The Magician, sometimes called the Magus, is the second trump card in the Tarot’s Major Arcana, and is a favourite among Tarot aficionados. It is easy to see why; the Magician is a power symbol, a sign of confidence, magical ability, lofty goals and the wherewithal to manifest them.
When the Magician shows up in a Tarot reading, this is almost universally a positive omen, an indication that your endeavours are going to be fruitful, and that your personal power is only growing. The metaphysical wind is blowing at your back as you explore and unfold your talents and make bold moves in the direction of your dreams.
Sometimes, the Magician appears as a permission slip in moments of doubt or faltering confidence, by assuring you that you are on the right track and have got what it takes to make it all happen.
Who invented the Tarot?
The Tarot has a long and convoluted history, some of it suitably shrouded in mystery or lost in the mists of time. No specific creator can be credited with inventing the Tarot or its use.
The Tarot was born in Italy in the 1430s when the Major Arcana suit – consisting of 21 brightly illustrated cards, with the addition of an odd card labelled with the number 0 and titled Il Matto (The Fool) – were added to the existing four suits that made up the Minor Arcana of playing cards that were used at the time. For much of their history, Tarot cards have been used for playing card games as well as for divination.
The Magician of the Major Arcana
Like all Tarot cards, the Magician is best understood when he is given context and being reflected in other Tarot cards.
Although he is given the number 1, the Magician is really the second card of the Major Arcana. Numerologically, the Magician represents the initial spark of creation, the first bold actions taken towards manifesting the potential foreshadowed by the Fool card.
The Fool Tart card
The Fool Tarot card is labelled with the number 0, which fittingly is the number of the primordial void, of the formless and of the unmanifested.
The number 0 is completely open, free, unfettered and pure, like fresh fallen snow before the first footprint. The card is brimming with potential, but nothing has been made of it yet. umerological symbolises the state of pure potentiality.
The Hanged Man Tarot card
At the mid-point of the Major Arcana we find the Hanged Man, the twelfth trump card. The number 12 reduces to 1 + 2 = 3. In numerology, the number 3 stands for progress, movement and communication.
Ironically, the Hanged Man (originally titled Le Pendu) Tarot cad is depicted hanging upside-down with both of his hands tied behind his back. His freedom of movement is severely restricted, an he can do nothing but surrender to the moment.
Far from being in a similarly disempowered position, the Magician is standing in front of his altar – his reach and ability to move his body are crucial to the success of his magical workings.
The Magician Tarot card description
Renditions of the Magician are bound to differ from Tarot deck to Tarot deck, but most versions include the symbols and details found in the traditional Rider-Waite Tarot deck. For that reason, these are the symbols we will be taking a closer look at here.
The primary figure in the Tarot card is, naturally, the young Magus himself.
Standing in front of his altar, his body language signals both movement and confidence. His right arm is lifted above his head, reaching towards the cosmos and his left hand pointing to the ground in front of him. His posture suggests that he is transmitting cosmic, directing powerful universal forces into the manifestation of his desires here on earth.
The Magician’s tunic is white, indicating purity and clarity of intent. His cape is red, signalling earthly knowledge and also passion.
In his right hand, the Magician is holding a wand. The wand is his ultimate instrument, his magical conductor’s wand. Holding it aloft, he uses it to transmit the focus of his will.
Wands are a prevalent symbol in the Tarot. They are linked to the element of fire and all of its associations: Willpower, creative spark, drive, ambition, passion and life force.
On the altar before him, the Magician has three other magical tools. The cup is one of them.
Within the context of the Tarot, cups symbolise the element of water and its connotations of emotional intelligence, feeling and sensitivity, intuition and inspiration. Water is also linked to the deep and mysterious waters of the subconscious mind.
The fact that the cup appears on the Magician’s altar tells us that he is in touch with his intuition and uses it in his magical workings. Although he is still learning and experimenting, the young Magician has achieved a level of mastery over his own emotions.
Also on the altar before the Magician is a sword.
Swords, in the Tarot, represent the air and its associations, including thoughts, beliefs and communication. Seeing the sword on the Magician’s altar tells us that he is in command of his mental faculties and has developed a high level of skill when it comes to communication.
The final magical tool on the Magician’s altar is the pentacle, emblazoned with a pentagram.
Pentacles, in the Tarot, represent the earth element and everything it stands for; earthly stability, finances, possessions, living conditions and physical health. The fact that a pentacle features on the Magician’s altar tells us that he has developed a level of material stability and is able to fend for himself.
The infinity symbol
Above the Magician’s head we see a floating infinity symbol, reminding us of the universal law 0f the perpetual transmutation of energy. This universal law dictates that energy is always in motion, and that energy never disappears – it only takes on a different form.
