum gravity.

Mind-bending. Fun. I console myself with the thought that, if there are a few of them present in one of the atoms that makes up one of my fingernails, at least it hasn't sucked the rest of me into it yet.


Hey! Maybe that's why you get wrinkles with time - little arrays of black holes lined up under the skin, sucking madly ...


nisaba said:
I've been reading Brian Greene, a physicist specialising in a certain area of string theory
It was one of Brian Greene's books that inspired me to create the Quantum :D

The 78th Fool

I still find this the most fascinating card in the deck, Mainly because of the response it draws from people. The first friend off Aeclectic we showed this one too exclaimed:
"Wow, what a gorgeous devil!"

I didn't think there was any such thing!! :D

It's always been one of those cards that's drawn the most oooh's and aaah's but it's probably because the correlation between the Devil and a Black Hole is so direct. Of all the cards, even I have to say it's the one that means exactly what its appearance suggests. I don't find it a beautiful but it's certainly disturbing.

Chris. xx