The Magus


  • Planetary Trump of Mercury
  • Hebrew Letter: Beth (house)
  • Element: Air

Key Words: Mercury; communication; playful dealings with all possible forms of communication; flexibility, brilliance.

Indications: You have at your disposal brilliant capabilities which you should share with other people. One important task is to find or create the proper surroundings for your activities.

Questions: In what areas lie your talents? With what methods, and in what surroundings can you pass them on or share them?

Suggestion: Visualize your ideal area of activity. Describe it.

Affirmation: The full expression of my creative potential fulfills me and makes me happy and satisfied.

* (From Gerd Ziegler’s Tarot: Mirror of the Soul)

The Magus is a representation of Mercury, the messenger, but I like to think of him as more of the Juggler. The Magus has all elements at his disposal, all the possibilities held in a careful circle of catch and release,  and this card is a reminder that we must use our tools carefully. I particularly like Ziegler’s comment that, “He moves on the narrow border between white and black magic. This means he needs constant self-examination. He can use his talents in a self-seeking manner, or in the service of love and light” (p.16). This card represents action, creativity, and language, particularly emphasizing the fluidity of those activities.

Coincidentally, this was one of two cards I pulled on new year’s eve (the other being the Hierophant). I feel quite kindred with the Magus, not in his seemingly calm and demure poise, but in keeping so many balls in the air, desirous of all of them at once, and trying to remember to foci on the one in hand.

I personally prefer the Waite adaptation of this card (and those sprung from it):


These simplified forms, for me, give a more clear depiction of the precarious balance of this card. While the Thoth version certainly contains this, it is unclear as to whether the rod in the background is being balanced upon or pinning the magician down.

Likewise, the two symbols of eternity/regeneration (the snake and symbol of inifinty) are more prominent in the Waite styles, and this cyclical act of renewal strikes me as great importance to this card. Returning again to the metaphor of the juggler, the Magus uses what is needed, when it is needed, and thereupon lets it go, confident in knowing that it will return.

My secondary deck, the Roots of Asia, explains the card’s balance similarly through four emotional states: hot/cold and hard/soft (wands or fire/ swords of wind and earth or coins/ water or cups. This interpretations lends a bit of grounding to the Magus, one who is aware of both the world, his place in it, and the interdependency of the two.

Eastern Magician

The boon of the Thoth version is the Orphic (winged) egg, which is a unique transformative symbol of the deck and appears in different forms throughout the trumps. This is the first realization of it, so we’ll have to watch carefully for it.

Lastly, Frieda Harris originally painted three versions of the Magus for the Thoth deck, and though the selected version speaks least to me, it certainly gets the job done, which considering the function of the Magus, might make it the perfect choice.


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