A tale of two magicians in the Tarot de Marseille

Reading the Tarot de Marseille is for me always an invitation to be present. To actually sit with the cards and put aside what I think I know so that I can see what is actually in front of me. Recently Joseph Peterson re-released his photo reproduction of the Jean Noblet deck – my all time favourite version of this deck. I’ve been enjoying getting know all the subtle shifts in how this deck reads based on its more accurate colour corrections in the new edition.

I was doing a reading for a client about whether they should make a change at work or not. They had been dealing with a lot of instability and wanted to find some grounding and peace but did not know how to achieve that. When I dealt out he cards I realized immediately that I had forgotten to remove the extra magician card – the one with the corrected wand – when I had opened this new deck. My instinct was to immediately pull the extra card and deal another to replace it. Yet as I reached for it the words of my friend Yoav came to mind “everything that happens during a reading is part of that reading.” So I decided to make the bold choice of leaving the cards as is.

In the middle we can see the choice that needs to be made. Either to stay with what they know by remaining in the water or to go forward and face the barking of the dogs in the centre of the card. It is always wonderful when the cards indicate clearly that they are speaking directly to the question at hand. Seeing the two magicians on either side of the Moon card indicated that they speak of the two different paths.

Of course we would usually not find the same card speaking to two roads since these only showed up because of my inattention. When we have different cards it is much easier to speak to what each path is going to bring. Here we have identical images except for one detail – the completed wand on the right and the incomplete one on the left.

When we deal with the magician representing the client I often find that they know the truth about what they need. They may put on a show that tries to say they don’t understand. Yet the card itself says they are aware they are performing. So I asked the client which path they felt they wanted to go down. Which version of the magician did they like better? Without hesitation they choose the card on the right with its completed wand.

Now you might notice about the magicians table is that it only has three legs. While a tripod is very stable the shape of this table isn’t. If you put your weight on the wrong corner everything would tip and slide off to the ground. So in looking at the cards we also might see that the magician on the right has in fact fashioned a fourth leg for the table. That they could then affix and create the stability which they are searching for.

So far we now know what they want – stability and that they are able to make it happen – to make choices that don’t upend things. Or put simply that planned change might work but a quick change will likely make a mess.

This leaves us with one last question to answer. Why is the other magician here and what is it telling us about their motivation and actions?

The card on the left with its incomplete wand has been the source of much debate. Was it a printing error or was it some coded message from the printer to the card players or diviners? In his book Seeing the World Jean-Claude Flornoy suggests that in fact it was a deliberate choice. Given the high taxation on playing cards the printer had decided to have the magician give the finger to the “man” on his version of this card. That in fact it was a card that include the idea of protest and rebellion in this small gesture.

So I asked them directly “What is it about sticking it to the “man” that appeals to you?” Their nervous laughter told me I had asked the right question. We went on to discuss how they often feel like rebelling and just sticking their finger up at people when they act superior. That they always had felt this way. Yet when I asked if this ever helped them they admitted that it never did. It always just burned bridges and caused trouble for them. Their boss triggered this response in them yet the promise of stability in this job was high. It was now obvious to them which choices to make and which impulses to ignore to get where they wanted to go.

So if you find yourself making a choice between two magicians be present and take the time to make sure you know which one is helpful to you and which undermines your goals.


PS Interested in learning how to read the Tarot de Marseille? Please check out my online course which starts November 7th here.

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