The Magus, or Magician is the first character the Fool comes to in his Spiritual Journey. He is card one in the Major Arcana, and generally signifies manifestation of an idea, and using what is available to you to get done what needs doing. Usually when the Magician is seen, he has a a representation of each suit from the minor arcana – pentagram or coin, staff or wand, cup, and sword – before him, representing the tools the Fool will need in his journey. The Magus’s right hand is usually held up in a first with his index and middle fingers up and together, signifying spiritual awareness.
For this I looked at four different decks: Alester Crowley’s Thoth Deck, The Aquarian Deck, the Spiral Deck, the Hudes Deck, and a tarot deck kit.
I have gone through each one and written my observations and compiled them into thoughts and interpretations in my personal Tarot Journal.
Observing the Card
The Magus in the Thoth deck is a happy man who floats due to winged feet – clearly Thoth/Hermes/Mercury, the messenger god of Egyptian/Greek/Roman lore, respectfully. A monkey is at the right side of his feet, holding a fist up. The Caduceus rises from behind him with a bird facing downward etched in the center. Around him floats the cup, sword, coin and wand, along with a winged egg and a scroll. The colors are all golden yellows and blues with a bit of violet. He raises his right hand, looking toward where he gestures. A quill also floats near him.
I want to know what these animals stand for. If I recall correctly, both the monkey and the alligator reappear in the Wheel of Fortune, the tenth card of the Major Arcana. What does the tiger represent?
I’ve always taken the winged egg to represent knowledge.
The planet ruling the Magus is mercury, and the Hebrew letter is Bet.
There are two objects floating near the Magus. Both could be interpreted as a wand. I think the flaming thing the wand, however, the other looks like an Egyptian cane with a bird’s head as the handle, and a forked foot. I don’t know at all what this means.
In the Aquarian deck, the Magician wears an orange robe with a snake eating his tail as his belt. On the table before him are representatives of each suit of the Minor Arcana. To the right, a staff leans against the wall. Above his head is an infinity symbol, equivalent in meaning to that of his belt, I believe. It might be interesting to note that the rods in this deck are tall, thick-stemmed flowers in bloom. The rod in the Magician is not.
In the Spiral Deck, the Magician radiates Universal Energy and skill. He wears a dark red robe patterned with wands, swords, chalices, pentagrams, and the planetary glyph for the plant Mercury. In his right hand he holds a tool (perhaps a scepter?) and from his left index finger which points down pours energy into the earth corner by his left foot, represented by a blooming tree. By this right foot, vague images of hooded figures stand in the shadows. Bet is in the upper right corner, which is golden to represent fire, while the symbol for air and the tree of life dangle in the top left corner – the air corner. From the earth corner, serpents squirm in effort to get to the water corner. Above his head, too, is the infinity symbol. He also wears boots with wings, making reference to messenger deities.
In the Hudes deck, the Magician is easily a scholar, measuring a ball in the center of another sphere. Blueprints to machinery are behind him, and his hat and tunic are a deep red. An open book is before him in what appears to be the witch’s alphabet. A dagger protrudes from the bottom left corner of the table, and a golden goblet holds a blue flower, possibly a rose. He faces forward and to the right. And again, the infinity symbol is made apparent above his head.
It is quite possible the blueprints represent the manifestation of idea into reality, or of using the tools provided to us to evolve forward.
In the Kit deck, the Magician is a hare with a man’s face and hands. He holds a coin with Mercury’s symbol on it, and above him are the moon and sun. He faces to the left. Hebrew letter Bet appears stealthily as a blade of grass at his foot.
A Thought or Two
Firstly I’ll use The 2-Hour Tarot Tutor for reference before continuing on. It shows the Rider-Waite deck, the Magician with the familiar symbol above him. I know the background is yellow and his robes are red. His left hand holds a baton (a wand? A scepter?). Surrounding him are red roses and white lilies. A snake eats his tail around his waist. On the table before him are representatives or each element/suit.
“Corporate or political leadership, decision maker, executive ability, power, will power, control, skill, mastery, self-confidence.”
I suppose the Magician is a leader in the sense that he’s a guide, the first stop in the Fool’s journey. It has been suggested that the fool might actually be the second to last card, and so the Magician would represent instead of the process of manifestation, the completed task itself.
Thoth Deck, Crowley's Words
In the Thoth deck, Crowley writes:
“Skill, wisdom. Adroitness [*quick and skillful*]. Elasticity. Craft. Cunning. Deceit. Theft. Sometimes occult wisdom or power messages [*which makes as the Magician is Mercury*]. Business transactions.
“Mercury, who is wisdom, will and word, by whom the world is created [*The Magus is the 12th path in the Tree of Life, connecting Keter to Binah – Crown to Understanding*], symbolizes the fluidic basis of all transmission of activity. Behind him and through him is the ape, Hanuman, which is a Hindu concept. The Egyptian counterpart, Thoth, is always followed by the Cynocephalus Ape.
“He is Mercury, the messenger of God, and juggles with the four symbols of the elements and the papyrus or Word, the pen or Will, the wand or Wisdom [*Crowley defines magick as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” In his example he says, “It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take ‘magical weapons,’ pen, ink, and paper; I write ‘incantations’ – these sentences – in the ‘magical language’ i.e., that which is understood by people I wish to instruct. I call forth ‘spirits’ such as printers and publishers, booksellers, and so forth, and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution is thus and act of – MAGICK – by which I cause Changes to take place in conformity with my Will.” – Magick Without Tears*]. He represents the creative force in Action. As Thoth in Egyptian tradition, his attendant and shadow is the Cynocephalus Ape.”0
Modern Magick defines the Magician as such: “Skills, will power, self-confidence.”
Aquarian and Spiral Decks
The Aquarian Deck says, “Denotes the ability to translate ideas into action, to use psychic powers to advantage; skill, diplomacy, self-confidence.”
Hermes is the Magician in the Spiral deck. “…has direct access to the divine. He is the principle masculine force who makes manifest divine power…represents the countless possibilities of the Universe available to human kind…He is the thinking principle, thought before consciousness.
The myth described in the Spiral deck talks of how Hermes fashioned a lyre from a tortoise shell, which is a symbol of the Universe. The scepter he holds is actually the caduceus which he had obtained from Apollo through a swap. He holds it to “make divine energy manifest.” The intertwined serpents are meant to mean healing and renewal. Hermes rules Gemini.
“The twelfth path is the path of realization of personal abilities and knowledge of personal powers. It is where vision of the true plan and how it can be made manifest becomes clear. The letter is Beth, meaning house or temple, the dwelling place of the spirit descending into manifestation.
“When the Magician appears, something magical or marvelous is about to happen. The skills of the Universe are there for you. Important communication may manifest in the form of letters, meetings, or telecommunications. You may have a clear-sighted vision for some future project, or a project already started may become more easily achieved. You may now know what is needed to succeed to be able to gage the right time to proceed with any plans. You have the power to make things happen. Any creative idea could become reality. Make sure the plan is reasonable at this stage, ideas are in their infancy; use the skills of the Magician to think things through in a logical fashion, or the trickster might appear.”
I really agree with this definition, especially in correspondence with its position on the Tree of Life. I always forget it’s Mercury, Planet of communication, and now I can apply it to manifestation, which I had a vague idea it was, I just hadn’t grasped it yet.
I was thinking as well that the 12th path leads to the 3rd sepherot. 1+2=3. The 11th path can be reduced to two and leads to the second sepherot.
Hudes and The Rest
The Hudes deck suggests the Magician to be very analytical, and not metaphysical, almost scientific – hence the scholarly look about him.
“Because the intellect is such an important human attribute, yet often overvalued in society, the Magician must take care not to play too much emphasis on the this one aspect of this total being. He is at risk of developing a narrow view of what it means to be human – not taking into account the artistic side of life, nor valuing intuition and emotions.
“Intellectual activity. Rational Analysis. Logic. Inventiveness.”
The Kit deck says, “Do you feel adrenaline rushing through your veins? Now is the time to stretch yourself and test your limits. Be adventurous, daring, and competitive, within limits. Success and recognition will follow. It’s an excellent time to begin new projects.”
When I first read this, I took it to be a load of nonsense. However, in a different setting and mind frame, I can understand it a bit better. It’s touching on the bringing of project and ideas into manifestation. Where it fails is that it is written like a daily horoscope in the newspaper, giving direct advice which is not open to interpretation in correspondence with the quarent’s surroundings.
Who The Magus is to Me
The Magus is a card revolving around communication and creating. The Universe provides us with what we need to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, even if we don’t’ know exactly what it is. It’s acard of logic and collective wisdom. Negatively it is a warning of arrogance, and not allowing Mercury’s tricky ways to interfere. Knowledge is great, but like any tool it can be used negatively.
The Magus guides me personally and reminds me that I can create my own reality, that what I need to Manifest will do so as long as I make use the tools before me.
What is always important in regards to tarot is remembering to create your own meaning, find what the cards mean to you. I have been studying for many years and still don’t have a full grasp on each card. Learning the cards is almost its own form of meditation, and something that is very personal, something that each person will have their own individual interpretation of. If you wish to truly pursue tarot, it is very important to keep a tarot journal, writing down readings you do, lay outs, and card meanings or ideas. This will help you build a stronger connection to the cards as well as help you see a bit better into your own subconscious.
Do you need to center yourself before a reading? Please feel free to try this Simple Relaxation Ritual
Books Used or Recommended in Regards to This Hub
Crowley is rather difficult to understand. There are many books out there that are dedicated specifically to interpreting his writings in regards to the Thoth tarot, but if you really want to learn the deepest depths of tarot, I would decode it yourself through intense study.
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