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.
This will be an on-going series of short articles that will hopefully help to add substance to your tarot readings, and make them stronger. This is my first article for Pagan News, and since I don’t know what I’m getting myself into, it’s fitting that today’s talk is on the Fool.
The Fool is traditionally numbered zero in what is known as the Major Arcana, or trump cards. The imagery depicts a rather smartly dressed fellow about to naively walk off a cliff. The Sun, which also has its own card, is to his back. An excited white dog barks near this person, acting as warning from our unconscious, “What are you doing? Can’t you wake up for a second and see you’re about to walk off a cliff. Are you listening to me?” Or perhaps this white dog is spurring our Fool on to his leap. “Oh boy oh boy! This is gonna be great!”
Before we get started about the meaning of this card, let’s go down a meandering path. In mythology and fairy tales, the hero or heroine may encounter an animal that leads them to another magical or forbidden area. In Celtic and Welsh mythology, these animals were unusual for they were depicted in these tales as having white fur. In Alice in Wonderland, the main character follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole, and finds herself, quite unexpectedly in another realm. By coincidence or design, our tarot Fool is encountering a white animal, and this same type of going into the unknown is happening.
The dog in the Fool card, and animals in mythology and stories that lead characters into hidden places, are representatives of the natural world. The Fool is in his head, the animal companion is not of the intellect, but of primal nature. Our dog reminds us that our bodies are entrenched in nature. The body can also surprise the person for both heart-warming and heart-breaking reasons. For example, pregnancy can be both an intentional and unintentional path.
An important point, all of this imagery is allegorical. If you go out in the woods waiting for some white animal to lead you to a new discovery, you will be sorely disappointed. Dreams are another story. Try to follow where animals take you in dreams.
But what of the Fool in the card, the main character? In older depictions of this card, the Fool is a bit of a wandering hobo. He has a disheveled, vagabond appearance, quite removed from the dandyish and clean youth of the Rider Waite deck. In the Waite deck, he holds a white flower, which symbolizes a freedom from primitive baser instincts, and also a straight staff tied with knapsack, full of hidden personal items. Again, our Fool in the Rider Waite deck may think he’s given up primal instincts, but remember our white dog, nature’s reminder of the animalistic, he’s along for the ride too.
The Fool may be naive about what they’re getting into, but not everyone leads a life like that. The Fool card is still relevant, for anyone, including the most structured planners. When we embark on any new project or path, we can plan for everything, but there is still an element of the unknown and accident. Changing careers, graduating from college, all manner of life changes are in the domain of the Fool. When encountering this unknown, it does require a leap of faith.
Ultimately, this is a card of immense creation, but don’t let this card be an excuse to jump off a cliff without a parachute or a plan. How many times in your life have you heard this clever plan?
Yep! We’re moving there. Hollywood (or wherever) here I come. I don’t have a job, I don’t have a place to stay. I don’t know anyone there. But, you know. I think everything is going to be okay. I’ll figure it out on when I get there.
This is still in the realm of the Fool card, but isn’t very smart. It easy to confuse the romantic notion of a pioneering, exploring spirit, which most people would agree is a positive, with simply being reckless. When encountering the Fool tarot card, try to figure out the multiple paths to land. Because you’re going to land somewhere.
Tarot aficionados will often use the term “Fool’s Journey” to describe the Fool’s interaction with other trump cards. The first characters the Fool usually meets are card number I and/or card number II, The Magician and/or The High Priestess. But different orders can and will happen. You could, if you wanted to as a way of getting to know the cards, map out the events of The Hero’s Journey to the trump cards of the tarot.
Quick Tip: In your readings, see which card the Fool has a relationship with, or is juxtaposed next to. If the Fool is next to a destructive card*, such as The Tower, be careful as it may be a warning of disaster. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. However, If the Fool gets paired up with The World, then this leap of faith usually has a more benign outcome.