The infinity symbol is a sign that the Magician is well aware of the universal laws and is working with them instead of against them. By transmuting cosmic forces into improving his own circumstances on the earth plane the Magician isn’t taking anything away from the universe – he is merely giving some of its energy a different form and purpose.
A snake coils around the Magician’s waist, biting its own tail. This underscores the idea of infinity and transmutation further, and shows us that the Magician is working within the universal laws.
The flowering landscape
The landscape surrounding the Magician is green, abundant and bursting with flowers – a clear sign that his magic is working, and that he is successfully manifesting wealth, abundance and beauty.
The Magician Tarot card meanings
The Magician Tarot card encompasses many facets of meaning and significance. Which one of its many facets stand out in any particular Tarot reading depends on a number of moving puzzle pieces, including any surrounding cards and the individual Tarot reader’s interpretation. Having said that, here are some of the most prevalent Magician Major Arcana Tarot card meanings.
The Magician is almost always a sign of successful manifestation.
The Magus often shows up in Tarot readings when you have been consciously and deliberately channeling your energy and efforts into achieving a specific outcome and you are beginning to see it working. You may only be seeing a sliver of success initially, but it is enough to whet your appetite by proving to you that your efforts are not in vain.
The Magus is often a hallmark of independence.
Like the young Magus in the card, you are standing on your own two feet and are able to take care of yourself. You may not have achieved much yet, but you have managed to build enough of a foundation in terms of skill, clout or experience to know that you are more than capable and that you don’t need to rely on anyone else’s support or permission to do what you want to do in life.
If there is one Tarot card that signifies oodles of personal power, this is it.
Because he is independent, the Magician is beholden to no-one. He embodies his own power and walks his own path unapologetically.
The Magician brings confidence to the equation. And why shouldn’t he? He is self-reliant and has ample reason to believe in his own abilities, as he is seeing the tangible results of his magical efforts unfolding before his eyes.
The Magician is nothing if not resourceful. The four simple tools on the altar before him show that he has everything he needs to manifest any future he desires.
A discovery of talents
The Magician card can mean that you are exploring or discovering new skills and talents. The Magus, although already confident in his abilities, is exploring, experimenting and testing his powers.
The Magician often appears in Tarot readings to indicate inspired action. You are fired up, brimming with creative potential and eager to make something of it.
The Magician reversed Tarot card meanings
When the Magician card shows up reversed in Tarot readings, the card’s positive qualities and meaning become inverted or distorted. Here are some of the most prevalent reversed Magus Tarot card meanings.
Untapped or underused potential
The reversed Magician suggest that you are hiding your potential away, not fully exploring or tapping into it.
Perhaps you are unaware that it exists because you have never given yourself the time or permission to explore it, or perhaps you are afraid of delving into it out of fear that it may consume you.
The Magician reversed can indicate a disempowered stance or situation. You are living below your potential, for whatever reason. Others around you may be keeping you small, or you may be self-sabotaging.
Inevitably, the Magician reversed is a sign of low self-esteem and a poor self-image. You are not really in contact with your inner fire, your sense of magic and wonder. Somewhere along the line you have lost your sense of belief in yourself as well as your trust in your own ability to find your way in this world.
In some cases, the reversed Magician can mean manipulation.
The upright Magician deftly bends the universal energies around him to accommodate his will and serve his purpose – but he does so respectfully and without harming anyone. The reversed Magician crosses the line by manipulating people and situations with malicious intention.
The Magician Tarot card interpretations
The Magician Tarot card meanings are not static, but shift and ripple depending on context. Here are some examples of how the Magus Tarot card could be interpreted.
What the Magician Tarot cards means when it represents you in a Tarot reading
You are in a positive place, where you can really feel your personal power and magic coursing through your veins. You may be in a very experimental, explorative phase, as the Magus card always indicates a sense of newness, wonder and excitement.
You are in a negative place, feeling cut off from your internal power source. The only question is whether it is you, your circumstances or your surroundings you need to change – but whatever it is, something has got to change.
What the Magician Tarot card means in a love Tarot reading
You are in an exciting place in terms of your love life and are relishing what you have been able to manifest at this particular point in time. You might be in an exploratory or experimental phase where you are discovering more about yourself and others.
You are feeling disempowered, uninspired, or like you lack agency or say in the situation. Perhaps you are stretching and bending your own wishes to accommodate a partner’s and are loosing your own fire or integrity in the process. Remember, your first and primary commitment is to yourself.
What the Magician Tarot card means in a career Tarot reading
Expect good news only in terms of money and career. You are very much in touch with your potential and are forming a clear and compelling vision for your future. The steps you have been taking towards it so far have borne fruit. Keep growing, exploring and expanding your horizons.
You are living below your potential, unable to express yourself or unfold your full wingspan where you are. It might be time to seek out other opportunities and challenges somewhere else with more space for growth, learning and expansion. Don’t let fear hold you back from tapping into more of your potential – don’t be afraid of trying something new.