Divination Articles

Tarot Talk

Comparing The Magician & The Devil



Let’s look at an interesting pairing this month, and compare The Magician with The Devil. Yes, these two Major Arcana cards have differences, but they have similarities, too. First, let’s review some terms. If you’ve read my column before, you can skip the next two paragraphs.

There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, an object, or a concept which can be copied, patterned, or imitated. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts: a “stereotype,” a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; or an “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type. Both can be positive or negative. Archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner because each of us has (or will) personally experienced these archetypes.

Besides its archetype and individual meaning, each Major Arcana card corresponds to a number, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. By comparing these correspondences, we can learn specific details about these two cards, thus deepening our understanding of them and their messages within a reading.

The traditional image on The Magician is of a person, usually a mature man (although some images show a youth, perhaps a reminder of The Fool) dressed in white with a red robe, sometimes hooded, standing facing outward (toward us) with his right arm up (often holding a wand, also pointed up) and left arm down, often with the index finger pointing at the earth or the symbol of the element of Earth (representing the polarized nature of the elements, and the bridge between the spiritual and the physical, and suggesting that he is a conduit of unseen power). Usually the sky behind him is that of a clear mid-day, although a few images show roiling clouds and wind, and around him are green trees and vines, often heavy with fruit, and red (nature, physical desires) and white (purity, spiritual unfoldment) flowers. Over his head or somewhere within the image is the infinity symbol (infinite circling of polarized energies of nature; cosmic lemniscates, harmonious interaction between conscious and subconscious, between life and feeling, desire and emotion, dominion over the material, eternal life) and before him is a table on which rest the traditional elemental symbols.

The traditional image on The Devil is of a horned creature, sometimes with cloven hooves and the legs of a goat or the wings of a bat. Often The Devil is seated on a square shaped throne, symbolizing the material world nature of his energies, and he may be gesturing in a manner similar to the image on The Magician, as seen in our card image (and is seen as the Shadow of The Magician). Often there are a man and a woman standing at the feet of The Devil, usually bound by ropes or chains to The Devil’s throne and sometimes surrounded by flames. Often the image contains a reversed pentagram, symbolizing the glorification of the passions of Fire and bodily pleasures of Earth over the higher good of Spirit. However, there are interesting and informative variations to the traditional image to be found. The Legacy of the Divine Devil is handsome; he tells very adequately about the seductive allure of superficial beauty and attractiveness. The Llewellyn Welsh Devil is called The Horned One, and is more y. The Horned One is about life in its natural state, without the interference of technology and society, as well as primal instincts and ancestral memories, and the natural world as well as the pleasure of the senses, without the pain, suffering and bondage seen in the more traditional images. Even some of the traditional images hint at this alternate personality, by showing The Devil wearing a horned headdress, like a Shaman, rather than having living horns. The Shadowscapes Devil appears to be more Trickster than Demon, and is not as obviously frightening; only after deeper examination do we see the talons on the hands that are seeming to protect the heart in his control

The Magician represents the archetypes of the Active Male and the Trickster. The Active Male (not necessarily the gender of male) focuses his abilities outward in an active way, overcoming the intellectual challenges in life. He makes things happen, and he does this in a hands-on way by learning about, understanding, and manipulating the laws of the Universe; he is mostly undeterred by ethics or the potential for creating negative consequences. The Trickster archetype represents someone who exhibits a great connection to his intellect, who has learned large amounts of secret knowledge, and who uses these things to play tricks or to disobey normal rules and conventional behavior. The Trickster can present useful out-of-the-box alternatives to the straight and narrow path. The weakness inherent in both of these archetypes is the tendency to disregard ethics and to become manipulative in order to attain desired goals.