*Yes, I know, save your letters! The power of Tower card can be just what you need in your life. We’ll talk about this at another time.
Largely due to the interest shown by Esther (The artist formerly known as Madonna), the Kabbalah has received a lot of mainstream media attention of late. It is an integral part of high magic, and yet it is exceptionally difficult to write about concisely, which is why it has taken so long for us to put together a useful section for you, here at PaganNews.com.
We have been able to pull together some of the key points that you need to know in order to get a basic understanding of this fascinating mystical tradition. However, since we cannot hope to encompass everything you need to know about it in one small article, we have also identified some key books that can help you get a better understanding. You’ll find the reading list at the end of the article.
Kabbalah, Qabala, Qabbalah, Cabala.
The spelling varies because the word, which means ‘Oral tradition’ comes from Hebrew, which is very much a phonetic language. It evolved from Jewish mysticism, which wanted to penetrate the inner mysteries of the Torah – the Jewish Scriptures. The key symbol of the Kabbalah is the Tree of Life, and the Spheres (or Sephiroth) that it contains. Understanding the Kabbalah allows one to understand the true nature of being. Many Wiccan traditions incorporate the study of the Kabbalah into their higher degrees, and it is also central to the Golden Dawn, Rosicrucianism and Hermeticism.
It is important to understand the Kabbalah because it provides a unified system of theology that in many ways ties quite neatly into current scientific thinking regarding the creation of the Universe.
Basically it goes like this:
In the beginning, there was not even nothing. Not zero, but Null. This was the Ain Soph Aur. Then from that came limitless nothing – the Ain Soph. And in that moment there was a flash of realization, and there was limitless light. And so began the World of Emanation – Atziluth. The Godhead, The Monad, suddenly existed. In order to experience itself it became two – The God and Goddess. And with the knowledge of each other they formed the Supernal Triad, And thus began the world of Creation – Briah. The creation led to the world of Formation (Yetzirah), wherein lay the distinctiveness of individuality. This is the realm of the Gods and Goddesses, or the Archangels and all that live beyond our plane. And it was from here that our plane was manifested – Assiah – The world of Action and Manifestation.
So began the billions of years of expansion and evolution that finally led to a vessel for the Godhead to experience the Material world – Humanity. For in each of us lies the Divine Spirit – the Holy Ghost – The Higher Self. But our animal side makes us forget who we are. We forget we are divine, and so the world’s religions and prayers and spells are our (often unconscious) attempt to reconnect with that.
As we grow and evolve, we begin our movement back up the Tree of Life, but beware – for before we can rejoin with the Godhead completely, we must pass the Abyss (the Sphere of Da’ath) through which we can once again fall back to the Material, if we are unready.
The Triads and Pillars
The Spheres on the Tree of life and grouped into three Triads, with the Earth plane, Malkuth, at the bottom. These Sephiroth are arranged on Three Pillars. the outer pillars are The Black Pillar of Might (On the left) and the White Pillar of Mercy (on the right). These are the Pillars of Boaz and Joab that appeared in Solomon’s Temple, and which are depicted today in many Tarot decks on the card of the High Priestess. In fact you will find much of the imagery in traditional Tarot decks (particularly Rider-Waite decks and Crowley’s Thoth Tarot) are representative of different aspects of the Tree of Life.
The middle, golden pillar of Mildness and Power is a later addition, and is more a path than a true Pillar. One of the key exercises in High Magic is the Middle Pillar Exercise, wherein one vibrates the Divine Names of the Sephiroth on the Middle Pillar as they correspond to key energy points (or chakras) in the body.
The Supernal Triad
This triad represents the highly abstract emanations of Divinity. This level of the Godhead is so far beyond our experience that it is impossible to truly comprehend. It is the essence of all of us, of all things, and the primal force – the Universal Deity. This triad consists of:
Kether – Crown
Kether is the Root, the Crown, the ‘Primum Mobile’. It is the first state of being. Before Kether, there was nothing. It is the Emanation, which lead to the Creation. Kether is androgynous – neither male or female, and contains the All within in. It is the first realization that says ‘I AM’.
