How do we understand The Magician in tarot? This is one of the very first cards in the deck, numbered 1 and coming right after The Fool. And as tarot users we all, I expect, see a little bit of The Magician in us. This card, though, has a secretive nature, perfectly suited for a trickster.
The easiest way to read this card is as the master of a complex knowledge or skill. Note, though, that to understand The Magician, we need to understand where it is placed in the deck. The Magician is right after The Fool, and just before the High Priestess, Empress, Emperor, or Hierophant. These later four cards each indicate a deeper understanding or authority, each on different levels. The Magician, however, comes immediately after The Fool’s leap into the unknown.
The Magician is the master of manipulation. He is very skillful, without a doubt. But his skill comes in a wild, untamed way. He doesn’t have the secret knowledge, the ceremony, the power, or the word. The Magician is good at what he does. But he is good on a surface level, and as a performer. Notice that The Magician in Tarot tends to be in front of an audience? These people are no acolytes. They are watching a showman put on a show.
To understand The Magician in tarot, we need to understand this difference. Especially notice the difference between The Magician and The High Priestess: The Magician performs tricks, while The High Priestess has the secret knowledge.
There’s nothing wrong with mastering a skill. Of course not! And being The Magician is an important step towards being The High Priestess, and then beyond. Be careful, though, to understand the differences between these levels of mastery. The Magician vs. The High Priestess may be the difference between being a stunt driver vs. being an automotive engineer. Remember the difference between mastering the mechanics of a skill and mastering the base understanding behind that skill.
The Magician’s Show
The Magician’s skill and mastery comes before a level of deep understanding of the power and meaning underneath it. Without that understanding, he is at heart a trickster, even if the intentions are good. The Magician’s show exists on the surface, full of razzle dazzle and not yet capable of substance. A hedge-wizard, rather than a court sorcerer.
Be The Magician, when the time calls for it. Remember always, though, that there is more to learn. A beginning amount of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, if you are unaware of the shallows vs. the depths. It’s hard to know exactly what it is that you don’t know, and so be open to taking your talents to unexpected and deeper levels.
The cards used in this post are from the Deviant Moon tarot deck.