The Magician is powerful, representing worldly wisdom and the control of unseen forces that operate in human lives. A deeply complex symbol, he is usually depicted as a male figure who stands alone before an array of the traditional magician's tools. In most decks, these are the symbols of the Minor Arcana suits, each of which corresponds to one of the four elements: a pentacle for earth, a sword for Air, a cup for Water, and a wand for Fire. To possess knowledge of these elements is to gain mastery in the world.
In the Waite deck, The Magician holds a wand, a phallic symbol, aloft in one hand toward the heavens, or the upper world of divine power, while his other hand points downward to the earth, the base of life. Above his head floats the symbol for infinity. He knows how to use his tools to connect the two worlds of spirituality, or metaphysics, and physicality, or the mundane plane of existence.
In the Waite deck, above him are trailing vines, like grapes, symbol of wine, a sacred drink in many cultures. At his feet is a garden of roses, lilies, and greenery. These represent the vegetable kingdom in general. Roses refer to desire and the five senses; lilies refer to purity and proper use of arcane knowledge.
The totality of these symbols tells us that The Magician is in possession of knowledge that enables him to manipulate the material world through aligning it with the spiritual plane, to create the desired circumstances.
The appearance of The Magician in a reading indicates latent powers, yet to be taken up and brought into manifestation. Also known as the Juggler, this card suggests that everything in the universe is spread out before us, and if we learn to use them correctly we can manifest the results we desire. These are literally the basic materials of creation, and it is the task of The Magician to handle them well, to manipulate and control them for beneficent purposes. This is mental work that affects the material realm.
Thus, The Magician shows us that what we consider to be illusion is another form of reality, and what we consider to be reality can be mere illusion. This is not trickery, but a deep understanding of how we must learn to use our intellects, our intuitive abilities, our personal talents, and our practical skills to mediate between the two worlds, both of which affect us simultaneously.
The Magician is a card of power, for just as a mage, or true magician, stands at the center of the universe with the tools and ability to manipulate it for his purposes, so does each of us create, or recreate, our own universes within ourselves, first in our minds, and then in our manifest realities. This card tells us that our nature is one with the nature of the universe. It suggests that we have the ability to control our own lives, that we can manipulate people, things, and events—so long as we go about it the right way and for the right ends.
The Magician's costume varies with different decks—from Egyptian to Greek to medieval—but he usually wears a belt. In the Waite deck, this is a coiled snake, the ourobouros, or snake biting his tail, an alchemical symbol for wholeness. This represents the power to heal through connecting the two worlds within one's self.
This card is primarily about self-development; as Tarot Arcanum One, it is the beginning of the road to spiritual enlightenment, the starting point. It does not say that we are already able to control our universes, but that we must learn what mode to use to gain our ends and reach our goals, whether they are spiritual or mundane.
Mythologically, the Magician corresponds to Hermes-Trismegistus, messenger of the gods and guide of souls in the underworld. As messenger of the gods, he has the ability to communicate between the celestial and earthly realms. As a guide, he mediates between our conscious daylight world and the unconscious, hidden recesses of the psyche, often in dreams. The Magician suggests the use of higher intuitive forces, which may appear as a flash of insight. The Magician can serve as an inner guide who, if we listen carefully, will prompt us to develop and fulfill our potential—from within.
Also know as “Le Bateleur,” the Magician corresponds to the number One and to the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph.
This is a situation of new beginnings and new choices. It indicates someone who is willing and able to manipulate the situation to achieve the desired ends. It suggests leadership potential, ambition, desire for action, and new relationships coming into being. The tools for whatever action you desire are already at hand, as is the knowledge for using them correctly. It is a time to evaluate the tools you have at your disposal and relate them properly to your aims.
Now is not the time for change. It may be that you are not ready internally, or that you are not fully prepared in an external way. New directions are in the making, but patience is required for them to work out properly. You may be experiencing self-doubt about a new venture, or your spirits and vitality may be too low to accomplish the action required. Creativity abides in the latent stage, like a caterpillar in its cocoon, and there is no sense in rushing things prematurely. Wait until the time is ripe.