Addiction Cards in the Tarot Deck
We normally think of addiction as being represented singularly by the ol’ devil card. Traditionally, this card represents fear, anger, worry, all unproductive thoughts and emotions, suppression, obsession, bondage, hedonism, unconsciousness, negativity, relinquishment of personal power, attachments, hopelessness, darkness, vice over virtue, and addictions.
There is a saying that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t, and that maybe so. There is comfort in familiarity, even if it is an unhealthy pattern. In the devil card we see this beast who seems to have dominion over the animalistic side of human nature as represented by these two feminine and masculine archetypal figures. The interesting aspect about this card however, is that in order to get here, it was first a choice made from the people. The good news is although they put themselves in this situation, they can also remove themselves. As you can see, the chains around their necks are not snug. They are loose, and there is always a way out of this.
Although it receives the most notoriety, the Devil is not the only card in the deck that represents vice over virtue. We can see it in these other less commonly talked about cards:
The 7 of cups is seen here as this shadowy figure, because he has not yet reached the light of enlightenment, awareness and higher consciousness. He is quite literally, “in the dark”. His options are unclear, although he has many in front of him. There is a sense of delusion and confusion that this card represents. It is possible that his drug or alcohol addiction has him in a position where he can’t see things clearly and he is in a fog. We see the smoke around him, which could be a hint that there is some sort of chemical dependence. He is possibly high. And we also see him reaching for these cups all around him, which could be indicating a compulsion for drinking. Sadly, in this card, he no longer seems to have a choice, and what was once a form of what could be a circumstance of escapism, has now consumed him. He wants to make the right choice but either doesn’t know how, or can’t see it clearly. He may be a lost soul.
Oftentimes, I learn some alternative meaning of the cards through personal practice and experimentation. I also have learned different ways of viewing a traditional card meaning through hindsight and plain observation. For example, I was staring out the window while mindlessly drawing cards just to keep my hands busy as I was waiting for an appointment. I saw a man across the lot go outside to smoke a cigarette. At that moment, I looked down to find that I had pulled the King of Swords and the 10 of cups as he was feeding his addiction. It is a darker, lesser known aspect of the King of Swords character that he is an addict. Not always, as he has lots more attractive attributes, but this is one thing that I have come to know over time. He falls on his sword by self-undoing, and by cutting himself.
The 10 of cups card is full of joy, celebration, and happiness. It is an all-consuming, feel-good card that depicts the element of complete satisfaction and perfection. Things may be almost too perfect. The figures dancing under the rainbow represents a euphoric utopia of paradise and elation. This is a living dream that can only last so long here in this human reality, because as we know, not everything can be good all the time, it’s just not realistic. I see this card as a secondary addiction card, either just after the high has set in and there is a rush of euphoria, or there are many, many drinks being consumed in this moment. We don’t know what tomorrow will look or feel like, we just see the characters dancing and frolicking in a meadow. It is even possible that they could be tripping on a psychedelic drug causing an altered-awareness. One thing that is interesting to note is that addictions are often times either hereditary or modeled by a parent. We see the small children to the right as miniature versions of the grown adults to the left, indicating that this addiction could have familial roots. We do also see a tiny home in the background.
Addiction cards can be seen as showing the immediate payoff of pleasure with long-term consequence of dependence, and many undesirable side-effects.
One of my favorite expressions is that “life is like licking honey off of a thorn”.