'Why the Hell Would You Put Your Own Image on the Devil Card?'

Tarot deck creators are sometimes drawn to put their own image on a card in their deck. I strongly identified with this archetypal figure who, in my life has played the roles of perpetrator, protector, demon and guide. This spirit has given me the toughest lessons but has also led me down the path towards wholeness and inner peace. In this article I will share my story and the reasons why I am found on the Devil card in my deck, Transformational Tarot.

Like many women I've befriended or worked with in a therapeutic setting, I was scarred early on by all manner of abuse. My strict, Catholic upbringing just added more fuel to the fire. Too young to comprehend the dualistic nature of this religion, (the 'Madonna/Whore' model, a case in point), I was caught between extreme roles imposed upon my gender, and a belief system that I was forbidden to question. My first encounters of a sexual nature were forced upon me. These experiences left me with a feeling of shame. My religion seemed to reinforce a belief that I had somehow brought this degradation upon myself.

From the age of 13, I began to experience a recurring nightmare in which the Devil would come to my bed to seduce me. In this scenario, I was forced to make a choice between having a climactic encounter or refusing his advances. The rapture would invariably be followed by a feeling of spiraling down into the fiery pits of Hell. I would wake up in a cold sweat, fearing for the plight of my soul. If I refused, I'd awaken with a feeling of deep longing that would last until the dreamy residue of morning wore off. I experienced this dream countless times over a span of 15 years.

Meanwhile in my experience with the opposite sex, I learned quite young that relationships were about power and control, and sex - my greatest weapon. A persona, whom I later named 'Spider Woman', began to emerge. She would make her presence known in situations where I felt fearful and protective of my sensitive nature. And she was tough. She could be cold, calculating and seductive. A predator who preyed on the weakness of men. In the role of Spider Woman, I felt invulnerable, as if I could never be hurt by love again.

Weary of the game by the age of 20, I married a Japanese man who, once we relocated to his native land, made it his mission to eradicate Spider Woman and all her sensual and creative powers. This was no way for a lady and the future mother of his sons to behave. Modest, soft spoken and reserved was more appropriate behavior. And so Spider Woman retreated with the understanding that I would be cared for and protected. I had gone to Japan with nothing but a suitcase and a fairy tale dream of an idyllic life far removed from the nightmare I was leaving behind. My new husband was wealthy, educated and influential in the community, a King of Coins who held all the cards. True, I did live a fairy tale existence but it was not the one I had imagined for myself. And although we built the high-rise Tower in which we dwelled, we Tarot folks know what that card represents. After nine years of marriage and trying to conform to a lifestyle opposed to every natural instinct within me, I began to feel more and more the trap closing in. I had given up my soul to the wrong Demon. And once again Spider Woman reared her angry, vengeful head with the wrath of Kali, to shake me from the death-like sleep of my sensuality and creative fires.

Once I moved back to the States, I began the slow process of reclaiming my spirit. I began to study psychology, women's history and art therapy. A shift began to occur, not only in my understanding of myself and the rich history of women's spirituality, but also in how I expressed myself creatively and connected with both women and men. I had by this time been studying Tarot for many years and, and considered myself Pagan. But this did not deter the Devil who kept up his nighttime vigilance with a persistence that would put Don Juan to shame.

Then one fateful night, when the Devil once again visited my dreams, it suddenly dawned on me that he could be a great ally. By trying to live solely in the light , I was cut off from my own understanding of my dark side and what I had experienced those many years ago. Spider Woman had been protecting me from the pain so well that I had become numbed to it. I was unable to confront and move past my sorrow or feel anything beyond the rage it evoked. But the Devil invited me to visit the dark terrain of the mind and explore the pit of pain and confusion (where many of my clients also dwelled). By making peace with the shadow that resides in us all, I would be better armed to face my fears. I would be free to explore both the dark and the light to find answers and solace. That was the last time that I had this dream. I still rely on Spider Women's spirit for guidance but as a force for cathartic, creative expression and to fuel my commitment to fighting social injustice.

On my Devil card, I have depicted myself in the guise of Spider Woman, who has a man entangled in a web beneath her. To the right of this image is the stereotypical Devil of my dreams, ravishing women and feeding off their illusions, in much the same manner as Spider Woman did with her men. Directly below these two images is a fiery, red beast; the raw uninhibited 'id'. And lastly, pictured in the bottom corner is a gargoyle, representing an intimidating figure who appears to be fierce and forbidding, but whose true nature is to watch over and protect that which is vulnerable.

1996 Arnell Ando