The Magician: Meaning & Symbolism
In his hand the man holds the power of the universe. To him, all doors are open and filled with possibility. He has become one with the flow of creation. Clothed in red and white robes, his very appearance conveys mysteries otherwise unknown. But all may not be as it first appears. For who can fathom the great mysteries by sight and sight alone?
Keywords: Skill, Confidence In Ones Abilities, Willpower
Correspondences: Earth, Air, Mercury
As I’ve mentioned previously, The Magician is a difficult card to dissect. What is unmistakable however, is the theme of magic, or perhaps, witchcraft. The Magician embodies the ability to manifest, or create, whatever is wanted or needed. His is the knowledge of how to create the substantial from nothing. For this reason, The Magician is often perceived as knowing secrets. To some, this may also explain the more sinister interpretations of The Magician. People tend to be wary of others who keep or preserve secret knowledge. Nothing about The Magician then, is easy to discern, as even the more obvious aspects of the card seem to have different interpretations.
Even the elemental or planetary correspondences of this card are subject to debate. Some feel that The Magician is linked to Air, while others feel that Elemental Earth is more appropriate. Personally, I really appreciated Holistic Tarot‘s notes on the subject. So, to me at least, I agree with the position of associating The Magician with Elemental Earth. This is a personal reason, and somewhat counter-intuitive to my previous viewpoint. However, for what it is worth, Hermes, who is often linked to Mercury, has aspects of both Elemental Air and Elemental Earth. Choosing one over the other won’t impact your ability to keep both. Furthermore, Holistic Tarot adds an even better argument for associating The Magician with Elemental Earth.
According to Benebell Wen’s book, Holistic Tarot, The Magician’s clothing is highly significant. The Magician’s robes actually signify those worn by the Knights Templar. This is an interesting explanation, as the Knights Templar are rumored to have discovered the secret knowledge within Christianity. In this case, probably the Ark of the Covenant. Whether you believe that or not, The Magician’s ties to the Knights Templar could also explain the connection to Elemental Earth. The Knights Templar is said to be a secretive organization by outsiders, and as such, contains many of the mystery elements embodied by both The Magician and Elemental Earth. To me, the Elemental Earth correspondence works well considering the card’s overall symbolism.
When delving into the symbols of The Magician, one can truly get lost. At times, it is best to pick a few and come back. For me, there is one symbol I notice with The Magician, that of the infinity symbol, or lemniscate. There’s mixed definitions on what this symbol stands for. Some believe it stands for spiritual enlightenment, while others believe, like I do, that it symbolizes the enduring power of the spirit. This symbol goes quite well with The Magician, especially considering the secret knowledge he has learned. Another symbol that is unmistakable and similar in theme is that of the four suit objects on the table. These stand for The Magician’s ability to manifest into reality. These are the tools of his trade, and they contain all the resources of the Minor Arcana.
Other prominent symbols may be the ourboros, or snake eating its own tail, belt. This is similar to the lemniscate and can symbolize eternity. There is also the overwhelming presence of flowers, which tend to represent beauty, goodness, and virtue. Roses in some Occult Philosophies can also symbolize a secret knowledge. The roses then would contrast the lilies, which stand for purity. The environment The Magician creates then, is one of goodness, surprising femininity (in the classical sense), and eternality. The Magician stance even alludes to this, as his stance symbolizes the ‘as above so below’ doctrine or idea. This states that what happens above happens also below. The ‘as above so below’ is deemed by many to be the source of creation in our material realm.
With most of the symbolism and correspondences out of the way, we can discuss one of the most complex correspondences of The Magician. If one correspondence summed up The Magician, it is that to the Hebrew letter, Beth. What makes the letter Beth so important is its connection to creation. Rachel Pollack in her book, Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom, is quick to point out that Beth is the first letter of Genesis. She also likens the energy of Beth to that of the ‘descent of the spirit’ phenomenon in the Bible. The similarities are beautifully illustrated, and ultimately, make clear Rachel Pollack’s vision of The Magician as a lightening rod. Energy flows through The Magician, and it is that energy that demands release and ultimately creates.
All of the symbolism within The Magician card can be confusing. It’s interesting to note how similar many of the overall themes are though. Even so, The Magician remains a complex card. Taking a big step back, I think I have to admit that The Magician means many different things to many different people. An overall card meaning may be a bit too much to tackle. However, I do think that sharing personal insights will help others find their own definition for The Magician. To that interest, I offer the following definition of The Magician when it shows up in a tarot reading. Keep in mind though, card meanings often change or depend on the significance of where the card is within a particular reading. Even good cards can be interpreted negatively in a specific spread.
When The Magician shows up in a reading, you’re almost guaranteed to experience a surge in energy. This energy is often a creative drive, perhaps even a clear and passionate one. Much of The Magician is focused on positive creation, or manifesting our deepest wants in connection with the divine. What The Magician offers is a lasting investment, a gateway to a deeper understanding. There is a deeper meaning, a secret interpretation to what you’ve just seen. The Magician offers to not only disclose such secrets, but to fill you with how to use them. This is the energy bubbling up inside. This is energy of The Fool channeled into something productive, and it brings success with it.