The Magician is the first card in the Major Arcana of the Tarot. I thought I would give some thoughts about this card, rather than some hard definitions, which you can find in any good tarot book or online.
Magicians appear in stories all over the world. ( Merlin, Gandalf, et al.), but when reading tarot cards, I wouldn’t become too fixated on the notion of the Magician as some mysterious occultist. When we encounter this card, it refers to manipulating reality itself. I think a useful way of thinking of this card is that of a person acting as a kind of artist. Using the tools of the Classical Elements, which are Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, this character is able to make a change in the fabric of reality.
In the Rider Waite deck, the Magician strikes a particular pose, with his right hand toward the heavens, and his left hand pointing at the earth. The phrase “as above, so below” is a phrase from Hermetic thought, and it means that the spiritual realm mirrors the mundane. For example, people thought of Heaven as a kingdom, and so it was well and good that there would be earthly kingdoms, and that line of thinking went down to families ruled by a head of a household. The Magician is someone who has access to the Divine, and uses that connection to cause beneficial change on a mundane level. As a metaphor, we can think of it as making mundane changes, that pay big dividends in a spiritual level.
The Magician sometimes deals with illusion, but that doesn’t mean he’s a liar. The word artifice conjures up notions of the inauthentic. But the Magician in his full manifestation isn’t really attempting to deceive. For example, when we go to a movie or play, we allow for a brief time the idea that what we’re seeing is real life, and in this way, we can be moved. We’re not being tricked or conned by accepting, for a time, fiction as real life.
There is a strong trickster element to this card, which isn’t surprising, considering the name of the card. We’re constantly exposed to advertising and propaganda, so much that it becomes background noise. The trick for the tarot practitioner, is to listen to the right kind of Magician, perhaps a mentor or trusted colleague, a person that can enrich our lives, and ignore hucksterism and your local friendly neighborhood confidence artist.
The shadow aspects of this card can indicate deception. Gaslighting, the willful manipulation of the past, and memories, is absolutely in the domain of the shadow Magician. Shadow Magicians can also appear to be unclever. I actually worry more about con artists that “act dumb” than someone with a thin mustache and black cape.
Immature aspects of the magician, usually displayed by children and teenagers, are expressed by the youthful characters of Ferris Bueller or Bart Simpson. One gets the idea that these characters, when grown up, would continue to use their trickery, hopefully for the good of everyone.
Mature aspects of the magician could be described by a number of characters from myth and fiction. Whenever you have a character using their wits, the energy of the Magician is around.
Be a Magician!