Book of Shadows, Vol. I: "As Above" - I - The Magician - The Elements


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Book of Shadows, Vol. I: "As Above" - I - The Magician - The Elements


[upper right hand corner] A darker, masculine hand is holding a carved wooden Pentacle (a 5 pointed star contained in a circle). He wears a red stone bracelet.
This hand is holding the traditional Magician/Witches' tool for the Element of Earth. This association is further proved by the bracelet, made of stone, another symbol for this Element. What is interesting to note is that Earth is traditionally considered a feminine element, and the hand holding it here appears to be rather masculine. In Wiccan/Pagan circles, the Pentacle is used for a variety of things. Most commonly it is placed upon the alter to represent the Element of Earth and in some cases Spirit. Some use their Pentacles as a platter, when having Cakes & Wine (similar to the Christian communion; but does not have to be actually cake or wine), or to leave offerings to the Goddess and God. The Pentacle is a symbol of protection, and has become the equivalent to the Christian Cross as a symbol for some Pagan and Wiccan spiritualities.

[lower right hand corner] A light skinned and rather feminine hand is clasping a Chalice. The owner of the hand wears a white/silver/beige/cream coloured sea-shell bracelet. This Chalice has a base that is made of a darker silver tone. The top appears to be lighter, perhaps even the colours of the bracelet this woman is wearing.
The Chalice is the traditional Magician/Witches' tool for the Element of Water. Both the Chalice and the sea-shells are associated with the Element of Water. The Chalice, due to it's ability to contain liquids, and the sea-shells as they originate from waters. Here, the hand appears to be feminine; appropriately so, as the Element of Water is considered to be feminine as well. The Chalice is used in many Pagan/Wiccan circles to represent The Goddess and the Element of Water. It can be placed upon the alter as a tribute to either. During rituals, the Chalice can be used to hold Water for cleansings/purification rituals or to hold wine/juice for the Cakes & Wine blessing.

[lower left hand corner] Another dark toned hand is reaching-out holding a blade. This hand appears to be masculine, and wears a bracelet made out of green leaves. The blade appears to have a woven white handle.
The blade/dagger this man is holding is to represent the traditional Magician/Witches' tool for the Element of Air. Amongst Wiccan circles, the blade is traditionally black handled and referred to as an athame (sometimes pronounced "AH-THA-MAY"). The lore of the athame is that is never to be used to actually "cut" physical/tangible things. The purpose of an athame is to direct energy (sometimes used like a Wand), or to "cut" energy (when needed to "cut a door" to leave a circle). Amongst Tarot circles, this Element is usually associated with a Sword. Swords are not generally used in Wiccan circles, unless there is a large event/circle where there is plenty of room for the Sword to be handled properly without injury to self or others. Another blade is used in the Wiccan tradition; this blade is usually white handled and shaped like a scythe. It is called a Boline, and is used to physically cut things, especially in herbal works. While the handle of the blade depicted upon The Elements card is white, I believe it to represent a athame, as in many Wiccan & Pagan practices; there are few "hard & fast" rules. The leaves upon the bracelet are meant to symbolize Air, as they tend to "sway with the wind". Wind, of course, being an aspect of the Element of Air.

[upper left hand corner] A medium-toned and feminine hand is directing a Wand. The Wand is rather short and made of dark and knobby wood. Upon this arm, a circle of Fire is bursting forth, almost appearing as lava.
The Wand is the traditional Magician/Witches' tool for the Element of Fire. Wands are used in Pagan/Wiccan circles to collect/contain and direct energy. A lot of times the athame and Wand are inter-changeable, as they both work with energy. For some, the athame is used only to cast circles/cut doors while the Wand is reserved for any other energy workings. For others, sometimes the Wand is left out entirely, and candles or burning incense are used to represent the Element of Fire. Traditionally, the Wand is to be made by oneself and measures the length from the crook of the elbow to the tips of the fingers. This is no longer definitive, and today many variations can be found.
What is interesting is that the hand holding and wearing emblems of Fire appears to be rather feminine. Traditionally, Fire is masculine. In fact, Fire and Water are sometimes referred to as "The Primal Polarity": Fire/Water; Hot/Cold; Dry/Wet, etc.

The hands come from each of the corners, holding an item and directing it towards the center. The Fire upon the woman's wrist brings a warm glow to the blue/green backdrop.
It's interesting that the hands all emerge from the corners of the card, as opposed to top-right-bottom-left; as many Pagan/Wiccan circles associate one of the cardinal directions with each of the Elements. Perhaps this is done purposely; as depending on location, the directional associations usually change. Ex. Northern Hemisphere people usually associate North to Earth, East to Air, South to Fire, and West to Water; while those in the Southern Hemisphere would switch the associated directions for Earth and Fire. -This system is based off of the Equator, where it is hottest. There are many different associations depending on tradition.

What is to be noted about The Elements card is that there is both a human balance of gender (seemingly two sets of feminine and masculine hands) and a balanced symbolic representation of gender. To me, I would have preferred to see both Water and Earth as feminine hands, and Fire and Air as masculine; as that is what I was taught and am most comfortable with. -I wonder if this is done intentionally; as the gender roles of the Courts in Tarot is changing; I'm wondering if Moore is making a comment on the traditional feminine and masculine Elemental associations as well...

The LWB reads "a skillful use of resources, focused will, insightful understanding of a situation. [reversed] Playing a trick, a con, a manipulation of the truth."

