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Tarot of The Old Path - The Magician

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Tarot of The Old Path - The Magician


I agreed with Silverlotus the other day to open a thread to study the Magician card in the ‘Old Path’ deck.

Card I : The Magician

I think The Magician Card is an interesting one in any deck. The very name suggests intrigue, mystery and untold power. Sometimes decks (usually modern ones) depict a Wizard or Witch of great supernatural power, sometimes they are depicted more as head of a magical or spiritual order, who is otherwise human and no different from us (as suggested by traditional Rider Waite interpretations), and, finally, early 14th – 16th Century decks tended to show him as simply one up from The Fool: a jester with a better polished act incorporating juggling and basic magic tricks. Other cards of this time sometimes depicted him as a man of skill: carpenter, shoe maker, etc.

The ‘Old Path’ Magician is certainly depicted as someone who calls upon great magical powers that suggest a mastery and understanding of the ways of the world.

I shall follow this shortly with a description of the card.
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What the Eye can see!


A strong muscular person (more feminine in their facial features than masculine) sits some way down on a grassy slope beneath a hill. She (for, if they have a sex, this is what they appear to be) is dressed in animal skins/furs, giving the appearance of a cave woman. Her hair is wild, wiry, thick and tangled. She has two large antlers. She holds a sword in her right hand and is concentrating on thirteen small runes she has scattered upon the ground. Beside her lies a jagged circular piece of stone, on which sits a cup reflecting strong yellows, pinks, blues, and greens in the light cast by a flaming torch she has embedded in the ground beside her. Behind the torch is a wolf. It appears to be leaping forward. It is unclear, though, whether it comes from behind the flames or the flames themselves.

Higher up the slope stands a unicorn, and at the pinnacle stands a complete stone circle. A bolt of wild fork lightening strikes at its centre, while the night sky is clear, depicting a body of stars and a full moon.

Punctuating the two sides of the card is the symbol of an inverted triangle.

I shall follow this shortly with my initial thoughts based on these observations, but please feel free to jump in any time.
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Initial Thoughts


The Magician depicted in this card suggests to me someone who is deeply in tune with the core elements of the Earth. Rather than drawing from a supernatural power source, this person seems to be harnessing the raw powers of the Earth itself. Her semi animal appearance, the green tint to her skin, and the way her foot appears to be sinking in/rising from the grass it self, suggests she could be a physical embodiment of the Earth (Mother Nature) itself. In which case she is all that we see in this card: a stag running through the forest, a wolf preying upon the stag, a human learning to gain from and manipulate its environment, and the very elements themselves: fire, earth, water and air.

Short but sweet, these are my initial reactions to the card itself, without reading up or thinking more upon its meaning or place in the Tarot Deck. I hope others will begin to expand on this area now, and I’ll contribute when appropriate. In the mean time, I intend to follow this with one final theory which came to me while looking at this card…
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The Fool's Dream


The magical and surreal nature of this card undoubtedly conjures the idea of a dream. When we dream, our mind often takes a scene or event from our lives and depicts it in a new, surreal, dramatic and mixed up/exaggerated or symbolic fashion. During the dream, we take all that we see for granted, we may register that things are a little strange but we rarely dismiss or disbelieve them; we simply go along with it. It is not until we wake up that we think “oh what a strange dream!”. At first we can’t imagine where it could possibly have come from, but then, slowly, if we think about it, we realise that it was an exaggerated mix of memories, thoughts and images of things we have seen, done or thought in the past.

Study The Magician card for a little while longer and then place The Fool card (which we studied in the previous thread) next to it and wake up from the dream.



Note the strikingly similar pictorial elements that are used to define the image of these two cards. Note the three figures and how more than one scene is depicted within the same landscape.

The bolt of lightening coming out of the clear night sky in The Magician card, is in fact a distorted reflection of the shape made by the jagged paths going off in different directions up the hill in The Fool card. In the dream of The Magician card, the bright sun has become and an even more prominent full moon. The mystery man setting off up the hill has been replaced by the unicorn. The mother figure’s purpose has been expanded and exemplified further. Her bear feet, plunging into the ground on both pictures, now clearly represent her very oneness with the Earth and her ability to procreate just as the Earth does with all things. Her hand is stretched out in exactly the same way in both pictures, but now she seems to control and protect all nature – not just the child that she runs towards in The Fool card. And of the naked, crawling child, reaching out to the flames: it has become the wolf, a wild, untamed creature, leaping from the flames, devoid, as yet, of human conditioning.

