Today we’ll cover the meaning of The Magician tarot card. This is a part of a deep dive series on the tarot.
The Magician is the first card of the Major Arcana. Before going further, it should be noted that there have been several variants on this card.
Some traditions have used a juggler or jester in place of the magician. The meaning of these is the same if you think of The Magician as a stage magician/entertainer.
Some decks even call him “mountebank” which strictly refers to sleight of hand magic.
Let’s explore the various meanings and interpretations of The Magician.
The classical meaning of The Magician can be seen in the Rider-Waite deck.
Let’s just list some of the many elements: a cup, a pentacle, a sword, a staff, infinity, robes, ouroboros, a magician’s baton, a garden/flowers, and a table.
I’m sure you can even find other details in there if you try. That’s quite a lot.
It’s interesting to note that all four suits of the Minor Arcana are represented on the table. He also has his right arm outstretched and is wearing a headband.
Just noting all the elements is often a useful exercise before learning to read the cards. It gets you in the habit of looking for specific details.
Upright The Magician Meaning
The Magician meaning is not as easy to remember as some of the other Major Arcana since it seems to contain everything.
Let’s list some upright card keywords and correlate them to symbols on the card to help us remember:
The strength can be seen in the way the man is standing tall, arm outstretched like he’s commanding something. Many remember this as he is connecting heaven and earth. His power is infinite.
He is performing for a crowd: showcasing his talents. He is resourceful in the way that he is able to utilize all of the elements on the table.
Some say the garden is a manifestation of desire. His determination is so strong it can bring about the flowers.
If you get in the habit of telling yourself these stories, the classical meaning of the card should be easy to remember.
Reversed The Magician Meaning
The most common reversed Magician meaning is deceit, confusion, and lack.
Confusion and lack shouldn’t be hard to remember. Reversed cards often mean the opposite of the upright meaning.
The Magician has access to everything displayed on the table, therefore the reversed card means a lack of resources. The Magician understands the tricks he is doing, but the reversed card indicates he is confused.
He might even think the trick is real or fail to perform.
Deceit is interesting because in a sense the upright card is deceiving the crowd. But you think of it this way: crowds are in on the fact that a stage magician is performing a trick.
The reversed Magician doesn’t let the crowd in on it. He truly deceives them and gains from it. This is the opposite of the Magician’s nature.
I always like to examine other, modern decks to see what can be read into their symbolism.
The reason for this is that every person will have different decks, and so it’s good to learn how to go with your gut on what you see. This is the best way to have a good interpretation for the moment.
Too many people stick to a learned reading instead of going with the flow. Remember, each reading, deck, person, position, and the question is different. Reading the cards is an art, not a science.
We’ll use a different deck for every one of these. Today’s is the Thoth Tarot. I love how this deck abstracts the images without straying too far from traditional symbolism.
Let’s start by noticing some differences.
This makes sense for the first card in the tarot. It’s the first event along the fool’s journey.
This really draws out the symbol and interpretation of infinity and endless cycling. Depending on the reading, this can be an important meaning to draw out.
The Magician is much happier in this one. Instead of the stern face, this one is enjoying the performance.
He is also balancing on edge with deep concentration. There is a sense of being lost in the moment. It can be meditative or refer to getting lost in your work.
The Magician in Context
Context matters a lot when reading the cards. Here are some particularly strong things to look out for.
The Magician often comes paired with other cards. If the other card sets a topic like your job or finances or hobby or relationships, then the Magician will indicate skill in that topic.
In the past/present/future positions it means previous/current/future skill in that topic. When occurring in a specific timeframe, it often means that your dominance and resourcefulness at that time are not present at other times.
For example, if the topic is relationship and the Magician appears in the past, it means you had an easy working relationship in the past that is no longer working.
If the Magician appears in an internal or emotional position, it will likely mean that you are performing for those around you. You’ve successfully shown people what they want to see, but your true emotions are different.
It is time to either come clean about them or to stop performing. The trick is over. This is why I like the Thoth interpretation of balancing on an edge. You can only walk that fine line so long before a slip up causes you to fall.
See how the position can dictate the reading? This will become even more important when you take into account what the rest of the cards have indicated to that point.
The Magician tarot card meanings are some of the harder ones to interpret correctly, so keep at it and the meanings will come easier with time and experience.
Back to the Major Arcana list.