The Magician in the Smith-Waite Tarot

Who is the model for The Magician? Is it W.B. Yeats who introduced Pamela Colman Smith to The Golden Dawn? Even if we don’t know the identity of the inspiration for this card (and it may even be a woman) it is clearly a theatrically inspired piece of work.

If you are curious about the Tarot deck created from two Golden Dawn members in 1909, begin by looking at the way the cards were used back then – no reversals – and the wealth of astrology imagery tucked away in the drawings.

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10 thoughts on “The Magician in the Smith-Waite Tarot”

  1. Hi Jessica, I’m new to your work and I have to admit I am really enjoying your website.
    I found your idea of using the tarot cards as images capable of being intuitively manipulated an interesting one.
    Given your in-depth and creative use of asteroids in your work I’m left wondering what you see when you read astrological charts. I don’t mean to be invasive as not everyone likes to discuss their process. I guess I just have this image of a chart in your mind playing out as it’s own kind of movie script or theatre performance. I have to admit I find the idea inspiring as I feel sometimes astrological descriptions or tarot card descriptions for that matter can come across as a bit dry.

    All the best, Lucy.

    • Thanks so much Lucy. I read astrology charts rather like a film editor cutting scenes together. The most important clips are those where the stories are directly joined (so, matching degree aspects). In your own personal birth chart, the film of your life is really about your Ninth House, ruled by Sagittarius, where you have a lot of factors. So it’s a story about travelling and travelling in the mind. Taking journeys but also taking intellectual or spiritual journeys. Mercury, Saturn, Uranus and Vesta have leading roles. Ops is also a player. There is a family relationship here because Saturn was married to Ops in Roman mythology so there is a hard-work story in the film – a really challenging plot. It may be linked to a particular nationality or a pin on the map across the world. Maybe there is a subplot about emigrating, or a gap year, or just a work or personal relationship with someone foreign to you. You can direct the film yourself, rewrite the script and so on! Hit Search to find out more about these players, Sagittarius and your Ninth House.

  2. Thanks so much for your reply. I enjoyed the analogy. I was surprised to find your comments on my chart and I appreciate them a lot. A Saturn dominated focus in my life makes a LOT of sense as anxiety disorders have pretty much touched and at times nearly ruined almost every aspect of my life. My understanding of the other placements are beginning to come together for me and you’ve given me a lot to think about.


    • Lucy, Saturn is worth researching further. The planet itself tells us what he is about. Saturn is pale yellow – the colour our complexion turns when we experience fear. He is surrounded by rings which seem to protect him, the way a nest protects eggs, or a wall protects people inside a castle. Defence and protection, anxiety and fear, are all part of his story. Some astrologers have written quite brilliantly on Saturn – Liz Greene and Sue Tompkins spring to mind.

  3. Hi Jessica,

    I am also very much enjoying your website and your work. I have been a real fan of Liz Greene and her psychological astrology for years and often go to her sight for chart placements, synastry aspects and composite charts. I realise you are using a different chart system which is interesting, I love the idea of having an intuitive response to images and charts as I centre my work life around this process. Having read the response you gave Lucy above, I am now looking for ‘matching degree aspects’ in my chart. I am at a loss at understanding my matching degree aspects…and joining the dots. Is this something you could help me with? Thank you, I very much appreciate your time on this. Jane

    • I do use a different chart system, although Liz Greene uses the sign=house method in her book Saturn – A New Look at an Old Devil. Jane, the matching degree aspects in your personal birth chart are Jupiter at 8 Libra exactly conjunct Saturn at 8 Libra in your Seventh House of love, sex, marriage, partnership, separation and divorce – and almost exactly semi-sextile Juno at 7 Scorpio in your Eighth House of marriage and mortgage, legacies and inheritances and binding sexual and financial agreements. Panacea is at 7 Aries in your First House of title, name, image, role, appearance and reputation. Thus, there is a dance going on around 7 and 8 degrees and you would be watching transits by the slow-moving planets across that number/degree for engagement, moving in with a partner, separating, falling in love and so on. Hit Search to decode the ‘what’ of the horoscope factors here and also the houses. The Jupiter-Saturn conjunction is rare and important. Lovers and partners will also very likely have factors at 7 or 8 degrees too.

  4. So, am i right in thinking that I have fear, hard work, general slog (saturn) as well as luck and bounty (jupiter) in my marriage? That this theme is most dominant in my chart? As well as, Juno (marriage) and Panacea (not sure) in my eighth house of binding agreements? I will look up the meaning of Panacea now.

    • Yes. Your marriage is a mixture of father and son – Saturn and Jupiter – hard karma and fantastic opportunities. Both in Libra in your Seventh House in the Natural House system is highly unusual. The day you became engaged or were wed, you probably had transits right across that. Your husband’s chart may also lock into that pattern – or the Scorpio pattern alongside.

  5. This blows my mind, but makes so much more sense. Why did the use of reversal become so prevalent? Books on Tarot with an explanation of each card, most always have (at the end), a reversal meaning which usually is negative. It seems too fatalistic, but the ‘play’ analogy seems more fluid and relatable. I had done a tarot spread (Celtic Cross) for characters in a book I’m writing, of course, there were many reversals, but this changes everything. It is a book, and very much the same as a play! This is great, thank you Jessica.

    • It’s amazing how many authors are also fans of Tarot. The idea of using the Tarot right way up, comes from The Golden Dawn, who never read reversed meanings. As Pamela and Arthur, creators of the most popular Tarot deck of all time, were both Golden Dawn members, I take my cue from them. Thank you for your feedback.

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