The Devil and “A Passion for Clothes”

Inspired by The Fairytale Tarot, which illustrates 78 different fairytales from around the world, I revisited my anthologies of Jewish folktales. I found the story, “A Passion for Clothes” by Y.L. Peretz to perfectly reflect the theme of The Devil Card.

The Devil card can symbolize playfulness and fun, the appreciation of material and sensual pleasures. But The Devil card also warns that overindulgence in this realm can distract us from the truth, with the resulting ignorance leading to oppression. There is an additional lesson to be learned from the man and woman in the card who seem to have accepted or become accustomed to their enslavement and are unwilling or unaware of their ability to remove the loose chains from around their necks.

The Devil

Below is my retelling of “A Passion for Clothes.” A full version can be found in Great Tales of the Jewish Occult and Fantasy, compiled, and translated by Joachim Neugroschel.

Once upon a time there was a Jewish woman named Bashe Gitel who enraged Satan because she was so virtuous. He made it his mission to turn her into a compulsive shopper.

He came to her in the guise of the Good Spirit and suggested that she would do God a great honor by buying a new dress for the Passover holiday. Besides, he said, giving the tailor a chance to earn a little money before the holiday would be a good deed. So Bashe Gitel scrimped a little on her holiday donation to the poor and prepared a less extravagant holiday meal than usual so she could buy a new dress.

Then Shavuoth came along, the holiday commemorating the day that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and Satan reminded Bashe Gitel that this was an even more important holiday and suggested a new necklace. With each holiday that passed, Bashe Gitel added to her wardrobe and accessories, and when Satan pointed out that Bashe Gitel was neglecting the Sabbath, her purchases became weekly.

It was easy for Satan to convince Bashe Gitel that she should have more gems. Rubies would help her in childbirth, an emerald would turn cloudy if she had a sinful thought and therefore keep her honest and pious, and sapphires would give her the wisdom she needed to help her figure out her finances, which was becoming an increasing problem.

Soon, no amount of money could appease Bashe Gitel’s insatiable desire for jewels and clothing. She stopped giving money to charities, and even sent her sons to less expensive teachers. She also fired her maid and tricked an orphan into working for her for free.

One day she discovered that there were food stains and rips and tears on her finest silk. She accused the orphan of borrowing her clothes and wearing them out at night. She humiliated her in front of the whole community and ran her out of town.

As it turned out, it was demons who had soiled her clothes. For when a woman has too many dresses and neglects her duty to clothe the poor with the old ones, demons will take them at night and wear them to their feasts.

* * *

Exercises for reflection:

  • Is there a little devil in you who talks you into overindulging? Go through your deck and choose a card that illustrates the devil in you. Find another that represents the part of you that knows when you need to treat yourself or live it up a little and when you are being too extreme or getting out of control.
  • Find a card that represents the chain about your neck and another that shows you how to remove it.

* * *

llustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

One Response to “The Devil and “A Passion for Clothes””

  1. A Compilation of Tarot Table Talk Exercises « Tarot Table Talk Says:

    […] The Devil and “A Passion for Clothes,” 4/15/07 […]

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