Chokmah – Wisdom
Chokmah is the first idea. The idea of Force, or change. It is the first masculine essence, the first positive polarity. Chokmah is totally without form, simply pure force.
Binah – Understanding
Binah is the counterpart – and counterbalance – of Chokmah. Where Chokmah is the force, Binah is the Form. It is the first feminine, the first negative polairty. Where Chokmah is active, Binah is passive. Binah is the great Mother. It is without force. Neither Binah or Chokmah can exist without the other. One without the other is incomplete.
Below the Supernal Triad lies the Abyss. The Abyss is called Da’ath, and is not a Sepirah in the true sense. It is rather a marker, representing the fall of mankind – the fall that lead to our forgetting, for Da’ath represents knowledge – knowledge we have lost. It also separates the lower sephiroth from the Supernals, and acts as a barrier through which only that which is truly ready to rejoin with the Godhead can pass.
The Ethical (secondary) Triad
This Triad echoes the supernal, but contains within it a stronger sense of individuality. It is the realm of the greater gods and archangels. It is here that Might and Mercy are ultimately balanced and tested. This triad consists of
Chesed – Mercy
Chesed is the first sphere of the second triad, the first sphere of actuality. Chesed is Mercy and Love. But unbalanced Mercy is weakness, and so Chesed is balance by Geburah, which is Might.
Geburah – Strength
Where Chesed is Mercy, Geburah is Might. It is Power and Strength, Energy and Courage. Geburah is Severity, but unbalanced severity is cruelty, hence it is balanced by Chesed, the sphere of Mercy.
Tiphareth – Harmony
Tiphareth stands at the center of the tree, and as such represents Harmony, Balance and Beauty. It is called the Lesser Countenance, for it reflects the Divine light of Kether. When one leaves the Outer order of the Golden Dawn, one stands before Tiphareth to commence the Great Work. Tiphareth is Death and Rebirth, being reborn cleansed and purified.
The Lower Triad & Malkuth
This triad reflects and extends the pattern of the previous triads, adding complexity and a stronger individuality. It is this triad that interacts most directly with the Material plane which is found in the last Sephirah, Malkuth. The Sephiroth of this grouping are
Netzach – Victory
Netzach is Victory, Emotion and Love in all its forms. Netzach is first sphere on the third triad, and it is here where the energy we refer to as the God or the Goddess is split into its different aspects. Netzach is selflessness and altruism and. It is the sephirah of animal drives and passion. It is the Natrual as opposed to the Contrived.
Hod – Splendour
Hod is Glory and Splendor. It is Honesty and Integrity.Hod is sound and the word. It is the circuit, energized by Netzach. Where Netzach is Nature, Hod is Knowledge. It is the artificial and the contrived. Hod is the sephirah of mental faculties, of Intelligence and Reason.
Yesod – Foundation
Yesod is the dark side of the Moon. It is the last sphere of the last triad, and the boundary between the material world and the planes beyond. Yesod rules the cycles of Time and of Nature. It is the phases of the Moon. Yesod is fluid, yet precise. Yesod provides the life force for the Material plane, Malkuth. Yesod is the potential – Malkuth is the realization of that potential.
Finally, we enter the Material Plane
Malkuth – Kingdom
Malkuth is the last sphere on the Tree of Life, and the first from our point of view, for it is where we manifestly exist. Malkuth is the Kingdom, where Kether is the Crown. Here is the plane where the princess resides, both the daughter and Bride of the God. Malkuth is where her journey – our journey – both ends and begins.
Each of these spheres, and the paths between them, correspond to cards in the Tarot deck. In fact understanding the Qabbalah is an incredibly useful tool to help you learn the mysteries of the Tarot.
To continue your studies further, here are some books we recommend that you may find useful: