It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
– Walt Disney
PART 1 – SYMBOLISM
For Mickey Mouse –the Apprentice Sorcerer in Disney Fantasia– as well as for the Initiating Magician everything is possible.
The Magician is actually the first arcana of the tarot deck, the first step in the initiation journey. The Fool was in fact the arcana zero who, like the familiar Joker, can travel anywhere at any time to enhance any other card. In Fantasia, when Mickey the apprentice Magician loses control of his new magical powers, the Master Sorcerer (the Fool) comes to his rescue.
The image above shows the symbols of the four elements/life powers: (1) water/emotional (the bucket), (2) fire/creative (the erected phallic broom handle), (3) air/intellectual (the stars) and (4) earth/material (the stone wall). We will see that the Magician in tarot arcana is offered the same four symbolic tools to initiate his initiation journey.
Before detailing the Magician symbols in the four previously selected tarot decks, let’s look at the Fool and the Magician positions in the Astro Tarology “Flower of Life”. That structure works for almost all tarot decks major arcana. We selected the Tarot de Marseille (TDM) where the Fool is called “Le Mat” and the Magician “Le Bateleur”. They can be seen at the image bottom.
The Fool was a link between Planet Earth (tangible sphere) and the Moon (imaginary sphere). The Magician is a link between the Moon (imaginary sphere) and the planet Venus (emotional sphere). As he performs, an experienced Magician tricks emotionally his audience to divert its attention from the real tangible world to the illusionary fantasy world.
A word about the arcana characters gender
The Fool and the Magician are male figures and the coming Empress and High Priestess are female. When it comes to symbolic meaning each arcanum character is gender-blind. So the bearded Fool´s symbolic meaning may very well apply to a woman animus (masculine unconscious) and the seductive Empress’ symbolic meaning to a man anima (feminine unconscious).
Let’s now observe the four different Magician arcana
Tarot de Marseille (TDM)
The TDM major arcana are numbered from 1 to 21 on the top (except the numberless Fool “Le Mat”) and have their names on the bottom (except the nameless arcana 13). In the TDM deck, the Magician is called “Le Bateleur” which could be translated as a street showman. In the arcana there is no audience and the table is covered with a lot of varied objects, which indicates that the show is in the preparation stage. The Magician is standing at the very beginning of his journey with an immense untapped potentiality at his disposal. He looks like rehearsing facing an invisible audience. When ready, he will have to move into action.
For now let’s observe the objects in his hands (moving symbols) and on the table (stable symbols). Again we see the four life spheres but this time associated with the minor arcana four suits (to be detailed in a future post). (1) Material: the gold coin (need to earn a living) in his right (active) hand = Coins Suit, (2) Emotional: the cups (receptive object) on the table = Cup Suit, (3) Creative: the double-ended (earth-sky) magic wand (used to integrate the 4 life spheres into a spiritual 5th) in his left (receptive) hand = Wand Suit, and (4) Intellectual: the knife (cutting-edge analytical mind) on the table = Sword Suit.
More objects can be identified on the table. (a) The distillation retort (transformation) glassware (transparency) used by alchemists (magicians), (b) three dices (chance, “rolling the dices”), (c) more coins (good luck, alchemical capacity to transform lead into gold) and a big bag (endless reserve of life tools). His hat is shaped in a lemniscate (infinite mental abilities).
To reach a higher awareness level, the TDM Magician needs to prepare his initiation journey by tapping energy from his infinite reserve.
Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (RWS)
Similarly to the TDM Magician, the RWS Magician has the same 4 symbolic vital objects on the table (coin, cup, wand and sword) and a lemniscate (infinite energy) over his head. Both hold a double-ended magic wand, but the TDM Magician holds it in his left (receptive) hand in a 45-degree direction (not vertical yet) and the RWS vertically (as above so below = human inner life mirrors the cosmos) in his right (active) hand.
The RWS Magician shows the earth with his left hand and the sky with his right indicating his ability to link material energy from the earth to the spiritual energy in the sky. The red roses symbolize love, the white lilies purity and the yellow background consciousness.
His red cloak symbolizes life energy ready for practical action and his white headband his mental aspiration to truth and spirituality. His serpent-like belt (Ouroboros eating its own tail = eternal renewal) around the waist reminds of mythological Hermes (see the MT and ST Magician below) caduceus.
To reach a higher awareness level, the RWS Magician needs to always direct his life journey with a spiritual objective in mind.
Mythic Tarot (MT)
Such as in both images above, one of the MT Magician’s hand shows the sky and the other the earth and the 4 suits symbols appear again. While they represent very explicitly the 4 minor arcana suits (coin, cup, wand and sword), they are now oriented in 4 directions (the crossing of life roads). The coin (physical body) and the cup (emotional heart) are opposite. The sword (intellectual mind) crosses the wand (creative instincts) indicating two roads directions.
The MT Magician’s magic wand is now a caduceus (more about Hermes in the ST Magician). The two snakes symbolize pairs of opposites (male/female, light/darkness, peace/war, etc…) including the 2 life paths now being offered. Facing the stone, the 2 road directions and the 4 objects, the Magician needs to choose a life path direction. His table is a flat rock laying directly on the ground (very tangible). There is no air under the table as before (no more time for preparation). It is time to make a choice.
To reach a higher awareness level, the MT Magician needs to make the choice of his life direction.
Symbolon Tarot (ST)
This card is all about Hermes, his wings (mobility of head and feet) and holding a roll (intellectual magic wand) in his hand. The urban landscape is circled by a river and accessible from a flowery road (happiness) by a bridge (linking nature with manmade village). In the arcana corners, we see the astrological symbols of Gemini (mobility) zodiacal sign and its ruling planet Mercury (Roman God equivalent of Greek Hermes).
Hermes is born from Zeus extramarital affair with the nymph Maia. This affair was the only one that his jealous wife Hera was unaware of and could not use her tricks to break it of. Thus Hermes was born of trickery.
When he was only one day old, Hermes sneaked out of his home where he found a tortoise which he converted into a lyre. Looking for more excitement, he then stole his brother Apollo’s cattle and covered the theft up. After this episode, Hermes went back home and entered through the keyhole, climbed back into his cradle with his lyre and slept like an innocent baby.
Besides being the Messenger of Gods, the God of Merchants, Thieves and other Tricksters, Hermes was also the Magician. We saw how the Magician could change himself into air and enter the keyhole. As another example of his magical skills, Hermes charmed Cerberus to sleep so that he could slip in the Underworld unnoticed and escort Persephone back to earth.
Psychologically Hermes the Magician symbolizes the power to make things invisible and to master the magic of thoughts, images, and words. Regardless of how difficult the road may be, Hermes wings will manage to circumvent the obstacle by uniting the earth (material part) with the sky (intellectual part).
To reach a higher awareness level, the ST Magician needs to find his way by holding opposites.
In a summary, we can say that to reach a higher awareness level, the Magician needs to (1) prepare his initiation journey by tapping energy from his infinite reserve, (2) always direct his life journey with a spiritual objective in mind, (3) make the choice of his life direction and (4) find his way by holding opposites.
As a practical simple advice, your inner Magician recommends that you make a choice of your life direction and build a new reality.
Click on 2 for the MAGICIAN Practical Exercises