There are some fascinating discussions that have already gone on in other areas (check out Aeclectic Tarot’s discussion board for instance) about the parallels.
There are many interpretations of these cards and, depending on how they come up they can mean a great many different things. When seen together there is important insight in their reflective similarity and their polarity to one another.
In much of my work I see these two symbols as the motivations in human relationships. The Lovers being the transformational side of love that “lifts us up where we belong”, and the Devil being the obsessional, fear based side. More simply put, I often refer to them together as “attraction and distraction”.
A healthy relationship (not just romantically but on so many levels) helps us discover there is so much more to ourselves and we want to share that. A fear based relationship is where we are desperately seeking in another and avoiding our selves at the same time. I notice a lot of people (and at times I’ve been in this state myself) that aren’t so much afraid of being alone but don’t want to be stuck with themselves. Seeking fulfilment in another while avoiding ourselves is a dangerous trap. We tend to focus on the most distracting person in the room and, chances are if they respond, they are in the same state themselves. This isn’t sharing, this is dangerous role-playing where our fears and insecurities are getting the best of us.
Learning the difference between these motivations is part of everyone’s life journey and it doesn’t just manifest romantically. We can choose situations where there is a motivation of growth or a motivation of fear. Sometimes when the devil card comes up in a reading it is time for these things to be faced and confronted. To see where fear has been manipulating us and to release that. Although it is not a pretty card, it is a necessary symbol of what has not been good for us being brought to light. We can be free of it and this is often a first step. I liken it a lot to discovering our allergies.
There is a card that stands between these two that is part of that sorting out:Temperance is where we slow down and look at what is behind our instinctive drives and see where they have gone off-course. Some say that all instinct has a divine source but we often get misdirected in it’s fulfillment. If the devil card is about temptation ruled by fear, temperance is the ability to see the healthy side of instinct and to move it towards the liberating quality of the Lovers.
The poet Dante in his “Divine Comedy”, wrote of a gaurdian angel (Virgil) that watches over him as he seeks through hell, purgatory and finally paradise. I believe this is the higher awareness that is working with us as me move through our fears toward freedom.