In the image of the Upright The Magician I from the Rider Tarot, you can almost feel the Magic of the impending new start created by from the abundance of lush imagery, the solid, positive primary colours and the figure’s dramatic and striking pose; helping also to convey a sense of the balance, joyful purpose and groundwork that precedes positive action. The Magician I in The Marseilles Tarot is dynamic and colourful figure that conveys a sense of anticipation, resourcefulness and transparency that underlies a decisive undertaking.
However, when divinatory image such as a tarot card is upturned many of upright elements and symbols – because of their insightful and intuitive significance – may suggest ill-defined or adverse meanings; indicate blocks and barriers; or indicate undesirable characteristics. In this post I have made a few comparisons of the same Archetype from two different tarot decks because it is fun, creative and informative to make a comparison. Often pictures that at first appear to be quite dissimilar actually convey similar or complimentary ideas and our understanding and knowledge of the tarot is heightened.
When we look at the Upturned Rider-Magician, the top of the card we see a thick mass of red and white flowers and green vegetation. Colours when inverted, may become ‘ill-defined’ and alter a card’s meaning. The red roses, rather than signifying physical courage, passion and power may represent anger, lust, malice or stress. Red, the colour of the 1st or Root Chakra when upturned, could represent adverse characteristics of this energy centre; such as stress, anxiety and restlessness.
The white lilies stand for successful beginnings and purity of thought and intention; but ill-defined may indicate dullness, secrecy or sacrifice. Green is symbolic of nature’s energy – of new growth, renewal and healing – and of the 4th or Heart Chakra. Ill-defined and reversed might indicate laziness and apathy, fear of rejection or resentment and guilt. When ill-defined, the bright yellow background suggests cowardice and deceit. It also symbolises the negative traits of the 3rd Chakra and of a need to exert power over others, of blaming and demanding and low self-esteem.
The golden earth on which the Marseilles-Magician stands is now inverted and sits at the top of the image; creating a substantial barrier. When ill-defined, the colour gold can signify trickery, falseness or deceit and, when worn by a person as we see in Marseilles-Magician, it can represent one who’s only concern is for money. The sparse tuffs of greenery hang downward and one, between the Marseilles-Magician’s feet, looks like a spearhead ready to drop! Characteristics of ill-defined colour are similarly indicated by the pure white background. The imagery give us a sense of caution; perhaps a new project or adventure may not be as well-prepared or genuine, as we might be lead to believe.
The unruly patch concealing the Rider-Magician’s lower body, legs and feet – as are the legs of the upturned table - suggests some significant barrier to clarity and understanding of intended purpose or action. Upturned, the picture of the Marseilles-Magician brings to our immediate attention to his shins and feet which of can be plainly seen through the upside-down table legs.
The Marseilles-Magician’s shoes and stockings are alternatively coloured red and blue and ill-defined. Red now suggests anger or aggression while the deep blue denotes melancholy, uncertainty or suspicion. Body parts can have meta-physical meaning. His coloured shins might signify a fear of moving forward while the op-positioning of his feet may demonstrate that he is ‘emotionally standing still’ or lacks resources and determination.
As the saying goes ‘put your cards on the table’; a table implies that things need to be brought into the open. The upturned tables invite us to look what many be going on ‘under-the-table’ and creates a sense of suspicion. At the same time, it is highly likely that under these circumstances the precious resources – sword, cup, wand and coin – will fall away under the force of gravity (nature).
The positioning of the hands arms in both The Magicians is symbolically very significant; in both cases ‘are vertically and horizontally ‘flipped’. Generally, hands symbolise ‘our profession’. Upside-down, The Magicians may be practicing ‘sleight of hand’ tactics that are associated more with card cheating, card flourishing and stealing.
Metaphysically the arms represent the 4th/Heart Chakra. The positioning of arms shows The Magicians’ connection of the divine will to his own intention; as a means to manifestation. The Rider-Magician points his ceremonial wand downwards, directing its energy to the lower regions of the card. The Marseilles-Magician points the tip of his wand downwards and to the left, towards the past; while his hand that holds the coin is now in the upper position. The positioning of the wands clearly indicate that The Magician’s desire is ‘earth-bound’.
The reversal of this Archetype sees the heads of both Magicians positioned towards the lower part of the picture. As their heads hang, the lemniscate symbol seen in the enormous hat of the Marseilles-Magician and the position of Rider-Magician’s 7th/Source Chakra – illustrates that their connection, inspiration and protection from the divine is completely subdued at this lowly point.
Wishing you good health and happiness.
Attributions and References:
Pamela Coleman Smith - a 1909. The Magician 1, Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, Holly Voley http://home.comcast.net/~vilex/ for the public domain, and retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot .
B. P. Grimaud, 1969. The Magician I, Tarot of Marseilles, Ets J.-M. Simon, Paris, France.