The Hippopotamus in The Tarot
“The fifteenth Arcanum places before the aspirant the reminder that “the higher we climb, the harder we fall.” It pictures the spirit of evil which has been known by many names throughout world literature. Here he is represented with the body of a hippopotamus, head of a crocodile, great bat wings, and the feet of a goat. A serpent is seen emerging from the lower part of the body, indicative of the fact that all of his works are dedicated to evil. In one hand he holds aloft the scepter of destruction, in the other the scepter of division, confusion and hatred. Bound by chains to his feet are two human figures with goats’ heads, suggesting the depravity into which man may descend when he allies himself consciously with the forces of destruction.”
Corinne Heline, The Bible and the Tarot, pp.82-83. See more on CORINNE HELINE.
“Hippopotamus was still widely diffused in the Egyptian Nile Valley and Delta during the (late) predynastic period. Massive body and violent temper are the main aspects of this animal’s ambivalent symbolism: its size, aquatic habitat and protective behaviour with puppies originate the association of (female) hippos with motherhood, childbirth and prosperity (the scope of votive figurines) and, by extension, a more general apotropaic and prophylactic function (which accounts for the hippopotamus shaped vessels and palettes, apt to serve as containers or supports for the use of important cosmetic and medical substances). The dangerous nature, a tangible threat for humans and their cultivations, and the irritable disposition of male hippos, have generated the other aspect of its religious connotation, the wicked one, exemplified by the identification of hippopotami with the elements of chaos, evil, with the enemies of the king and, later on, with the god Seth. These latter beliefs had their highest expression in the hippopotamus ritual hunt, an apotropaic practice (and a concrete security measure) already performed by early Naqada period chiefs.”
Francesco Raffaele, Animal Rows and Ceremonial Processions in Late Predynastic Egypt. 2010 [Online] [Egypt]