01. The Magician

Rider-Waite Alchemical Tarot
Thoth Tarot of the Sephiroth


Number: 1
Card Title: The Magician
Esoteric Title: The Magus of Power
Astrological Atttribution: Mercury
Elemental Attribution: Air (hot, wet)
Dates & Timing: 88 days
Hebrew Letter: Beth House 2
Color: Yellow
Intelligence: Transparent Intelligence
Esoteric Function: Life & Death
Qabalistic Path: Path 12: 1 Kether to 3 Binah
Translation of Path: The Crown of Understanding

Keywords: Manifestation, Creativity, Skill, Concentration, Power, Brilliance, Synchronicity, Flexibility, Convention, Fresh Start, Selected Destiny, Success, Learning, Conscious Awareness, Action, Transformation, Origination, Skillful, Confident, Intense active.

Ill-Dignified: Ego Driven, Self-Absorbed, Lying, Blunt, Confused, Thief, Self-Serving, Hidden Truth And Cunning, Lack Of Willpower. Easy Way Out. Magus, Mental Disease, Disgrace, Disquiet. Will Applied To Evil Ends, Weakness Of Will, Cunning, Knavishness, Illness

Interpretation: Manifestation, Creative Power, The Will to Be, Having all of the tools you need. Feedback from the phenomenal world. Take raw materials of intellect, emotions, body & creativity. Ability to communicate. Doing it anyway. Love’s urgings. Success in any endeavor. Result is based on intent and desire. Way is blessed. Correct Direction. Turning thoughts to positive action. The masculine power of creation, creation by willpower & desire. Start creating whatever it is you want: a love life, money, career, solutions, anything. Look for Synchronicity! Initiation. Concentration and Attention. Exercise of will and learning. Sets goals and seeks accomplishments.

Reversed Interpretation: Manipulative words and actions. Weakness in will, insecurity, delay, no imagination. Look deeper into the situation. Methods may not be entirely ethical. Success delayed due to lack of confidence. May be seeking wrong goal. Worrying about risks. Use of power for destructive ends. Project fails. Poorly made plans. Pulling a fast one. Poorly formed intentions.

Rider-Waite Imagery

The magician stands behind a table. His left hand holds a white double pointed wand in the air. His right hand is pointed down to the ground.

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite (1911)

Part I: The Veil and its Symbols

1.. The Magus, Magician, or juggler, the caster of the dice and mountebank, in the world of vulgar trickery. This is the colportage interpretation, and it has the same correspondence with the real symbolical meaning that the use of the Tarot in fortune-telling has with its mystic construction according to the secret science of symbolism. I should add that many independent students of the subject, following their own lights, have produced individual sequences of meaning in respect of the Trumps Major, and their lights are sometimes suggestive, but they are not the true lights. For example, Éliphas Lévi says that the Magus signifies that unity which is the mother of numbers; others say that it is the Divine Unity; and one of the latest French commentators considers that in its general sense it is the will.

Part II: The Doctrine Behind the Veil

A youthful figure in the robe of a magician, having the countenance of divine Apollo, with smile of confidence and shining eyes. Above his head is the mysterious sign of the Holy Spirit, the sign of life, like an endless cord, forming the figure 8 in a horizontal position . About his waist is a serpent-cincture, the serpent appearing to devour its own tail. This is familiar to most as a conventional symbol of eternity, but here it indicates more especially the eternity of attainment in the spirit. In the Magician’s right hand is a wand raised towards heaven, while the left hand is pointing to the earth. This dual sign is known in very high grades of the Instituted Mysteries; it shews the descent of grace, virtue and light, drawn from things above and derived to things below. The suggestion throughout is therefore the possession and communication of the Powers and Gifts of the Spirit. On the table in front of the Magician are the symbols of the four Tarot suits, signifying the elements of natural life, which lie like counters before the adept, and he adapts them as he wills. Beneath are roses and lilies, the flos campi and lilium convallium, changed into garden flowers, to shew the culture of aspiration. This card signifies the divine motive in man, reflecting God, the will in the liberation of its union with that which is above. It is also the unity of individual being on all planes, and in a very high sense it is thought, in the fixation thereof. With further reference to what I have called the sign of life and its connexion with the number 8, it may be remembered that Christian Gnosticism speaks of rebirth in Christ as a change “unto the Ogdoad.” The mystic number is termed Jerusalem above, the Land flowing with Milk and Honey, the Holy Spirit and the Land of the Lord. According to Martinism, 8 is the number of Christ.

The Tarot of the Bohemians by Papus; tr. A. P Morton, [1896]

Chapter X. The Symbolical Tarot

1. 1st Hebrew letter (Aleph).

ORIGIN OF THE SYMBOLISM OF THE FIRST CARD OF THE TAROT.

