The Devil Key XV:
Bound In A Stronghold
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2006
Shackles and chains
No matter what it takes
Someday I'm gonna break
These chains, chains
Shackles and chains
These heart breaking, soul taking,
cold heart, lonely making chains"
"Chains" by Patti Loveless
The Devil Key XV in the Tarot is a complex and difficult card. Astrologically it represents the sign of Capricorn, ruled by Saturn. The name of the card has powerful connotations associated with it. Not everyone believes in the concept of an all powerful being who is the antithesis and enemy of God. Some people view the Devil as an allegorical figure used in movie and literature. Others would say that the Devil's greatest trick has been convincing the world that he doesn't exist. Most people would not deny that evil is definitely at work in our world all the time. Socrates felt that evil was an absence of, or inability to do, good. Martin Luther bragged he could destroy the Devil with his farts.
Traditional imagery associated with The Devil in Tarot depicts a Horned Goat with batwings sitting on a throne, a couple is chained to his altar, or too him, by their necks or arms. The card is often associated with the concepts of emotional bondage, being stuck, co-dependence, obsession, seduction, addiction,lack of balance, fear, anxiety, doubt, excess, auto-eroticism, inability to be satisfied, greed, laziness, anger, envy, jealousy and lust. It speaks of how often these entanglements are of our own creation based on how we deal with guilt, shame and confusion based on past experiences of hurt, betrayal, abandonment and loss.
A stronghold is a heavily fortified position or fortress where people would gather for protection or safety. A stronghold is also any strong point or argument in which we trust or in which we are invested, a mind set. These strongholds are places we think are safe, but are most often prisons we have made for our self; no one comes in, no one gets out. Animals who are constantly kept in a barn, like horses or dairy cattle, are often barnstuck, if you let them out of the barn to roam, they won't move away from the barn. Animals in captivation, even if in a loving and nurturing environment, can lose their appetites, sleep cycle and desire to breed. They can become slow, sullen or aggressive. They have lost their natural cycle, their instinctive pattern on navigating life. We have built our own emotional cages. We are bound in the stronghold of our own past choices and experiences and this can be our downfall. We have forgotten that chains can be broken and locks have keys.
In Christianity, the Devil is a fallen angel, usually called Satan, who fell from grace when he would no longer obey God because human beings were given free will and angels were not. He committed apostasy and thought that his way was better than God's. He cares not for love, despises spirituality and rules wrongdoing, lies, spiritual death, addictions and all the forces that make people commit morally and physically evil acts. He is the King of Liars, The Prince of the Air and the Voice of Reason that leads us into rationalization and justification through blame and excuses. We must be wary of the Devil and his voice of reason. He tempts us, mocks us and prosecutes us before God for all our faults and shortcomings. The Devil and all his minions were divine in their origin and are still divine emanations and familiar spirits - something to remember if you think you are communicating with spirits.
In Sufism, emotional bondage or attachment, is a dominating energy that can be healed by Divine Awareness after conscious recognition. The emotional bondage is the cause of fear, resistance, hesitation, unwillingness, procrastination and skeptical attitudes which block our experience of the fullness of life and cuts us off from the Divine. It prevents us from experiencing joy. These negative emotional bonds are rooted and hidden in our past. Every one of these dominating energies is viewed as an act of frustration which has a responsible cause that is benevolent and healing in nature. The responsible cause must be brought into the present to be understood then released to allow appropriate behaviours to be restored.
Emotional bondage can result from chemical imbalances, mood and psychotic disorders, which interfere with our thought processes. For some people, it is treatable with medication. Some religions view emotional bondage as a demonization or harrassment by negative spirits that is only treatable by deliverance. Some emotional bondage is a result of psychological wounding, personality injury or feelings of woundedness, with resulting injury to our instincts that can only be treated by inner healing. Our instincts are fed by our knowledge and when damaged many things can go awry. We can have a lower capacity for happiness, say or do inappropriate things or substitute what we want from one person by attracting emotional responses from others. Everything is our fault or nothing is. We blame, make excuses, criticize and complain. We don't say what we mean or we don't mean what we say.
This is something that can happen to women once we have become wives, mothers and caregivers - putting everyone elses needs before our own. The repetitive patterns of mothering, marriage, housework, work and domestic issues can make us feel dull and robotic. We lose our ability to relate and to participate in community becuase we have withdrawn and become isolated. Our creativity is dulled or set aside and we become bored, depressed and anxious. Our inner guidance is skewed and off kilter. We are captured and we are stuck. We look at the man we couldn't wait to crawl all over a couple of years ago, and wish he would get up and move from one couch to the other couch, just so we know he still can. Sex becomes a job, chore. What was once pleasurable for us is now something to be avoided, sought for outside the primary relationship, or another form of abuse.
We also may not see deception, or catch onto lies, or we may be a liar. We don't speak of ourselves or we may never shut up. We may only say things that provoke and lure other people, or we may only say things that others will agree with. We don't take our selves seriously, tell others not to as well, or we take our selves far too seriously. We sacrifice our happiness for others and apologize for our existence. We may never say "no" or we may never say "yes". We might be emotionally needy or attract emotionally needy people. We are abused or the abuser; the victim or the victimizer; the bully, the bullied or the the bystander. We are angry or afraid of other people's anger. We may fear authority or consequences. We are probably swallowing our pain, hurt and anger. We may be manipulated by others for sex or we may be the manipulator. We might be extremely responsible or totally irresponsible. We might just be very deeply sad.
Many people struggle with addictions and their families can suffer even more. It doesn't matter what your addiction is - gambling, drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex - you are bound to this addiction and this addiction is bound to you. It is your choice to be addicted and it is your choice to use. It is also your choice to quit. I have always thought that the Devil's name should have been More. Addiction is a sign of great spiritual deprivation and hunger, you just can't get enough and never will. If life is unbearable without another drink, it is time to quit. If we can't put down the crack or meth pipe, it is because the addiction is stronger than our ability to lay it down. If you gamble, you are gambling with your future. If we overeat, we aren't satisfied. If we gossip, it is because we haven't learned to not wound with our tongue. Sexual relationships can be as intoxicating as they are toxic, but we will keep coming back for more. It is all about choice, we have to take back our power over what has enslaved us and own our part. We have to quit feeding harmful habits and negative emotional patterns. It is time to quit sucking on the Devil's dick.
These are powerful strongholds or mind sets, to come to terms with and we will defend them vigorously with forceful, stubborn arguments, rationalizations or silence. These ideas and feelings are comfortable and familar, we feel safe and protected because we trust that we know how to live this way - we know the rules. Feeling safe and protected is extremely seductive. We may even view these ideas as boundaries not bondage. To regain our emotional freedom we need to get ourselves unstuck - no easy task. We have to overcome our affection for material goods, deal with our addictions, quit liking the emotional cage, stimulate our creativity, not be held back by cultural or societal issues and pull ourselves out of boredom or learned behaviours. If we don't, anger will drive our life, desperation will be the fuel and one day we will just snap. Wouldn't it be better to snap these self-imposed shackles and chains and quit keeping ourselves a prisoner, bound in a stronghold. What do you think you deserve to have from life?