Cards for the Day: R’d Devil/R’d Queen of Swords: Self-Critics Step In to Keep Us on Our Paths

Gulp. The Devil reversed is a hard card to interpret, especially combined with another reversed card (Queen of Swords). But these two cards literally flew out of the deck at me today! So let’s give it a whirl.

The Devil is supposed to stand for bad habits and addictions. This card looks much like The Lovers card, but here something is amiss: what should be freely offered, freely accepted has become a form of bondage, and our lovers are chained. In place of an angel watching over the lovers, here we have a horned demon. Yet our lovers are basically okay, and the chains are loose — it seems as though they could slip out of these chains at any time. Turned upside-down, it seems that the chains will slip off. Will free will be restored, and will the lovers be able to progress on their paths again?

Why does a card related to addiction, which seems to be an individual’s problem, have lovers on it? My feeling is that we always need help in overcoming addictions — and the most effective help will come from the people who love us — meaning love not just for the potential of what could be if the addiction is overcome, but love for the addicted person as that person is, whether or not he/she manages to overcome the addiction. If no such person is stepping forward, the struggle to overcome the addiction will have to rely on self-love.

Where does the Queen of Swords enter this picture? Somehow she is appearing to me today as a therapist — someone many of us resist turning to, who might have the job of pointing out some of the things we’d rather not have pointed out, things that make us uncomfortable to think about. Some readers describe the reversed Queen of Swords as “bitchy,” but I’m not sure that she’s being bitchy here, today — I think we may just not want to hear what she has to say. But if we want to overcome those addictions, whatever they may be, or form good habits to replace bad ones, we may have to listen to the Queen of Swords. We may not have a therapist to turn to, but many of us have a Queen of Swords in our lives somewhere — or failing that, an inner Queen of Swords who acerbically points out our failings and advises us to remedy them. She may be our inner self-critic. These days people often worry about self-criticism, but self-criticism can be a useful tool for self-improvement. Don’t toss her aside just because we live in a feel-good era — we need her help to keep us on our paths, and to help us find the path again when we stray from it.

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