Called The Devil in other traditions, here we have a card that depicts the threat of hell. This cloven “devil” has the body of a hermaphrodite hog to represent the greed of both sexes. It has the horned head of a crocodile to represent viciousness and stubborn rebellion, and it has the wings of a bat to represent that it is a denizen of the dark.
Other decks depict him in the Christian imagery of Satan, derived from the pagan god, Pan. Pan is a very ancient horned and hoofed woodland deity who was associated with the positive life forces in the world — healing, agriculture, animals, fertility, music, dance, medicine, prophecy, and male virility. One of Pan’s favorite pastimes was to frolic in the woods while on the lookout for a female to seduce, so he is often depicted with an erect penis. As you might imagine, the Pagans had such a joyous time celebrating Pan that the patriarchies felt obliged to portray him as a lecherous being eventually degenerating into pure evil.
This Black Magician corresponds to Saturn, from where we get the word Satan; and Saturn is the planet that rules the forces of greed. This card, of course, represents black magic and the safety urges of the soul that often motivate us to get what we want or need at the expense of others. White magic benefits others with no personal gain. Grey magic benefits others, including the magician, while Black magic is used for personal gain and/or to injure another. The Black Magician teaches us that the greatest enemy to spiritual growth is selfishness and greed.
It is interesting to note the similarities between The Black Magician and The Hierophant in The Brotherhood of Light deck. The four pillars in The Hierophant represent a spiritual temple and the four fixed signs of the zodiac, or perfect man. The pillars of The Black Magician are burning in ruins. The temple and the perfect man are destroyed. The two adoring genes of The Hierophant are seen in The Black Magician as enslaved servants to evil and greed, taking on the heads of goats. The Hierophant makes a sign of blessing while the genes of The Black Magician make the sign of materialism and black magic.
Hermetic tradition teaches that by working with evil forces, one becomes enslaved by them. Working magic of any kind is a dangerous business because in ignorance or neglect, and even if intentions are pure, magic becomes an opportunity for dark forces to invade. A great metaphor for this concept is portrayed in the vampire stories that are so popular today where a vampire can only enter a home with a personal invitation.
Arcanum XV, The Black Magician, is the first card of the third line of the Major Arcana. It is commonly taught that the third line of the Major Arcana represents the spiritual plane. This writer believes, however, that Arcana I –IX symbolize the physical plane, and Arcanum X takes us immediately into the astral plane, where our existence here on earth manifests first. It is only in Arcanum XXI, The Adept, that the spiritual plane is represented. So, according to this writer’s theory, The Black Magician resides in the astral plane. The point is that, just as there are racketeers and gangsters here in the physical plane, there are racketeers and gangsters in the astral plane. Our vibratory rates attract us to similar vibratory rates in the astral and, certainly, we can attract these evil forces by acting evil ourselves.
However, there is a bright side to this card as there is in every card of the Tarot. Saturn not only rules the forces of greed, but also rules system, form, and organizational skills, all of which can be put to good use in our daily lives. It’s a great day when all the paperwork is in order, closets and drawers are organized, and the car keys are easily found!
The key words and phrases that could be used should The Black Magician turn up in a spread are: safety urges of the soul, being “in for it” or “asking for it,” black magic, cruelty, deceit, gluttony, selfishness, greed, egotism, lust, materialism, temptation, organization, form, and system.
The spiritual message of The Black Magician is:
Remember, then, son of earth, that the most unprofitable thing in the world is selfishness. Pride and rebellion but enchain the soul to lower spheres; but all trials and misfortunes accepted with resignation to the supreme Will are an accomplished progress bringing an eternal reward. If Arcanum XV should appear in the prophetic signs of thy horoscope, cease to rely upon thy own power and wisdom and labor to disengage thyself from pride and selfishness, which but bind thee to matter, mortality and evil Fate. __C.C. Zain, The Sacred Tarot
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