The Magician of the tarot is number one in the Major Arcana (Arcanum = secret knowledge), often called the Fool’s Journey. The Fool travels through consciousness (outer concerns of life), to the subconscious (the search inward) and finally to the superconscious (spiritual awareness).
Most people travel through these stages more than once as their lives and circumstances change.
Writers and creators make this journey with each project, starting with the Magician and the discovery of the power to capture an idea and then manifest it.
According to Rachel Pollack in her influential book, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, the Magician “symbolizes the idea of manifestation, that is, making something real out of the possibilities in life.”
While everyone has the ability to be a Magician, not everyone is willing to act as a lightning rod, a channel for inspired ideas and insights. Note how the Magician from Robert Place’s Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery reaches his wand up to draw down the divine energy of the Universe as represented by the infinity sign above his head. In some decks, the Magician reaches up with one hand and also points downward with the other to ground the energy, to make it real.
Pollack also says, “The life force that fills the universe is not gentle or benign. It must be discharged, grounded in something real, because our bodies, our selves are not meant to contain it but only pass it on.”
I have always thought of being creative as being a channel, allowing inspiration, the in-breath from the divine, to move through me and out into what I write, weave or otherwise create.
But being a channel is not, as Pollack implies, easy. Writing is not easy. Deep creativity is not easy. Even in moments when we find ourselves in the flow, this possession can be taxing physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually.
So this is the challenge. To create truly. To tell true stories of meaning and significance. To be the true Magician.
Because in tarot, the Magician can also represent the trickster, the conjurer, the illusionist. Someone satisfied with the appearance of change and transformation.
In other words, if you write without being the channel for that powerful story, if you allow yourself to get caught up and stuck in telling a story that skims the surface while only complying with all the suggested tropes and techniques, then you run the risk of telling a superficial story, a story with the appearance of being a true story but one without the power to transform.
Watching an illusionist can be great fun. It can be entertainment at its best. It’s why audiences worldwide loved Houdini and David Copperfield. They entertained because, in the moment, people believed in the possibility of magic. But once the performance was over, most people asked, “How did he do that?” Belief in the magic was replaced by a belief in manipulation.
I’m not saying entertainment is manipulation. But great, even good fiction is both entertaining and transformative. As is good television and film and music.
Because a steady diet of entertainment with change or transformation is not enough–for creator or consumer.
The challenge for every writer is to not succumb to the temptation to be the Illusionist, to fight the demands of time, money, agents, and editors to tell the fast story, the easy story. Because the true magic is in the deepest, truest, most powerful story you can tell.
So, the choice—every day—is yours. Are you the Illusionist or the Magician?