“The real secret of magic lies in the performance.”
- David Copperfield
Associations / Attributions
Card Meanings / Keywords
Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft, cunning.
Skill, diplomacy, subtlety. Self-confidence, will. Reversed: Mental disease, disgrace, disquiet.
Skill, wisdom, craft, cunning, deceit. Messages, business transactions, learning or intelligence.
Initiation, individualism, ideas, abstraction.
The magician is a trickster and master of illusion. Like the figure of Le Bateleur (the Juggler/Street Performer) from Continental decks, he is an adept in the art of sleight-of-hand and redirecting attention. Much like the Fool, the Magician has a dual sort of character. On the one hand, he is a trickster and entertainer skilled in the art of deception, especially when addressing more mundane matters. He can lie, cheat, and steal to get what he wants, and uses his tools to do just that. He is a master of illusion that has a real consequence–the tricks at his table bring him money, power, objects of desire, and fame (or infamy).
On a deeper level, the Magician juggles the four elemental tools in perfect balance and thus holds the keys to all manifestation. The use of his tools is his greatest trick—he must fool himself into seeing and believing that which is not yet apparent is indeed manifest. The power of his imagination brings about novelty and excitement into the world and allows for passage between worlds. Like any trickster figure, depending on how he is approached he can be a great ally and guide or an obstacle and guardian that challenges the wits of a traveler. When this card appears in a reading, look at how skill or cunning (for better or worse) may be at play in the situation.
The western esoteric tradition has a long history of being connected to the image of Hermes, a god with many associations including swift travel, communication, trickery, and magic. It should come to little surprise, then, when this card is associated with astrological Mercury, the Roman analog of the Greek Hermes. In the magical imaginations of certain magicians in the early common era, Hermes also became associated (if not identified directly) with the Egyptian Tehuti (Thoth), a god of knowledge and magic. This card, then, has a special prominence among those who wish to explore modern tarot in terms of magic as it provides an entry point into bringing the unmanifest into manifestation swiftly and with skill. The Magician can be seen as an inverse process to that of the High Priestess: He draws the manifest from the imaginal realms, whereas she opens the way for the manifest to dissolve into a deeper mystery; he is the “generative” polarity to the “destructive” quality of the Dark Lady of Wisdom.
The Magician may be used to help learn a new skill, to aid in travel (both in this world and between worlds), or to draw attention away from a person or situation.
Come to my table and play my game
With a wave of my wand I decree your fate
By the powers of heaven above and earth below
I keep my fingers crossed as I present four choices
The fifth you must seek for yourself
What are the tools that I use to create and bring something into this world? Am I deceiving myself or someone else with a metaphoric sleight of hand? What game does this magician play at?