The Devil represents the archetype of the Libido and Psychic Energy. Yes, The Devil is often connected to sex, but actually he is more about our struggles with all of our physical world drives and needs, not just sexual needs. Humans are born with a basic need to grow and learn, and we are also born with a resistance to change and a fear of the unknown. In the best of situations the growth and resistance balance each other out, but that does not always happen. The Devil is the representation or metaphor for all of those forces both within us and outside of us that strive to derail us from growing and learning, and encourage us to give in to inertia and the distractions of physical-world pleasures. The Devil is the archetype of all those primal and selfish traits that we attempt to tame as we grow up and take our place in a functioning community; these traits may be successfully repressed, but they don’t go away. The Devil is the Adversary, the Tarot’s symbol for this uncivilized part of each of us that gets tamed and repressed as we grow up, but is still alive and well in the darkness.

The Magician card is numbered 1. The number 1 is about new beginnings, sowing seeds, potential, start of a cycle, and originality. All numbers are made by comparing with or interacting with the number 1; it combines the opposites of odd and even. This number offers the concept of position, The Point. In the Minor Arcana, the Aces represent the number 1, the purest essence of each corresponding element, the seed that will grow into the element. The Aces are called by some the “gift cards” for they represent the gift of the particular element being offered to the Seeker. The Magician can be seen as a Major Arcana version of the Aces, as he is tapping into his gifts and using the four elements (and their powers and effects) as tools.

The Devil is numbered 15, representing personal magnetism, a material focus, and the manifestation of magick. In numerology, the number 15 reduces to the number 6, which is about balance, polarity, and the connecting energy of “distance between.” The number 6 card of the Major Arcana is The Lovers; The Devil, which can bring fear and isolation, can be considered the perversion of the energies of The Lovers, which brings love and connectedness. The number 15 has a material focus, and it can represent charisma and the ability to effectively use magick.

The Magician corresponds with the element of Air, and thus the Minor Arcana suit of Swords. Air is connected to the intellect, and to action, challenges, and a struggle that brings an outcome. This element represents the focused intent to bring forth manifestation, and many times it indicates a struggle as we bring an idea into reality. The element of Air can encourage a focus on truth and clarity, mental focus and spiritual guidance, and encourage a striving to achieve balance between the mind and the heart. The Sword that symbolizes Air within the Minors is usually a double-edged blade, and thus can represent attacking ~or~ defending. Air can represent logical and analytic thought patterns; it can also represent spite and aggression, or an inability to be assertive.

The Devil corresponds with the element of Earth and the suit of Pentacles, representing cold and binding energies that dry and shape the world. Earth energies are stable, material, practical energies that are slow to change; Earth is about the actual physical outcome or material manifestation of our efforts, representing everything from the physical world including Nature and fertility, and wealth, resources, and physical pleasure and well-being. And of course, the element of Earth is about our physical bodies and our senses, and all the pleasures we can get from them.

In astrology, The Magician represents the astrological sign of Mercury. Mercury, who is known as the messenger of the gods, has the ability to move fast. The planet Mercury echoes this, circling the Sun quickly, taking only 88 days to orbit the Sun. Mercury is so close to the Sun that it has no atmosphere of its own; it can only be seen in our skies with the naked eye right after the Sun has set. Astrologically, Mercury represents the principles of communication, mentality, thinking patterns, a focus on details, rationality, reasoning, adaptability and variability. Mercury is connected to schooling and education, research, writing, journalism, moving over short distances, as well as email, telephone and snail mail.

The Devil corresponds with Capricorn. Capricorn, the tenth sign of the zodiac, is a Cardinal Earth sign, ruled by Saturn, and has a material focus. Capricorn people are stable, hard-working, practical, methodical, and ambitious, never losing sight of goals regardless of how many obstacles or distractions are in the way. They are also a bit stoic and rigid, and they will stick to their beliefs despite convincing evidence to the contrary. More than anything else they enjoy power, respect, and authority, and they are willing to toe the line for as long as it takes to achieve those goals.

In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe. They express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. The Magician corresponds with the Hebrew letter Beth, the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet, representing the house or the builder. A house is a “containing form” and regarding The Magician, it can be seen as the container for energy or the home for Spirit. The Devil corresponds with the Hebrew letter Ayin, the 16th letter in the Hebrew alphabet, a letter of manifestation; this letter corresponds with the eye (and all of our physical senses), as well as knowledge and the expression of character.