Viewed like this, The Fool is representing the conscious aspects of our life’s path, while The Magician represents the unconscious aspects and affects of the journey.
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TotOP - The Magician


I hope this has provided food for thought. All my posts have been an abstract look at this card. I've left it entirely open now to begin discussing the meaning of this card and how it compares with its counterpart in other decks...
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I - The Magician

Astrological Influence - Mercury
Element - Air
Month - June, September
Contributor - Lois Bourne

I think perhaps this is my least favourite card in the deck. I don’t really care for the ambiguous looking Magician figure. I agree with Two of Wands in thinking that it is a female figure, but the accompany books describes it as a man. I can see aspects of both genders in the figure now, and perhaps that is part of the meaning of the card.

Although this scene is quite different then the traditional RWS Magician, there are some elements in common. All four of the elemental tools are present – the sword in the figures hand, the rod as a torch, the cup, and the pentacle as the flat stone/altar. The figure is also showing their mastery or skills, in this case by the use of runes instead of a wand. And the idea of uniting above and below is also present, with the feet planted firmly on the ground and the antlers reaching to the sky.

I think there is also a lot more symbolism in this card then in the traditional card. A full moon rises in a starry sky; bring a goddess symbol into a masculine card. However, there are two triangles in the upper corners, representing both air and god energy. There is lightning, as in the Fool card, representing enlightenment. Stonehenge and the runes seem to point to an ancient wisdom. (And thank goodness this card doesn’t feature a druid!) To me, the unicorn points towards purity, while the wolf brings in a feeling of cunning and hunter mentality. The colours that stand out most to me are green and brown, colours of growth, thinking and application of knowledge.

Because of these changes in symbolism, the meaning of this card has changed for me too. It is no longer a mastery of skills and knowledge. I see this card as meaning a need to get back to basics; to return to the underlying skill or knowledge. For an example, you may be stuck on a project, and this card could point to a re-examining of the basic idea behind what you are trying to do. I also see a strong element of creativity and willpower in this card, through the figure’s face and through the wolf. There is also an element of willpower being brought into action. I think I may get that from the idea of the runes, but I’m not really sure where it is coming from. But behind it all is a feeling of purity. Things are being done not in a spiteful way or to take advantage of another; they are being done to get things done.
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Quote:

"I see this card as meaning a need to get back to basics; to return to the underlying skill or knowledge. For an example, you may be stuck on a project, and this card could point to a re-examining of the basic idea behind what you are trying to do. I also see a strong element of creativity and willpower in this card."

Yeah, I totally agree with that. It's interesting because I also have never really liked this depiction of The Magician. I think probably it's because when I started using Tarot - I always wanted the wise, powerful "Gandalf" version of the card. However, having looked into it far more closely for just this purpose yesterday has made me appreciate it far more.
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Magician as Shapeshifter...


...having just changed back to human form from that of a stag, thus disappointing the wolf? Just a thought, which came to me after reading Two of Wands' description of the Magician as other-worldly in appearance, yet so connected to the Earth.

I had always seen this as a male figure, perhaps because I've had the accompanying book all along. Yet there is something not quite male about it, though I couldn't pin it down just what bothered me before. I only knew that I was uncomfortable with this figure. But when I think of this as a Shaman, perhaps an ancient one, I realize that ancient people were probably rarely comfortable with their Shaman. The tribe's Shaman personified powers that the average person didn't understand. S/he was a link to, and a liaison, with the Otherworld.

The lightning does indeed appear to mirror the shape of the paths in the Fool card, and the entire scene has a dreamlike feeling to it. That has always set this card apart for me, from the rest of this deck. But I like it. In spite of the discomfitting effect, I like it and want to visit the world in this card. Perhaps in dreams only. It's a bit scary, but intriguing.

Thanks so much, Two of Wands and Silverlotus, for all that you've shared so far. I'm afraid I can't participate much except on weekends, until mid-June. But I'm getting a lot out of this, and plan to pariticpate as much as possible until then.

Nevada
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Oh! I didn't think of the Magician as a shapeshifter. I'm not really sure what to make of that, to tell you the truth. It is a fabulous idea though. It's something I'm going to really have to think about. But I can see how it ties in with the idea of going back to basics, if we look at our animal nature. Interesting...

And don't feel bad that you can't participate much right now! Add to threads when you have time. They will still be around!
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Definately a Shapeshifter me feels.
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