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Leisa 
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Alchemical Study Group - I The Magician


"Mercury is mentioned everywhere, in every alchemical work, and is supposed to perform everything... Mercury is the subject and matter of the stone."
--A Lexicon of Alchemy (pg. 229)

The Magician represents no alchemical process because he is the matter of the Great Work itself. He is the Anima Mundi, as is the end result, seen in the World card. He is the tail swallowed by the ouroboros. He is argent vive, living silver, the basis of all metals. He is the prima materia, the subject and first matter of the philosopher's stone, the seminal ingredient in all things. With the prima materia, we begin our alchemical transmutation.

The Magician is a cosmic principle personified by the god Hermes (Mercury). The mysteries of Hermes are complex and deep.

Hermes is the classical god of universal wisdom, magic and skill, especially skill with words. He is the initiator, the god of beginnings, the god of travel, commerce and sales. He is messenger to the gods in heaven and psychopomp of the souls of the dead to the underworld. His swift-footededness makes him the god of speed and running, and of athletics. He carries a magical wand, the caduceus entwined by two snakes, which symbolizes the reconciliation of opposites. He is clever, crafty and sly--the trickster who deceives with eloquent words. He is a consort of Aphrodite, goddess of love, with whom he unites to form the hermaphrodite of alchemy.

Hermes, along with his Egyptian counterpart, Thoth, also forms a composite: the legendary Hermes Trismegistus, reputed to be the author of the Hermetical texts that form the foundation of alchemy and the Western mystical tradition. The Hermetic writings, actually written by a number of anonymous authors, contain the axiom, "As above, so below," which the Magician embodies.

Hermes, as the Magician, is the interface between heaven and earth. What is above in the heavens he manifests below on earth. Thus, he commands and unifies the four elements, and is the power that unifies opposites. He is: matter and spirit, cold and heat, poison and healing, metal and liquid, and masculine and feminine. His signatory colors are the red and white of alchemy, which represent, respectively, the male and female polarities which must be united in perfect harmony to achieve the Great Work.

The card, inspired by images in the Mutus Liber, shows Hermes the Magician as the unifying force in the center of his universe. He stands on a fertile patch of earth (the body), from which grow blooming flowers of red and white. Fire (the energy of the soul) springs from the rocks. Behind him is the cool, healing aqua of the sea (water, the unconscious, the substance of the soul). The blue sky (air) represents intellect, or spirit.

The Magician wears his magical helmet, the gold and wings of which symbolize the ultimate enlightenment of the Great Work. His right hand holds up to the macrocosm his magical staff, the caduceus, which in mythology has the power to cure any illness, and to change what it touches into gold. BEcause of these powers, the alchemists found it a convenient symbol for the philosopher's stone. In this first card, the caduceus is green, the color of beginnings, and it is entwined by red and white serpents, which are masculine/feminine opposites united in the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth. His left hand points down to the earth, making him a living conduit for cosmic forces to manifest in the earth.

Tarot wisdom: The Magician is a reminder that whatever we see in the manifest world contains a hidden divine essence; therefore, we are not to be taken in by shallow appearances, but must strive for deeper perception. For with The Magician, we have advanced from the naivete of The Fool to the awareness of the initiate.

The Magician also represents skill, both physical and verbal. Physical skill relates to athletic prowess, or trade and craft skills. These the Magician plies with confidence and ease. Verbal skills are the gifts of eloquence and entertainment; however, these skills also are the dark gifts of the trickster, who fools and lies with words. For even the most accurate words lie, in the sense that they are only a map that points to reality and are not that reality itself. If this card relates to something you've been told by others, beware--do not be taken in by eloquence. Stay grounded. Examine and analyze.

The Magician also points to our inner self. In this context, positive qualities, self-worth and self-confidence, are emphasized. Other people are attracted to the engaging, entertaining Magician within you; they admire your skills.

If there are any negative signs in the reading, they may point to a tendency to be too intellectual, to rely too much on left-brain, rational thought. The Magician ideally is balance of opposites, the left brain in harmony with the right; matter in harmony with spirit; the microcosm in harmony with the macrocosm.

The Magician's place in the Major Arcana as Number One is the position of beginnings. This parallels mythology, for Hermes is the god of initiation and of beginnings. In a reading, these beginnings might be a journey, a new spiritual awareness, a new job or a new skill, a new relationship, a new phase of life. Hermes takes you to the threshold of change but does not lead you across it. That is the next phase of the journey.
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mac22 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leisa
"Mercury is mentioned everywhere, in every alchemical work, and is supposed to perform everything... Mercury is the subject and matter of the stone."
--A Lexicon of Alchemy (pg. 229)

The Magician represents no alchemical process because he is the matter of the Great Work itself. He is the Anima Mundi, as is the end result, seen in the World card. He is the tail swallowed by the ouroboros. He is argent vive, living silver, the basis of all metals. He is the prima materia, the subject and first matter of the philosopher's stone, the seminal ingredient in all things. With the prima materia, we begin our alchemical transmutation.

