THE MAGICIAN: Second card of the Major Arcana
RULING PLANET: Mercury
COLOR: Yellow - the color of our Navel Chakra. “I Do” Ego, discipline, drive, action.
NUMEROLOGY: 1 - Beginnings, potential, creativity, momentum, initiative, ignition.
DESCRIPTION AND MEANING: A.E. Waite described The Magician as “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 an infinity symbol, also called a lemniscate, which represents the eternal spirit. About his waist is a belt, a “serpent-cincture”, which, best as I’ve been able to research appears to be a Victorian term for ouroboros.
The ouroboros is an Ancient Egyptian symbol that was adopted into Greek magical traditions, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Alchemy, becoming very popular in Renaissance and Victorian magickal traditions as a symbol of the eternal cycle: Life, Death, Rebirth. In his right hand he holds a wand pointing to the heavens, while his left points to Earth. As above, so below.
On the table before him lie the four symbols of the suits. Coin, Sword, Wand and Cup. These symbolism the four elements and the tools of his practice. As an adept his uses these elements to affect his will upon the world. Interestingly, these same icons are fundamental to the traditional Wiccan magickal practice. Coins as a Pentacle Paten (altar plate). Swords as an athame (a ritual knife). Wands as itself, and Cups in the form of a ritual chalice.
Below him are roses and lilies, a repeating theme throughout the Rider Waite tarot. One suggestion regarding the prominence of this symbolism is due to the influence of poet W.B. Yeats on the design of the deck. Yeats was a friend of Waite and Colman-Smith (the artist of the Rider Waite deck) and was known for his own frequent use of rose and lily symbolism in his works. “Lilies of death-pale hope, roses of passionate dream.” (From his poem, the Trevail of Passion.)
A.E. Wait refers to these flowers as the “flos campis” and “lilium convallium”. Terms that come from the quote “Ego flos campis et lilium convallium”. Translation “I am the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys”, which is a line from the Song of Solomon. It must be noted that King Solomon is a prominent figure in the history of magickal, esoteric and occult teachings. Tradition holds that Solomon himself was a magician, and hence he is a fitting archetype for the energy of this card.
The Magician symbolizes the power of creative energy. While The Fool represents potential, the Magician is the next step, action. He is the “big bang” after the chaotic void. The presence of the four elements on this card is a reminder to act with mindfulness, that all factors must be considered all “elements” of a situation weighed and accounted for. It says “you have the tools you need, now get to work.”
REVERSED MEANING: Unrealized potential. You’re holding yourself back.
IN A READING: If symbolizing a person The Magician represents an opportunity. Perhaps a creative partnership or someone that offers assistance that you lack that may help you meet your goals. Reversed, this person is a charlatan, con-artist, pretender. Or a “shadow artist” someone that lacks the drive or courage to create their own works, and so they “glom on” to others like a leech. Deceit, manipulation, and energetic exsanguination are the powers of The Magician gone bad.