This is the seventh post in a series on the creation of Divination’s setting and magical universe as defined by the tarot. The first post in the series is Making a tarot-defined setting, and you can find the entire series linked at the bottom of each entry.
The Crooked Road (The Devil)
Direct Source: The Moon (Mentalism)
Practitioners: To themselves a million things—above all, free. To others they are heretics, predators, pariahs
Upright: Pursuit of Passion
Artists who seek complete freedom, including freedom from moral, emotional, or intellectual barriers of any kind. These Artists may have no restraint when it comes to using their gifts in pursuit of power.
The Way of Pain, which teaches its lessons and offers its rewards power for its own sake. The Crooked Road encourages its Artists to seek and seize what they want, without regard to demands of society or morality. This Road is equally capable of both cruelty and kindness; temptation and release. The Crooked Road is said to be the one that offers the greatest rewards and the harshest punishments. Its Artists are shunned for their calling. It is said that none who walk this Road can stay pure for long; sooner or later they end up predators and thieves, stealing the Art from others in lethal and brutal ways. These Artists are not trusted by Artists of any of the other Roads, but they share a special animosity with Artists on the Garden Road, who consider them to be fundamentally incompatible with Artistic society. While all other Artists call them “Predators,” they tend to think of themselves as the only remaining magicians who practice magic the way it used to be done: in a state of total freedom.
There is a law that goes above the laws of man. It’s a law of nature—the law of nature—and a concept we make the subject of constant discussion.
In its simplest, most base form, that law is: there is no law.
If someone robs you and gets away with it, does it matter that a law prohibiting that existed? The law couldn’t protect you. They got away with it.
Who did reality reward? If you can get away with subverting law, you can have anything you want.
That’s the real law, in application, right there.
It’s a law of nature that theft exists. It’s a law of nature that selfishness must be an option, in order for every other option to matter. Every being that thinks is subject to this law above all others. No legal-system law we craft and enact can contain this force; as soon as a law is crafted, there grows up a crime more elegant to subvert it.
Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t do it; only that this force of nature is merely suppressed and never defeated.
This law of selfishness is embodied in the Devil card. The Devil says: there is no law, so why not satisfy your needs? He appears to chain you, and for most, that’s what the Devil will do. He will rob you of your true freedoms, your right to serve others, your capacity to sacrifice. He will take your precious time.
An Artist in our world would be just as captive, but would see themselves as the ones holding the chains.
What sort of Artist would exist if shaped only by this law of nature? If their connection to the Art made them more animal than human after awhile; a being whose selfishness slipped past the boundaries of any society to check it?
Well, the other Artists would certainly hate that sort. The Art is just too powerful to trust in the hands of those who won’t bow to democratic law. As a matter of self-preservation, these law-of-nature Artists would be viewed as pariahs. Cannibals. Exiles and predators.
I could see some of these Artists gathering into terrible little cliques and covens, using oaths and the Art to trust one another enough to work together. I could also see lone wolves, blending into society, slowly amassing the tools both mundane and Artistic to use in pursuit of their prey.
But what might they prey upon?
Some might want the tools other Artists have amassed. Others might just want to use their Art to indulge themselves into oblivion. I think Divination is prepared to explore the personal nature of that urge better than other games, as the answer can be drawn from the players, from the table.
Discovering what the Devil wants you to ignore and how they want you to ignore it might turn out to make some really good stories, I thought.
It seemed that if the Devil was a force of nature (albeit perhaps an unpleasant one), The Moon was a natural place to lead. The Moon is an emblem of “the wild,” all the world outside human society; a world defined by the law of freedom as the Devil defines it.
Because the Moon is also a symbol of the deepest portions of the mind. Secrets revealed, fears, anxieties, and urges.
Mentalism, so vogue in early occult circles, felt like an expression of that natural law. It was envisioned like E.S.P., the ability to read minds and derive information. Folks that could read the image on a card by sensing the thoughts of the person looking at it.
Artists in Divination had to be more exciting than that. But doing more in the mind means offering a power with no ethical way to implement it.
What’s the justifiable way to use telepathy and mind control? The situations where you “freeze a bad guy” like Professor X are pretty few and far between in real life.
Would you resist getting yourself out of a completely valid speeding ticket by influencing the thoughts of the officer that pulled you over? Would you play fair with your competitors and not scan their thoughts to learn their motives and plans? Would you never taste the flavors of your partner’s thoughts?
Maybe there are Artists on the Crooked Road operating that way. Constantly offered the opportunity to get literally what they want from others, and refusing to use it. Trying to make the Crooked Road one they can find a way off of.
And maybe that too would be possible. This Road, more than any other, helped me see that Artists could get called by multiple Roads, as I think the Crooked Road sees itself as an option for all Artists at all times.
Always calling a little to all of them. Always saying: give in. Use your power for yourself. If you don’t, someone else surely is, and so you must.
The voice of selfishness cannot be contained.
>> Read the next post in this series: The Garden Road
Find the rest of the series here:
- Entry 1: Making a tarot-defined setting
- Entry 2: The Roads and Sources
- Entry 3: This game will teach you tarot
- Entry 4: The Road of Two Lands
- Entry 5: The Unwritten Road
- Entry 6: The Shivering Road
- Entry 7: The Crooked Road (this post)
- Entry 8: The Garden Road
- Entry 9: The Road of Scale and Blade
- Entry 10: The Road of the Infinite Loop
- Entry 11: Itinerant Artists
- Entry 12: The Esoteric Renaissance