The Magician is a cosmic principle personified by the god Hermes (Mercury). The mysteries of Hermes are complex and deep.

Hermes is the classical god of universal wisdom, magic and skill, especially skill with words. He is the initiator, the god of beginnings, the god of travel, commerce and sales. He is messenger to the gods in heaven and psychopomp of the souls of the dead to the underworld. His swift-footededness makes him the god of speed and running, and of athletics. He carries a magical wand, the caduceus entwined by two snakes, which symbolizes the reconciliation of opposites. He is clever, crafty and sly--the trickster who deceives with eloquent words. He is a consort of Aphrodite, goddess of love, with whom he unites to form the hermaphrodite of alchemy.

Hermes, along with his Egyptian counterpart, Thoth, also forms a composite: the legendary Hermes Trismegistus, reputed to be the author of the Hermetical texts that form the foundation of alchemy and the Western mystical tradition. The Hermetic writings, actually written by a number of anonymous authors, contain the axiom, "As above, so below," which the Magician embodies.

Hermes, as the Magician, is the interface between heaven and earth. What is above in the heavens he manifests below on earth. Thus, he commands and unifies the four elements, and is the power that unifies opposites. He is: matter and spirit, cold and heat, poison and healing, metal and liquid, and masculine and feminine. His signatory colors are the red and white of alchemy, which represent, respectively, the male and female polarities which must be united in perfect harmony to achieve the Great Work.

The card, inspired by images in the Mutus Liber, shows Hermes the Magician as the unifying force in the center of his universe. He stands on a fertile patch of earth (the body), from which grow blooming flowers of red and white. Fire (the energy of the soul) springs from the rocks. Behind him is the cool, healing aqua of the sea (water, the unconscious, the substance of the soul). The blue sky (air) represents intellect, or spirit.

The Magician wears his magical helmet, the gold and wings of which symbolize the ultimate enlightenment of the Great Work. His right hand holds up to the macrocosm his magical staff, the caduceus, which in mythology has the power to cure any illness, and to change what it touches into gold. BEcause of these powers, the alchemists found it a convenient symbol for the philosopher's stone. In this first card, the caduceus is green, the color of beginnings, and it is entwined by red and white serpents, which are masculine/feminine opposites united in the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth. His left hand points down to the earth, making him a living conduit for cosmic forces to manifest in the earth.

Tarot wisdom: The Magician is a reminder that whatever we see in the manifest world contains a hidden divine essence; therefore, we are not to be taken in by shallow appearances, but must strive for deeper perception. For with The Magician, we have advanced from the naivete of The Fool to the awareness of the initiate.

The Magician also represents skill, both physical and verbal. Physical skill relates to athletic prowess, or trade and craft skills. These the Magician plies with confidence and ease. Verbal skills are the gifts of eloquence and entertainment; however, these skills also are the dark gifts of the trickster, who fools and lies with words. For even the most accurate words lie, in the sense that they are only a map that points to reality and are not that reality itself. If this card relates to something you've been told by others, beware--do not be taken in by eloquence. Stay grounded. Examine and analyze.

The Magician also points to our inner self. In this context, positive qualities, self-worth and self-confidence, are emphasized. Other people are attracted to the engaging, entertaining Magician within you; they admire your skills.

If there are any negative signs in the reading, they may point to a tendency to be too intellectual, to rely too much on left-brain, rational thought. The Magician ideally is balance of opposites, the left brain in harmony with the right; matter in harmony with spirit; the microcosm in harmony with the macrocosm.

The Magician's place in the Major Arcana as Number One is the position of beginnings. This parallels mythology, for Hermes is the god of initiation and of beginnings. In a reading, these beginnings might be a journey, a new spiritual awareness, a new job or a new skill, a new relationship, a new phase of life. Hermes takes you to the threshold of change but does not lead you across it. That is the next phase of the journey.
The caduceus transforms ordinary matter to gold --- interesting.


Mac22



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sapienza 
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It is taking me awhile to connect with the Magician card in this deck. I'm not sure why though. In some ways I find the Magician and Emperor quite similar on first glance. I'm pleased to be able to spend some time looking more at this card.

As with most modern versions of this card the 'as above, so below' idea is imortant. I like the idea of the magician being a "living conduit for cosmic forces to manifest in the earth". I notice Place also puts emphasis on the Magician being a force that unifies opposites.

So if the Fool was unaware of the journey ahead, now with the Magician it's as if we are aware of what is ahead of us, also aware of the divine nature of our existence perhaps.