The Aleph hieroglyphically expresses Man himself as a collective unity, the master principle, ruler of the earth. From this hieroglyphic meaning are derived ideas of the Unity and of the principle which determines it, ideas which give to Aleph its value as the sign of Power and Stability.Man, or the Microcosm, the Unity and the Principle in all the worlds, is the meaning of the primitive hieroglyphic, which, as we see, exactly renders the general ideas which we have established. But attentive consideration of this first card of the Tarot will enlighten us still further.

Symbolism of the First Card of the Tarot. THE JUGGLER.

If you take the first card of the Tarot and examine it attentively, you will see that the form of the juggler depicted upon it corresponds in all points with that of the letter Aleph. If we now apply to the study of this card the principles of the elucidation of symbolism, according to the Traité Élémentaire de Science Occulte, we at once find new explanations of it.

The top of the figure is occupied by the divine sign of Universal Life 8 placed upon the head of the Juggler.The bottom of the figure represents the Earth ornamented with its productions, the symbol of Nature.Lastly, the centre is occupied by the Man himself, placed behind a table covered with divers objects.The right and left of the figure are occupied by the hands of the Juggler, one of them bent towards the Earth, the other raised towards Heaven.The position of the bands represents the two principles, active and passive, of the Great All, and it corresponds with the two columns Jakin and Bohas of the temple of Solomon and of Freemasonry.

Man with one hand seeks for God in heaven, with the other he plunges below, to call up the demon to himself, and thus unites the divine and the diabolic in humanity. In this way the Tarot shows us the rôle of universal mediator accorded to the Adam-Kadmon.

If we wish to make a summary of the meaning of the symbol, so far as we have now deciphered it, we can represent it in this way

    Divine Head  
RIGHT       Left
(Arm lowered) CENTRE Human Body (Arm Raised)
Necessity       Liberty
Evil BOTTOM Natural Feet Good

Yet the symbolism of this first card of the Tarot does not end here.The Juggler holds the wand of the Mage in the left hand, which he raises, and the four great symbols of the Tarot are placed before him.The Cup, the Sword, the Pentacles or Talisman, which, as we have already seen, exactly correspond with the letters of the Tetragrammaton–

  • Sceptre or Yod, symbol of the active Principle preeminent, and of God.
  • Cup or He, symbol of the passive Principle pre-eminent, or of the Universe.
  • Sword, Cross or Vau, symbol of the Equilibrist Principle pre-eminent, or of Man.
  • Pentacles or 2nd He, the cyclic symbol of Eternity, which unites the three first Principles in one Whole.

From the human point of view these symbols correspond with the four great human castes.

  • The men of Yod, or the Inventors, the Producers. The Nobility of Intellect.
  • The men of He, or the depositaries of the great truths discovered by the men of Yod: the Savants, the Judges. Professional nobility.
  • The men of Vau, or the guardians and defenders of the former: the Warriors. Nobility of the sword.
  • The men of the 2nd He, the multitude from which the other classes are continually recruited: the People.

The four great symbols are placed upon the table at random, and Man rules them and must arrange them; in the twenty-first arcana we shall find these symbols arranged in a cross.

We already know that the first card of the Tarot is completed by the twenty-first (21 + 1 = 22), and we see why, if this first card represents Microcosm, the last would represent Macrocosm, and the eleventh card, which serves as the universal link to all the complements of the Tarot, represents the Vital reflex Current, which serves as a link between the worlds.

But we must not anticipate, so we will return to our first arcanum.

This symbol is the first of the whole Tarot, and it bears the Unity as its characteristic number.

The Unity-principle, the origin of which is impenetrable to human conceptions, is placed at the beginning of all things. We cannot seize the origin of this primal cause, which we are content to assert according to the absolute law of analogies so well expressed by Eliphas Levi–

“Je crois à l’inconnu que Dieu personnifie,
Prouvé par l’être même et par l’immensité,
Ideál SURHUMAIN de la philosophie,
Parfaite Intelligence et Suprême Bonté.”

If we cannot follow this Unknown in its principle, it is at least easy to us to follow it in its consequences, and therefore our study will be only the development of the Unity-principle in creation, related according to the Cosmogony of ancient initiation.

God, Man, and the Universe are, then, the three meanings of our first card, and we will now say a few words upon the application of these data to all the other cards of the pack.

EXTENSION OF THE THREE GREAT PRINCIPLES THROUGH THE TAROT.

The three meanings of the first card respectively represent–

  • The Creator or Yod.
  • The Receiver or He.
  • The Transformer or Vau.

