The Magician

Lord of the Tarot

Happy day when the Magician in on your side.

On his table lay the four elements of the tarot :: the sword, the wand, the pentacle, and the cup. He has mastered all of them, this is why he is the lord of the tarot.

The Magician shows you how to turn the impossible into actually, maybe.

The Magician is in his prime. He does what he needs and he arrives precisely when he means to. Whether he’s a meditating monk in the middle of tranquil nowhere, or headmaster of the finest school in witchcraft and wizardry, the Magician’s here to light the way.

He’s a genius, a miracle, the most powerful person you’ve ever known, but he is still mortal. He knows he must pass on his gifts. The good Magician slides into Merlin’s archetype. He is the first person our Fool encounters on his way, he is our protagonist’s teacher.

He can be a whole philosophy, or a tiny piece of wisdom, understood just in the nick of time.

Here, he casts under the same daylight yellow sky as the Fool

A garland of roses crowns him, lilies grow at his feet. The white lily is associated with Hera, arisen from drops of her breast milk that fell to the earth. In Christian symbolism, the lily of mercy balances the flaming sword of judgment. A short bloom, the lily is resilient, it resurfaces even in fire or draught. But it’s the roses that pop because of his red robe. The roses signify wholeness, center, vessel, and source. “A gradual process of psychic integration and transfiguration, a coming together and offering up of all things to a higher state of being.” (The Book of Symbols; Reflections on Archetypal Images.) Red, the color of life, radiance, and war. Fire and blood, sex and rage. Red gets shit done. This Magician is a man of confidence and action.

The lemniscate (the infinity symbol) over his head shows he is always in balance. This symbol appears in the tarot only twice more, in Strength and the II of Pentacles (balance).

Everything the Magician touches turns to gorgeous, glittering gold. 

He is on fire, as the kids say. Totally lit. All glowed up. He’s who the Fool wants to be.

The Magician is at number one because this cheese stands alone.

His boundless, expansive energy is represented in his ouroboros belt, the snake-devouring-itself ring around his waist, his core. The snake who sheds skin and skin and lives. The Magician reminds us that we do the same.

He holds his wand up high and points to the earth. As above, so below, he says.

Thought Applied was the phrase Waite uses to describe him.

Because he bends all four elements to his wills, he is deeply practical, this is how he gets it all done. He is the master sorcerer, a divine conduit for the gods, but also a worker bee. Creation for him is an act of humility and pride.

He is perfection.

Think Shakespeare, Mozart, Michelangelo, or Edward Gibbon. 

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

The Magicians are all always great.

When Sherlock Holmes enters his mind palace, he organizes his collasal collection of observations and deductions, each brilliant connection strengthens the scaffolding of his genius. All Magicians know their mind palace, or have a device to assist them like a pensieve, wand, or library.

The sword represents this mind palace. The chalice represents his emotional investment. He’s never bored, he loves his work, has a deep passion for it, hence the wand. The coin tells us he knows how to take all of these things and use them as resources, that he knows how to get everything he needs to get the job done. Because it would be tremendously stupid if something as trite as money stood in his way. 

Together these symbols represents the Elements of Harmony. 

Observe, though, that there are two wands :: one for passion and anger and one for all the energy his efforts require. This other wand is unlike anything else in the tarot. It’s his alone.

As a teacher, think of the white-bearded sorcerer trope beginning with Merlin :: Dumbledore, Gandalf the Grey, The Lego Movie’s Vitruvius, Fantasia’s rightfully pissed Magician in the infamous starred velvet cone hat. Yoda, too, is a Magician. As are Baloo and Bagheera. The Genie in Aladdin. And all the men in Pratchett’s discworld studying at the Unseen University. Sparrowhawk/Ged from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series. Barley from Onward. Dodger from Oliver and Company. Thomas O’Malley the alley cat from Aristocats.

When I was young, I had to chose between the life of being and the life of doing. I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again.” Sparrowhawk/Ged.

These men are our great teachers too. As every reader is to identify with the protagonist, we are all to listen when the Magician speaks, watch when he acts, note when he doesn’t.

But he understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew — and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents — that there was all the difference in the world.

The Magician is a formidable enemy.


He is a wall. He will never back down. He’s studied too long, trained too long, to not know who he is. He knows exactly who he is. He’s the motherfucking Magician.

He can be a sexy trickster too, like Jareth the fae Goblin King ruling over his goblin minions from Labyrinth. But this is Sarah’s story, she is Fool and author, when Jareth steals her baby brother, he’s only giving her what she thinks she wants. Sarah wants Jareth to be both alluring and menacing. Like a good Magician, he’s leading her to the epiphany. Like the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, he’s leading her to sexual maturity, to wanting the baby.

The Magician is an art monster. Nothing stands in the way of his creations. He doesn’t ask permission, he doesn’t even apologize. Michelangelo was a total asshole, so many great artists were, but they needed to be, one guesses, to make the art they made. 

The Magician says to you, “Claim a room of your own, and be that art monster.”


The Book of Symbols; Reflections on Archetypal Images. ✨Twelfth Night. Shakespeare. ✨ The Farthest Shore. Ursula K. Le Guin. ✨ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. J.K. Rowling. ✨

Writing Exercises

The Magician tells you that the power’s in the elements. Find some way to incorporate all four elements :: air, water, fire, and earth :: into your scene. Mix-and-match them with the five senses :: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound.

The Magician knows what needs to be done. Do you know what needs to be done to make your text great? Can you do it?

What cards appeared next to him in the reading? Draw three cards. Write a story where the Magician has to use the first card to achieve some goal (the second card), but the outcome is actually the last card.

Grab your Shakespeare (I love my Norton), open at random, point to a passage, that’s your passage, write a scene around it.

Fall asleep listening to Mozart.

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