Saturday 2 January 2016

Capricorn in the DruidCraft Major Arcana – Cernunnos and The Devil

Capricorn brings us to The Devil – but why? What’s the link between the two? And why, in the DruidCraft Tarot, do we have Cernunnos representing the Devil?

Let’s start with the two questions – what links Capricorn and the Devil?  Capricorn is often seen as a goat, or part-goat, part-fish (for more on this, see my Capricorn post here). Goats have come to symbolize sexuality in many mythologies – for instance, Pan, the Greek goat-god, who was linked to the idea of ‘wild desire’.  In northern European traditions, we have the Horned God, representing nature and sensuality. Throughout the ages, though, the goat has also become almost synonymous with the Devil, supposedly representing temptation and giving in to our desires.   With Capricorn being an Earth sign, the references to sensuality and physical desire can be extended to material desires. So when we come across the Devil in the tarot, we’re reminded about what’s overpowering or obsessive, the things we try to suppress or deny. It can represent not only temptation, but also surrender – and reminds us that we have the power within us to keep our feet on the ground!  

Cernunnos: DruidCraft Tarot (trimmed)
The creators of the DruidCraft have chosen to break with this tradition, though.  Card XV depicts Cernunnos, the Lord of Animals, the wild Hunter, the Herdsman, the Horned God, standing in a forest grove.  At his feet lie the two lovers we saw in card VI, asleep.

In more traditional images we usually see the Devil-goat symbolizing the material world to which the figures have voluntarily chained themselves – there are chains around their necks but those chains aren’t tight, and the figures’ hands are not restricted. They are not slaves to external forces or events but only to their own desires and illusions.  In choosing to use Cernunnos to represent The Devil, the deck’s creators turn the focus of the card more towards the need to accept responsibility for our instincts and how we act on them - for our desires, be they sexual or material. Yes, there is still a warning again obsession, but by drawing on Cernunnos as representative of the raw force of Nature and our ‘animal’ instincts, they also remind us to respect that force and to be responsible for how we use it, both socially and environmentally.

That’s where I see Capricorn coming into play here.  Capricorn is an Earth sign, so we have both the earthiness of the material and sexual realms represented. It’s also a Cardinal sign – the ‘go-getter’ energy, the initiator. Capricorn stands for integrity (a Saturnian concept, with Saturn being the ruler of Capricorn) as well as ambition - but ambition in a practical, tenacious, business-like sense.  With that comes the ability to take on responsibility, to ensure that respect is paid where it’s due.  On the ‘shadow’ side then, it can appear as greed or lack of respect or integrity.

The creators write, in the accompanying book to this deck, of the need to “integrate and channel” our instincts, this life-force, rather than repress it, so that we can be happy, healthy, and creative in “appropriate and responsible ways” – with Saturnian integrity, in other words. So once again, although this deck was not designed with astrology in mind, I can certainly see how Capricornian qualities relate to Cernunnos in this incarnation as The Devil.

Druidcraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections 2004

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