Lastly, the transition to the second He, which is not under consideration at present.But the first card of the Tarot, taken as a whole, represents the Creator or Yod, the second card taken as a whole will therefore represent the Receiver or He, and the third the Transformer or Vau. Each of them will also show the four aspects of Yod-he-vau-he in the idea which it expresses. But what is true of the ternary, is also true of the Septenary, so that the first Septenary, taken as a whole, will represent the CREATOR. The second septenary will represent the RECEIVER. The third the TRANSFORMER.Lastly, the ternary of transition will. represent the return of effects to causes, and of consequences to the principle. Let us condense this all by saying–

  • 1st septenary represents God.
  • 2nd septenary represents Man.
  • 3rd septenary represents the Universe.

Moreover, each of these elements is contained in the two others in all points of their manifestations.

GENERAL RECAPITULATION.

We have now to recapitulate all the acceptations of the first card in a general figure. As each card in the Tarot will have the same recapitulation, we think it may be useful to explain the scheme followed in this arrangement. At the head of the figure will be found the Hebrew number and letter of the card. Below it, the name usually given to the card in the Tarot.

To the right of the figure are the significations in the Three Worlds: Divine, Human, and Natural.

Below these three significations is found the absolute key to each card, according to the figure of the revolutions of the word Yod-he-vau-he. The Hebrew letters placed upon the upper line of this key indicate the origin of the card under consideration, the Hebrew letters placed above it indicate the exact meaning of the card.

1. The Juggler.

Affinities

  • Primitive Hieroglyph: Man
  • Kabbalah: Kether
  • Astronomy: No Affinity

Significations

Key to the Card: yod yod, The divine creator or GOD, the Father, OSIRIS, yod of yod yod-yod

The divine transformer, THE ACTIVE UNIVERSE NATURA NATURANS, vau of yod yod-yod, 2nd he of yod yod-yod

Major Arcana Signification from the Divining Point of View

1. The Juggler signifies MALE INQUIRER.

The Tarot by S.L. MacGregor Mathers [1888]

Symbolism of Each Key

1. The Juggler or Magician. Before a table covered with the appliances of his art stands the figure of a juggler, one hand upraised holding a wand (in some packs, a cup), the other pointing downwards. He wears a cap of maintenance like that of the kings, whose wide brim forms a sort of aureole round his head. His body and arms form the shape of the Hebrew letter Aleph, to which this card corresponds. He symbolizes Will.

Meanings of the Cards

1. The Juggler.–Will, Will-Power, Dexterity; R. Will applied to evil ends, Weakness of Will, Cunning, Knavishness.

The Symbolism of the Tarot by P. D. Ouspensky [1913]

What is the Tarot? Card I.–”The Magician”.

“Man” Superman. The Initiate. The Occultist. Higher consciousness. Human Logos. The kabalistic “Adam Kadmon”. Humanity. “Homo Sapiens”.

CARD I. THE MAGICIAN. pg 21-22

I Saw the Man.

His figure reached from earth to heaven and was clad in a purple mantle. He stood deep in foliage and flowers and his head, on which was the head-band of an initiate, seemed to disappear mysteriously in infinity.

Before him on a cube-shaped altar were four symbols of magic–the sceptre, the cup, the sword and the pentacle.

His right hand pointed to heaven, his left to earth. Under his mantle he wore a white tunic girded with a serpent swallowing its tail.

His face was luminous and serene, and, when his eyes met mine, I felt that he saw most intimate recesses of my soul. I saw myself reflected in him as in a mirror and in his eyes I seemed to look upon myself.

And I heard a voice saying:

–”Look, this is the Great Magician!

With his hands he unites heaven and earth, and the four elements that form the world are controlled by him.

The four symbols before him are the four letters of the name of God, the signs of the four elements, fire, water, air, earth.”

I trembled before the depth of the mysteries A touched… The words I heard seemed to be littered by the Great Magician himself, and it was as though he spoke in me.

I was in deep trepidation and at moment I felt there was nothing, before me except the blue sky; but within me a window opened through which I could see unearthly things. and hear unearthly words.

The Tarot Trumps by G. H. Soror, Q.L.

I. THE MAGICIAN

It represents the union and balance of the elemental powers controlled by mind. The Adept dedicating the minor implements on the Altar. The paths of Beth and Mercury link Kether toe Crown with Binah, the Aimah Elohim. The Magician, therefore, is reflected in the Intellect which stores and gathers up knowledge and pours it into the House of Life, Binah. The number of the Path, 12, suggests the synthesis of the Zodiac, as Mercury is the synthesis of the planets. The colors yellow, violet, gray, and indigo, point to the mysterious astral light surrounding the great Adept. It is a card linked with the name Tahuti and Hermes as the previous one is with Krishna and Harparkrat or Dionysius.

Book “T” The Tarot

Brief Meanings of Twenty-Two Keys

2. Skill, wisdom, adaptation, craft, cunning, or occult wisdom or power.