July 14, 2024
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The Magician in Tarot

The Many Faces of the Magician in Tarot Cards

Tarot decks have exploded in numbers since the 1980s, with numerous new decks being published each year by traditional publishers as well as custom decks being developed by individuals and self-published.  This new series will look at the cards of the Tarot deck and their many different visual representations.

This article will look at The Magician, which is the number I card of the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards.  He represents the first step towards knowledge and the choices that shape our lives.

The Magician, the Meaning of the Card

The Fool is the protagonist of the narrative that is taking the journey through the Major Arcana and the four suits of the Minor Arcana.  Think of each card as a chapter in a story. The main story is the Fool’s journey through the Major Arcana, beginning with the Magician and ending with the World.  The Magician represents paths and choices, the intersection of fate (paths) and free will (crossroads, where choices can be made).

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Each subsequent card is a karmic, moral, or archetypical lesson for the Fool until he or she arrives at the World, which is the culmination of a significant learning cycle.  The Magician is most often depicted as a figure standing at an intersection or behind a workbench with the four symbols of the four suits somewhere on the card.

The intersection represents choice and free will while the paths represent fate and the consequences of our choices. The workbench represents the surface where work is done using the symbols as tools. The four symbols represent the tools we use to make our decisions.  Sometimes we make choices emotionally (the cups), sometimes practically (pentacles), sometimes spiritually (wands), and sometimes logically (swords).  The Magician has all four at his disposal to address a choice or a problem.

The Magician mostly relates to the development of the mind and is sometimes understood as a practical scholar, a medicine man, a scientist, and an inventor.  If you happen to be old enough and a fan of the 1980s popular television, you might remember a TV show entitled MacGyver that ran for 7 seasons.  It was reimagined in 2016 and is currently showing on CBS.

The lead character for the show Angus MacGyver is “resourceful and possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of the physical sciences, he solves complex problems by making things out of ordinary objects, along with his ever-present Swiss Army knife, duct tape, and occasionally matches” (wiki).  This fictional character is a modern depiction of The Magician from the Tarot.

Traditional Images

Rider-Waite (1910)

The Magician tarot card Rider Waite

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Source Wikimedia

Bembo-Visconti Tarot (15th Century)

The Magician tarot card Bembo-Visconti tarot

Source Wikimedia

Modern Images

Magician tarot card modern images 1

Magician tarot card modern images 2

Same Meaning but Renamed

Magician Tarot Card Same Meaning but Renamed

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As you can see, many of the cards consistently show an image of someone making a choice, working with the symbolic tools, and performing a magical ritual. The Crow’s Magic card uses the bird in flight as a metaphor for the connection between earth (the animal) and air (spirit).  The Osho Zen card depicts a woman contemplating her place and connection to the solar system.

If You Draw This Card in a Reading

If you happen to draw the card in a reading, regardless of the question and subject, you will be “asked” to make a choice and/or solve a problem.  Perhaps your question is, “should I stay in my marriage?” You draw the Magician. Each circumstance will be different and the Magician may be telling you that you need to figure out a way to stay in your marriage or get out of it.  You may need to address a particular issue and figure out the best solution by taking each tool/symbol/energy into account.

What are the emotional issues in the marriage and how is emotion used and interpreted by both people? What is the practical status of the marriage; are you in debt, flourishing financially, enjoying a great sex life, or stuck in celibacy? Are you still inspired by your relationship; is it still an adventure or does it need one to relight the flame with a spark of some kind? Do you understand one another and communicate easily or do you need a negotiator to help you order pizza together?

Tarot cards rarely give a single answer because people asking the question are radically different, as are their circumstances.  Often hidden in the simplicity of the question is an important context, such as, “my marriage is broken and how do I fix it?”  or “I want to escape this marriage and how do I hide money and get the right lawyer?” or “what choices do I need to make if I plan to stay in this marriage to ensure a happy return on my investment?”

And in each of those cases, the Magician will be saying, “there is an answer and it will have certain consequences; try your best to see all the paths so you make the best decision”.  Karmically and spiritual speaking there is an answer that may not reveal itself immediately, but you cannot wait.

There is an urgency to act with this card, to decide. Whatever the question and interpretation of the answer, the Magician does tap into one consistent energy, critical thinking.  The Fool learns that decisions must be made or they will be made for him; life does not stand still.

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