And so does the Magician show us that we have the skills and resources to undertake this journey with the aim of reconciling opposites within our own natures? I'm looking forward to hearing others thoughts on this card. I've always really struggled to 'get' the Magician, more so than most other cards and particularly in this deck.
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mac22 
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I was having problems with this card -- but I'm beginning to warm to him....

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Kenny 
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I've read a story that the first owner--a Greek seer called Tiresias--of the caduceus was not worthy to use it and when he separated two snakes copulating he turned into a she. After many years of living as a woman he found another pair of snakes copulating and again (s)he separated them, and again (s)he changed sex. Back to being a male.

This staff was considered too dangerous to use so it was hidden, but a young man called Hermes found and learned to harness the power of the staff for healing. (Hence the caduceus is the primary symbol for medical professionals.)

Hermes Trismegistus means thrice greatest Hermes. This name refers to his mastery of all three levels of being/reality: physical/spiritual/mental of Earth, heaven, and everything between. Hermes also created the art of textual interpretation, this happens in four directions: natural, supernatural, divine, human sense. This means that alchemical text is suggestive and rich in word play and allegories. ('Wherever we have spoken openly we have said nothing. But where we have written something in code and in pictures we have concealed the truth.' - Rosarium philosophorum)

I've got a couple more quotes that may or may not be interesting/useful:

'Man's guide is Thoth, who bestows upon him the gifts of speech, who makes the books and illumines those who are learned therein, and the physicians who follow him, that they may work cures.'

'True, true. Without doubt. Certain:
The below is as the above, and the above as the below, to perfect the wonders of the One.
And as all things came from the One, from the meditation of the One, so all things are born from the One by adaptation.
Its father is the Sun, its mother the Moon; the wind carries it in its belly; its nurse is the Earth.
It is the father of all the wonders of the whole world. Its power is perfect when it is transformed into Earth.
Separate the Earth from Fire and the subtle from the gross, cautiously and judiciously.
It ascends from Earth to Heaven and returns back to the Earth, so that it receives the power of the upper and lower. Thus you will possess the brightness of the whole world, and all darkness will flee you.
This is the force of all things, for it overcomes all that is subtle and penetrates solid things.
Thus was the world created.
From this wonderful adaptations are effected, and the means are given here.
And Hermes Trismegistus is my name, because I possess the three parts of wisdom of the whole world.
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Kenny 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sapienza
And so does the Magician show us that we have the skills and resources to undertake this journey with the aim of reconciling opposites within our own natures? I'm looking forward to hearing others thoughts on this card. I've always really struggled to 'get' the Magician, more so than most other cards and particularly in this deck.
In my personal pet theory The Magician is the 2nd of 3 cards that represent The Black Phase. The complete listing is: The Fool, The Magician, and The High Priestess.

This is a hard and dark phase where the outer layers of ego are removed leaving you with the inner core of you. Hermes is the ideal of what we strive for when we push forward in this phase. As for why these three cards are not dark things are never clear when talking about alchemy--see 1st (bracketed) quote in my post above--and it is to encourage those who are most likely to fail, the impure and weak--the initiates.

There is more and I'll try and post these later.
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sapienza 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mac22
I was having problems with this card -- but I'm beginning to warm to him....
I'm pleased to hear that. I'm hoping I feel the same way after spending a bit more time with him


Thanks for the interesting info Kenny.
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JimmyJonesah 
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What an absolutely amazing Magician card. I've always been quite partial to the Magician, though he does seem to get bagged in some tarot books. Before I knew anything about tarot I naively assumed that the Mag was the most powerful and important card in the deck. Perhaps for me it is.

With that said, I'm so greatly appreciative of what Place has done with him. As with quite a number of cards in the deck (most if not all), Place has expanded meanings and deepened the archetypal portrayals (for me). I just love the Hermes/Mercury aspect to this card....it draws out so much more than the RWS portrayal of a ritual magician. From the first glance, this Magician has had a lot to say...

Thank you Leisa for posting the inspiring write-up from the book. I 'm excited for more! Perhaps we could continue on with the High Priestess?
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JimmyJonesah 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sapienza
So if the Fool was unaware of the journey ahead, now with the Magician it's as if we are aware of what is ahead of us, also aware of the divine nature of our existence perhaps.
The Magician is very much Aware, Conscious, Awake. And in this card he looks straight out at us, eyes wide open, cognizant of where He Is, where he Intends to go, and what he Intends To Do. He almost seems to be slowly walking forward in the card, while at the same time deeply grounded and manifesting his magic as he moves...with Confidence, Intention and Purpose.
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Kenny 
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He is also saying, 'here I am, this is all of me, I am hiding nothing from you. All that you see is all that I am.'

It also seems that he is free of all worldly constraints.
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