Like the RWS Traditional card of The Magician, The Elements card has similar meaning and symbolism. Instead of having the four Elements place upon a table with a wo/man standing behind it, we see several people actually utilizing the tools. What is interesting is how they all come back to the center, representing balance, peace and harmony. Where the traditional Magician stands with the Wand upraised and his other arm pointing downwards (representing the Hermetic Axiom: "As Above, So Below"), we have Fire and Earth directed down and Water and Air directed above.

In an upright position, the reader could interpret this as bringing passion/creativity (Fire) and practical concerns (Earth) onto themselves; while directing their thoughts/prayers (Air) and emotions (Water) up towards the Divine. Perhaps indicating that the querant needs to focus on themselves and what is important to them over the needs of others.
In a reversed position, the reader could interpret the situation as needing to bring more emotion (Water) and thought (Air) into their everyday lives and focus more on themselves and their relations with others; while their financial concerns (Earth) and projects (Fire) should be left on "the back burner" as those situations are being "looked over" by the Divine.

This is just my 2 cents! Add yours! =]
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This card has the most pages devoted to it in the companion book; three pages!

Eeviee has done a great job of describing the card, so I wont repeat what she has said, except to me none of the hands look particularly feminine, they all like male hands!

For me this card really encapsulates what this card is all about in tarot. For pagans everything in the world is made of and can be expressed by the 4 elements, and these elements can be manipulated and worked with to bend and shape the world as we will/envision it, to create what we want, or co-create with the universe/divinity. This sums up for me one of the main traditional meanings to the Magician card, but it is also intrinsically pagan in structure and values and beliefs. I like how neatly the card ties the two together.

The companion book also links this card to the Seven Hermetic Principles, as "energy (which everything is made of) has characteristics based on it's elemental make-up and on the individual person or things expression of it's energy'", and apparently these 7 principles can be used as a guide to understand this behaviour.

These are:
1. The Principle of Mentalism

2.The Principle of Correspondence

3. The Principle of Vibration

4. The Principle of Polarity

5. The Principle of Rhythm

6. The Principle of Gender

7. The Principle of Cause and Effect


These are all fairly well know Wiccan principles, and what a lot of beliefs in how magic etc works stem from these principles, and they influence our ethics and how we conduct ourselves in our faith.

The hands represent us and our ability to work with the elements, and we primarily use our hands to "do things" and carry out tasks etc. The companion book also links the hands to the aces, as in the aces we often see a hand presenting the suit/elemental symbol, as a gift, and this can also apply here. I find it appropriate to link this card to the aces, as it is a "1" card the same as the aces, just the major arcana version to the ace's minor arcana!

We work with the elements to enhance our practice and work our magics, and the magical tools are also a big part of that. It is said we can work without them, but sympathetic magic can be hugely influential, these tools and other items we use (herbs, colours, incense etc) help us to attune to the energy needed to work our spell, it may be pyschosomatic, but if it helps to enhance our practice then what is the harm?

Focusing the mind to visualise the successful outcome of a spell is a big part of working magic, and this applies to this card as well in the traditional sense, as the Magician card is also about focused will to acheive goals and manifest what you need/want in your life. It's often said with the Magician card, "You have the tools to bring about what you want/need in your life", well yes in this card you literally have the tools, as well as metaphorically!
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Again, you two have done such extensive writing about this card. Thank you!

I also felt all of the hands in the card looked masculine. In fact, the bottom right hand holding the cup reminded me of the hand of an elderly man. It's so interesting how we each perceive things isn't it?

One thing I wanted to ask is- did anyone look yet to pages 120-123 in the companion book, The As Above, So Below Major Arcanas? I meandered through much of the "So Below" portion this morning and found that these three pages really help me with their brief descriptions of each Major Arcana card in each deck. Sort of mini-comparison if you will, but showing how the cards reflect each other

What it lists for the Magician is:

As above: The elements
So below: Working with the elements

So, after reading that, I feel that in the As above deck, we are presented with the elements and what they mean. These are the gifts from above. In the So below deck, we will be actively using the tools.

I didn't want to venture too far into the next deck, but thought it would be helpful to point out those particular pages as they may provide some insight as we try to make sense of the cards in this deck.
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I have briefly skimmed those pages at the back, and to be honest hadn't really comprehended that they might be useful to me until I had both decks. I might now go back to re-read this section when I'm studying the cards. Anything that might add to my understanding of the cards is always a bonus!

Great to see you participating Disa!
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Thanks! Great to be here. I'll do what I can
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An excerpt from the companion book (p. 22):
Quote:
Divine energy, at least in most pagan practices, is divided into four types: fire, water, air, and earth. There are not literal elements but archetypal and each has its own characteristics. And although they are not actually fire, water, air, or earth, we understand much about their characteristics if we think of that they are named after. For example, fire, which is associated with human will, fuels passion, power, and transformation. It warms, protects, activates, and burns. Water, which is associated with human emotions, facilitates healing, dreams, and secrets. It cleans, soothes, provides flexibility, and erodes. Air, which is associated with human intellect, governs logic, truth, and communication. It liberates, provides a cooling breeze or creates a tempest. Earth which is associated with the physical body, reigns over manifestation, fertility, and stability. It is heavy, comforting, nurturing and slow.
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I found a passage in the companion book that may relate male hands to the traditionally feminine Elements and vice versa:

Quote:
To further illustrate how anyone can take on any of these characteristics, the As Below court cards use male figures for the Cups and Pentacles, which are traditionally considered feminine suits, and female figures for Swords and Wands, which are generally depicted as masculine.
This section appears in the As Below section under Court Cards (p. 137).
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