Once The Fool begins his journey into the unknown, the next step on the road to Enlightenment in represented by the Magician. The Magician — sometimes called the Magus — is perhaps the most recognizable card in Tarot; it’s even the cover image on the classic yellow box for the Rider-Waite Tarot, which is the first deck for many readers. Most renditions of the Magician feature the symbols of all the suits, which are classically grounded in ceremonial magick or alchemical practices. Associated with the number 1, the Magician is a card of pure potential and pure personal power.
In the classic Rider-Waite (or Rider-Waite-Smith) deck, the Magician looks like this:
Who is The Magician?
It’s worth taking a moment to ask exactly who the Magician is. In contemporary Western culture, we often associate the title of magician with stage magic, sleight of hand, trickery, and even what is dismissively called “magical thinking.” (Note: I use the spelling magick to denote occult and spiritual practices, and magic to indicate stage magic and sleight of hand.) From this perspective, it’s easy to see the Magician as a card of delusion and self-deception. However, if we think of the Magician within the occult tradition in which Tarot is grounded, we get a very different view.
The Magician in this view and worldview is truly the master of all — he has the tools at his disposal and the knowledge to use them to bend the Universe to his Will. This is great power and comes with great responsibility, as is so often the case. The Magician invites us to recognize that we hold within us all we need to manifest our highest ambitions and our fondest dreams. It also reminds us to wield that power with discernment — a key aspect of any magickal practice is knowing when not to wield magickal power as well as when it is appropriate to do so. The Magician is ultimately self-reliant; he is able to draw on his own inner resources, skill, learning, and external resources to create reality. He is a wealth of arcane knowledge. I like to think of the Magician as more John Dee than David Blaine, if you will.
When the Magician appears in a reading, it is a message that it is time to find your inner power and draw on that infinite well. You have everything you need to make the life you want or to transform the situation. The Magician often shows up when we are feeling unsure of our power, or when we are breaking free from old stories about what we should or should not be or do. The Magician may also show up when it is time for you to “level up” in some ways — to move from novice to initiate or initiate to adept, whether in a literal hierarchy or in a metaphorical sense. The Magician can also be an invitation to look at creative ways to solve a problem, and is an affirmation that you are doing everything just as you should — all is falling into place because you are doing the next right thing, then the next, then the next.
Finally, the Magician is an invitation for you to see the magick in the world around you. This might mean literally taking up spiritual, occult, or magickal studies. It may also be the cards encouraging you to look at the world around you with fresh eyes or to approach your life with what in Buddhist philosophy is known as “Beginner’s Mind” — a sense that everything is a new experience that has something to teach us, no matter how many times we may have engaged in an activity before. This perspective speaks to me, and is perhaps why my favorite rendition of the Magician is from Kris Waldherr’s Goddess Tarot, where the Magician is re-envisioned as Magic/Isis. (Come back tomorrow for an exploration of this version of the Magician!)