On the Tree of Life, The Magician represents Path 12, running between Binah (female, receptive energy and the origin of form and structure) and Kether (the source, limitless possibility). The 12th Path connects Kether to the top of the Pillar of Form, the Pillar that teaches us about feminine essences. The 12th Path activates situations that teach dexterity, knowledge, wisdom and truth, presenting us with all the tools we need to grow and evolve. This Path separates the physical from the spiritual in order that we might come to understand that they are actually not separate, that the spiritual and the physical are integrated and connected.

The Devil represents Path 26, running between Hod, the lower end of the Pillar of Form (which provides analysis and communication) and Tiphareth (the hub of the creation process where energies harmonize and focus to illuminate and clarify). Hod represents instinct, logical analysis, and knowledge without wisdom or the influence of ethics, and Tiphareth reminds us that who we are is more important than what we do. Tiphareth is located just below Da’ath; Da’ath is connected to the Dark Night of the Soul, and in order to cross Da’ath we must choose to move beyond the harmony of Tiphareth. The Devil and Path 26 test us and challenge us to submerge the physical in order to learn difficult lessons and experience higher consciousness.

A bit of trivia about these two cards: The Magician was originally called The Juggler, and was not seen as a ceremonial magician, but rather as a street performer who would do tricks or play shell games in marketplaces. The earliest Magician, from the Visconti-Sforza Tarot (mid-15th century), is shown as a carnival king sitting at a small table that contains a sponge (Michael Pearce, PhD, MFA in an essay called The First Tarot, equates this sponge with the Holy Sponge associated with the crucifixion of Jesus; pieces of this sponge are found in reliquaries throughout the Christian world), a cup, a knife and two round shapes, possibly ink pots, and is holding a reed with a sharpened end in his left hand. Also interesting is that The Devil could be an add-on card. Robert M. Place, in Alchemy and the Tarot, states that there was no Devil card in the very early hand-painted decks. The earliest Devil card he found was in the Tarot of Ferrara, circa 1465.

The Magician is the Major Arcana card that represents the balance of intuition and analysis. The Magician encourages us to realize and acknowledge our abilities in order to deal with energies in the present moment, allowing those energies to manifest our goals into reality. The Magician’s four traditional elemental tools represent those abilities, and the true Magician has control over them. The Magician does need to remember that not all those abilities are meant to bring only physical world success, even if the tools represent the elements of the physical world. Divine power is also available to the Magician, and if he accesses that power as well and uses it for the good of all, he can be unstoppable.

The Devil tells of being caught up in the physical world and the effects of the physical senses, often to the point of being bound or addicted to those pleasures. On the other hand, The Devil is often the convenient scapegoat blamed for any excesses of the physical world. After all, enjoyment of the physical world is somehow seen by many as a denial of or estrangement from God, and how nice it is to have The Devil around to blame for our own weaknesses. The Devil can tell of being chained to material goods to your fear; it can represent being in bondage to negative thought patterns or habits or relationships or situations. The Devil can tell us we are having issues with control (too much or too little), or that we are allowing ourselves to be controlled. The Devil could represent believing in and valuing only the physical world, choosing to stay in the dark, or being too serious about life.

The Devil represents illusion, addiction, control, but so can The Magician if he focuses only on his own power and does not take into consideration the consequences of his actions. Both cards represent manifestation, trickery, acting for personal gain, overwhelming personal power, or being out of touch with Higher Self. The Devil evokes the religion-fueled fear that we could lose our souls to passionate and untamed forces, but in the end there is more to him than the embrace of the forbidden, namely sex, money and power. The Magician claims that he has the power and wisdom to control those forces, through mastery of the physical world elements and a connection to Spirit.

As we have discovered, The Devil can offer benefits but can never be seen as totally positive. Then again, neither can The Magician!


About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding on Amazon