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Angel or Devil?

February 19, 2014

The Horned God

By Madeline Montalban

In our study of the esoteric side of the Tarot, there is no doubt that book after book could be written about the Number 15 trump, usually called The Devil and, in olden days, The Horned God. Usually this trump is depicted as a Satanic figure seated on a throne, with a chained male and female figure on either side.

In a reading, the card is always associated with a vast and malign temptation that is difficult to resist and that will result in complete disaster if it is not resisted. It is said, in effect, to be the hand of the Devil in human affairs.

In many religions, the Devil was not considered to be an evil power. He was worshipped under the name of Set in the ancient Egyptian religions, and was not considered to be malign. Many Pharaohs bore his name, such as Seti 1st and 2nd, who were not evil rulers, and it was only the negative side of Set, called Typhon, that was regarded as a destroyer.

mm 15The Horned God, or No. 15 in the Tarot, has much to do with the passions and weaknesses of mankind, especially lust and greed. Of the two, the first is the greater destroyer and is associated with the ‘horned goat’ of Mendes. The goat is a very sexual animal, of prodigious appetites. Sexual desire in mankind can, at times, be so strong that it turns the victim into a self-destructive fool, unable to resist temptation even if the result must be his, or her, own downfall.

That is why, in our illustration taken from an old French book, you see the Homed God being worshipped by naked female figures. But, strangely, this does not signify that female lusts are the motif of No. 15, which conveys a far more significant message.

To understand it one must go back to biblical study, when it was said that the sons of heaven (certain angels) fell to earth and found the daughters of men so fair that they mated with them and produced a race of giants called the Titans. Regard this as legend if you wish, but bones and structures of giant beings have been found all over the world, and it is now held that the Titans did once exist, but passed rapidly away in the course of evolution.

The Head of the fallen angels was said to be that bright star, Lucifer, once Son of the Morning, the most beautiful angel in heaven. His cohorts lacked nothing in angelic attraction either, even if, in their ‘fallen’ aspect, they transgressed their angelic inheritance. Women, it is said, fell deeply under the sway of these beings, fell helplessly in love with them and became the mothers of their giant children. After which whole lives were spent, as Coleridge wrote, “By woman wailing for her demon lover”.

In other words, women have in their hearts an impossible ideal of masculine beauty and power, the inheritance of those memories of far-off days. But there were female fallen angels, too, and human men fell under their sway. The result is said to be that locked up in every man’s heart is the ideal of the ‘Impossible She’, his lover from the fallen angel planes, and in every woman an inner vision of the ‘Impossible He’.

No. 15 in the Tarot had a mystery which told us that every man and woman searches eternally for the impossible fulfillment of their passions and emotions; that falling in love, or even being infatuated, comes through meeting somebody who stirs this inner, half-forgotten memory, with the result that, for a time, the ordinary human man or woman they fall for seems to be the lost, angelic-infernal lover that is complete fulfilment.

The ashes of love
It is all a mirage, of course. The tinsel of the imagination is eventually purged in the furnace of passion, and then only ashes and ruin are left. This, then, is the basis of that ‘vast and malign temptation’ that is said to operate when any human being falls under the sway of the Devil, or No. 15 in the Tarot.

It is an impossible, unreal emotion, fired by ancient, half-forgotten memories, allied with human passions and the wish to meet the perfect mate.

No human being can answer this inner urge, this devilish, mystic surge of feelings, emotion and mystery but, for a time, some perfectly ordinary person of the opposite sex may seem to do so. It lies at the root of those devastating infatuations which can overwhelm either sex at times, rendering the victim forgetful of honour, truth and all the virtues in his pursuit of the impossible, since it is based on a desire to mingle with angelhood by physical alliance.

Psychiatrists tell us that every man wants an angel with a spice of the devil in her, just as women want a perfect man with a touch of the devil. One side of us wants love, to raise us to the heights, the other to permit us to explore the depths. That is the warning contained in No. 15 of the Tarot, in that card called The Devil or The Horned God, the mystery of the old-time association between mankind and the fallen angels.

Yet, in ancient scripts, the word ‘Horn’ also meant ‘Ray’. The Horned God was a Rayed God. Angelic beings, even when fallen, are ‘rayed’, so No. 15 is the ‘Rayed Fallen Power’; that adversary of mankind who fell to earth, and yet was said to hate mankind.

Why? Because many men and women, in time, learn to hate the very person with whom they were infatuated and who destroyed them; or rather, to hate themselves for having allowed the other person to do this to them.

Love, it is said, is blind. Lust is blind and deaf, and quite devoid of reason. It is a madness which keeps men and women in chains, which destroys through that vast and malign temptation which is hard to resist, and which can result in the flames of hell and self-torture upon earth.
[First published in Prediction, February 1967.]

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