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Deck used: The Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg

For this prompt I pulled The Magician. A little weird: I've begun a Tarot journal (the thoughts of which I'll eventually transfer here, for better searchability and for discussion and digestion) and right now I'm sitting on The Magician.

For me, one of the bigger struggles with the Tarot is that so many cards seem identical (or near-identical), and that some character types or life situations aren't really comfortably covered by the images. So with my journal, I started with The Fool (even though I don't subscribe to any idea of a "Fool's Journey" illustrated through the majors, as I've discussed previous; but he's 0 and that seems as good a place to start as any, since I don't particularly follow Waite's/the OGD's reasoning of putting The Fool between Judgment and The World). Easy enough! But The Magician was the first bugaboo, in that I've never been able to understand the difference between The Magician and The High Priestess except through the crude lens of gender. After all, the names "Magician" and "High Priestess" both evoke this sort of spiritual power and esoteric authority. But in the earliest iterations of the Tarot (or the earliest still available to us), The Magician was Le Bateleur and The High Priestess was La Papesse. I'll get to the concept of the Papess (a nod to Pope Joan?) another day, but I want to point out that a bateleur wasn't a magician in the supernatural sense of the word, but a vagabonde and a street performer: the magic of three-card Monte and sleight of hand.

Though, of course, there is the balance one always has to strike: as an esoteric system, Tarot is relatively new, and springs from completely secular roots. How much of the original context of the Tarocchi games should be applied in a reading today, when the OGD et al. have fixed a slightly different interpretation? There is a compelling narrative to build of The Magician as the religious drop-out of the organization which The High Priestess runs and of which The Hierophant is the public face, using his secret knowledge for material gain and comforts rather than the condition of his soul.

Thoughts for another day, too!

But as for the lie I keep feeding myself: this is a really harsh card to pull, I feel, because the instantaneous read is: "You're not competent, you're not smart, you don't have it together, you are dropping all of the balls, quit kidding yourself. But this comes at a moment of a great ongoing inner debate: I have no idea what the fuck I'm doing versus Don't panic, it'll all work out, you got this.

So: is the lie that I'm a charlatan, or that I'm competent? Oh, Tarot.

Speaking of Tarot history and the origins of the card, Biddy Tarot has a really great interview with Robert Place about the history of the cards. It is academically and authentically grounded (protip: they're not Egyptian) and easy to digest, and even though it's a podcast interview, Biddy is really great with having transcripts so you can read instead.

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