Introduction To The Major Arcana, Part 6: The Magician

The Magician is one of the most deeply symbolic cards in all of Tarot. Like the World, the Magician encompasses everything. Both the World and the Magician have the four elemental symbols present in some form. The World does this with the tetramorph of four elemental Zodiac signs, whereas the Magician has straightforward symbols on the table before him. He gestures up with one hand and down with the other, echoing the words of the Emerald Tablet: "As Above, So Below." As it is in the World, so it is in the Magician, and the Magician and the World both say this in their own way. This is the entire fulcrum of Tarot and magick more generally. As Above, So Below.

The Upright Magician (which is one of the male archetypes) represents willpower. He is that "I Will" that is at the center of human action, the primordial I-Want-This. The Magician in this mode represents the inner self. The Upright Magician is one of the most significant of the Major Arcana.

The Reversed Magician is the negative aspects of the will. He is also the negation of what he ordinarily represents. In the negative aspects, the Magician can represent egomania, megalomania, and narcissism. He represents a malignant will. However, the Reversed Magician can also represent the absence of what he normally represents. So the Reversed Magician can also represent, for example, an absence of willpower. Instead of will made reality, he can represent illusion, a feeble "I want" instead of a visceral "I will."

In a past-present-future spread, The Magician represents the following:

  1. As past, the Magician represents the will toward your present situation. The inner world and visualization, the visionary approach that brought you where you are now. The plans you made, but more importantly, the primal impulse to do that brought you here. Whether your current situation is good or bad, you created it with your mind and will. The reversed Magician in this position can represent the bad decisions you've made, but he can also represent your indecision. That is, the reversed Magician as past can mean that you failed to be sufficiently visionary, or that someone else's vision superceded your own.
  2. As present, the Magician represents naked opportunity. The iron is hot: strike now! Now is the time to reach within and visualize a way forward, and then to make that reality with the strength of your will. The reversed Magician in this position indicates either that you are trying to be visionary when you should not, or that your opportunities are slipping away. Either you're missing an opportunity to visualize and execute, or you're trying to do it too much.
  3. As future, the Magician represents one of two things. First, he can mean that you will soon find many concerns have fallen away that were holding you back, and that you have a freedom that you lost before. Second, he can mean that you will play a part in someone else's plan. If the Magician is reversed in this position, it means either that a bad plan may catch up with you, or that you will soon lose your footing. It can also mean involvement in someone else's malignant plan.

That's all we have for the Magician. Next time, we'll address a softer card: the Lover.

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