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Meaning of the Tarot card The Magician

Description and symbolism

Some frequent keywords are:

Action ----- Consciousness ----- Concentration ----- Personal power

Practicity ----- Energy ----- Creativity ----- Movement

Precision ----- Conviction ----- Manipulation ----- Self confidence

Being objective ----- Focusing ----- Determination ----- Initiative

A youthful figure in the robe of a magician, having the countenance of divine Apollo, with smile of confidence and shining eyes. Above his head is the mysterious sign of the Holy Spirit, the sign of life, like an endless cord, forming the infinity symbol. About his waist is a serpent-cincture, the serpent appearing to devour its own tail (ouroboros). This is familiar to most as a conventional symbol of eternity, but here it indicates more especially the eternity of attainment in the spirit. In the Magician's right hand is a wand raised towards heaven, while the left hand is pointing to the earth. This dual sign is known in very high grades of the Instituted Mysteries; it shows the descent of grace, virtue and light, drawn from things above and derived to things below. The suggestion throughout is therefore the possession and communication of the Powers and Gifts of the Spirit. On the table in front of the Magician are the symbols of the four Tarot suits, signifying the elements of natural life, which lie like counters before the adept, and he adapts them as he wills. Beneath are roses and lilies, the flos campi and lilium convallium1, changed into garden flowers, to show the culture of aspiration.


In the so-called "Marseilles" woodcut images that precede the overlay of occult imagery of the 19th century, The Magician is identified as Le Bateleur ('The Wand-user'), and is represented as a stage magician rather than a figure of real power. The 18th-century woodcuts apparently reflect earlier iconic representations and can be compared to the free artistic renditions in 15th-century hand-painted tarots, many made for the Visconti and Sforza families. Later occultist images have read curves of the magician's hatbrim in this image as the mathematical sign for infinity and have added other symbolisms, in accordance with changing taste. The essentials shown here (illustration, left) are that the magician has set up a temporary table outdoors, on which are displayed items that represent the suits of the Minor Arcana: Cups,

Coins, Swords (as knives). The fourth, the baton (Clubs) he holds in his hand. Interpretation

Kabbalistic Approach

This card signifies the divine motive in man, reflecting God, the will in the liberation of its union with that which is above. It is also the unity of individual being on all planes, and in a very high sense it is thought, in the fixation thereof. With further reference to the "sign of life" and its connection with the number 8, it may be remembered that Christian Gnosticism speaks of rebirth in Christ as a change "unto the Ogdoad." The mystic number is termed Jerusalem above, the Land flowing with Milk and Honey, the Holy Spirit and the Land of the Lord. According to Martinism, 8 is the number of Christ. In other traditions this card can refer to scholarly knowledge. The Fool (card 0) has now learnt something and now sees themselves as powerful. Perhaps the reputation of the Magician is derived from the Fool misunderstanding what is happening while the High Priestess (the next card) is looking back thinking the Magician is missing the point of spiritual knowledge.

Mythopoetic Approach

Some schools associate him with Hermes, especially Hermes Trismegistus, a syncretic Egyptian/Greek figure that came from combining Hermes and Thoth, a god of the moon, knowledge, and writing. In this aspect, The Magician guides The Fool through the first step out of the cave of childhood into the sunlight of consciousness, just like Hermes guides Persephone out of the Underworld every year. He represents the potential of a new adventure, chosen or thrust upon one. A journey undertaken in daylight, in the Enlightenment Tradition. He brings things out of the darkness into the light. He explores the world in order to master it. He is solar consciousness. He's associated through the cross sums (the sum of the digits) with Key 10, The Wheel of Fortune (Tarot card), picking up on Hermes as a Trickster figure and a god of chance, and Key 19, The Sun, bringing us back to Apollo and to Enlightenment. He embodies the lesson of "as above so below." The lesson that mastery in one realm may bring mastery in another. He also warns of the danger of applying lessons from one realm to another. In the Rider-Waite-Smith card, he is crowned with the lemniscate, the infinity sign. He transcends duality. He's learned the fundamental elements of the universe, represented by emblems of the four suits of the tarot already broken apart and laying on the table before him. Similarly, in the Book of Thoth deck, he is crowned by snakes, another symbol of both infinity and dualism, as snakes have learned from Gilgamesh how to shed their skins and be reborn, thus achieve a type of immortality, and blind Tiresias split apart coupling snakes and as a result became a woman, thus transcending the dualism of gender. When this card appears in a tarot reading it can mean a manipulator is floating around. Hopefully, he's a beneficent guide, but he does not necessarily have our best interests in mind. He may also represent the Querant's ego or self awareness. He can also represent the intoxication of power, good and bad.

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