I’ve written interpretations for every card in the Wild Unknown Tarot. As the box of the deck states, there are no rights or wrongs. These are simply my perspectives on the tarot card meanings. I hope you find them useful!
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Creator’s Keywords: negativity, materialism, addiction
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“Ah, a goat. That makes sense!” This was my first thought when I saw the devil card in the Wild Unknown. “But wait! Why are goats associated with the devil, anyway?” A few hits on Google later and I had a rough sketch of an answer.
The first insinuation of goats being associated with the Devil comes from the bible: “When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.”
But then in the Middle Ages things really got heated up when the collective folkloric vision of the Devil began to get mis-mashed with various beast-like pagan gods (including Pan, depicted as part man, part goat).
Fast forward to the 1800s and Elphias Levi created an image of Baphomet (a figure we don’t know much about, but which the Knights Templar were accused of worshipping in the middle ages). Levi had a more all encompassing vision of Baphomet, not as a figure of pure evil but more of a unity of radical opposites such as good and evil. The image of the Devil in the Rider Waite tarot was inspired by Levi’s depiction of Baphomet.
In the 1960s, the Church of Satan was founded and used Baphomet in their iconography. Thusly the image of Devil-as-goat has been firmly embedded in our cultural associations.
Now that I have gone a bit down the Google rabbit hole, let’s look at the card further. Our goat looks smug. He’s got a sly smile going on, and we can only see one eye, giving him a shady air. His ears are cocked to the side, alert and ready to take advantage of what he hears.
Upon his forehead is an upside-down pentagram, another symbol our culture has come to associate with negative forces. Elphias Levi said: “A reversed pentagram, with two points projecting upwards, is a symbol of evil and attracts sinister forces because it overturns the proper order of things and demonstrates the triumph of matter over spirit. It is the goat of lust attacking the heavens with its horns.”
The goat’s feet are surrounded by orange and red flames, yet he does not burn. This tricky, treacherous fellow can walk through flame (maybe he’s even the one conjuring the flames). He looks as though he wants to lure others with his wily ways. We’ve come to associate the force we call “the devil” with addiction, enslavement, and negative patterns. Once we become aware this energy is at work, we can begin to free ourselves.