Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

The Magician, in process

in Art, Gaian Tarot

I’ve been working on the artwork for the Magician for the past few days. I’ve had the concept for the card clearly in mind for at least a year, and in fact had already done the preliminary work of making sketches and gathering reference photos last summer. I remember the two moments when I knew I wanted my Magician to be a ritual drummer. The first time was when I saw a friend at his wedding reception drumming away, head thrown back, in a kind of otherworldly ecstasy, overtaken by Pan. It was that outer-directed, yang, male wildness I wanted to capture for the Magician, as well as the energy that is created at festival or in a drum circle when a group of ritual drummers is totally in synch and transports everyone present to the Otherworld.

I love this quote about drumming from Charles de Lint’s novel Forests of the Heart:

“If you listen close enough [to the earth] you can hear a heartbeat. That’s what we do when we drum, you know. We’re talking to the heartbeat of manido-aki — the spiritworld.”

The second time I flashed on the idea of Musician as Magician was when I saw Scott Huckabay perform with his band Sonic Tribe last year. I was astounded at this magic man who transformed a bar into a temple, no mean feat. And I’ve seen my own lovely man do the same thing onstage — become a lightning rod or a conduit for the Other. The energy from the spirit world comes in through the musician’s body and out the drum, the guitar, the bass — then out to the audience. And those who are gathered there are lifted and transported to the realm where Magic Happens. Whether it’s rock ‘n roll, world beat or trance dance, music has the power and potential to transform and heal.

So, my Magician.

I wanted to capture the feeling of drummers by firelight at festival, so I added a camp fire to the image. And I placed him in a cave, with petroglyphs that link him back to ancient times. The firelight gives me those lovely warm tones of reds, oranges, golds, browns — all the Magician colors, to contrast and compare with the cool blues and greens of the High Priestess.

I had originally thought of including the petroglyph of the Sorcerer of Les Trois Freres, that famous ancient image of the Horned God. But I found that he already appears on the Magician cards of the Greenwood and Ancestral Path decks, so I let that one go. Instead I am including hands, lots of hands, based on the 2000 year old cave paintings in Cuevos los Manos in Argentina. The hand creates magic — whether with a drum, a pen or paintbrush or other tool— hands bring the Unseen into the realm of the Seen.

At the moment I have left the lemniscate halo out of the drawing because it looks odd. Perhaps I’ll put it back in as the painting progresses. I had always intended it to be there, not only as an homage to the RWS Magician, but also because it is a link to Strength, she the solar female and the Magician, the solar male.

When I finished the line drawing I thought — oh no, he is not facing the viewer, he is not looking the viewer in the eye. As I leaf through all the Magician cards in my collection, I see that every single one is facing the viewer. Hmmm . . . is this something important enough that I need to change it? Or was my intuition right on, and there is something important about him looking outside the confines of the card and laughing?

A friend says that she often notices that a lot of my images hang together intuitively — that there are patterns I didn’t plan but are consistent anyway. I think this is one of the times I need to trust that there is a reason I intuitively chose this pose.

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .