This is an excerpt from The Raziel Tarot, authored by Rachel Pollack and designed by Robert M Place
The Magician card shows us King Solomon, builder of the Temple, wisest of all humans, master of magic, subduer of demons until he himself was tricked by Ashmedai (see card 15, The Devil). Though he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, his true match came in the powerful and brilliant Queen of Sheba, shown on the Strength card.Thus we find strong links between the Magician, Strength, and the Devil, the first triad, which is to say the initiatory cards of the three lines of the Major Arcana (1, 8, and 15).
Solomon also connects strongly to the High Priestess, who as card 2, is a natural partner of card 1.The High Priestess in the Raziel Tarot is the Shekinah Herself, who as the “Indwelling Presence” literally lived in the Temple Solomon built for Her. The Hebrew letter associated with this card is Beit, a word that means house. Solomon created the
Temple as the House of God. In mystical texts “House” sometimes means the Temple.
As we described in The Fool, Beit is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, just as the Magician, numbered 1, is actually the second card. Since the Aleph, the Fool’s letter, is silent, Beit is really the first letter of substance. It begins the Bible, whose first word is “Beraishith,” usually translated as “In the beginning.” This is the ultimate magic act, to draw something out of nothing. Beit also begins the word b’ruchah, or blessing. We read
in the Bible “God blessed Solomon with wisdom.” In the Sefer Bahir (again, see previous card), we find a reworking of the famous line from Psalm 11, “Fear [Awe] of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom.” The Bahir says “The beginning is wisdom, awe of YHVH.” Fear does not bring wisdom, wisdom leads to awe. The line is not about terror of a God who might crush you, but rather the wisdom to experience awe of the Infinite, the Eternal.
Solomon’s father, David, originally wanted to build the Temple, but he had devoted too much of his life to war. David also lusted after a woman he saw bathing, and in order to satisfy his desire but avoid the sin of adultery he sent her husband to the front lines, where the poor man died in battle, leaving David to claim the widow. But Solomon, too, was flawed, for he allowed some of his wives to bring idols into the Temple. One lesson we learn from the Bible is that no human being, however wise or powerful, is flawless.
As “partner” to the Shekinah, and builder of her house, Solomon the Magician channels the heavenly energy of Above to ground it Below, in the physical world. In the Waite-Smith deck and others, the Magician raises one arm holding a wand, and points the other downward, towards flowers. Here we see his right arm raised, and his left holding the staff, which grounds the energy in the Earth.
He wears red, and fire rises from the alter in front of him. Fire is indeed the Magician’s elemental quality. But underneath the red outer robe we see white, for the purity of his thoughts and actions. This is the Magician at his highest. Carved into the altar—embedded in physical reality—we find the four emblems of the Minor Arcana. From the
bottom up they are the Staff of Moses crossed by the Sword of David, the Cup of Joseph the Diviner, and the Pentacle, known magically as the Seal of Solomon. The five-pointed star has many meanings, including the human body with the arms and legs out, the planet Venus, and flowers or fruit with five points. We will look at some of these more closely in the suit of Pentacles, but here we might notice that Solomon was said to use the form to
bind demons (and the Djinn, in Arabic tradition) to his will.
The Magician himself wears the six-pointed star on his breastplate. This star, which most people think of as a cultural symbol of Judaism, the “Mogen David,” or “Shield of David,” is formed by inter-locking two triangles, one pointing up, the other down. They symbolize Fire and Water, male and female energies. This magical meaning is far older than the cultural one, and in fact, found in many cultures. (If you want to shock—or offend—your Jewish friends or relatives try telling them that the star they wear round their necks is
a symbol of sexual magic.)
In the great lore of The Book of Raziel, Solomon is one of those who received the Book, for he used its secrets to build the Temple. Tradition and myth tell how the earthly Temple mirrors, in stone and wood, an eternal Temple in Heaven. Solomon, we learn, could travel between them. Wisdom, creative fire, and dedication unite Above and Below.
The Bible portrays Solomon as all-wise, author of such “wisdom” books as Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and especially the Song of Songs, which the great rabbi Akiva ben Joseph declared as the single most important book in the Bible, for its depiction of God’s love for his people, Israel (for more on the Song of Songs, and its deeper meanings, see card 20, Judgement). In post-Biblical times, even continuing to the present, Solomon became the
master of magic, and thus the perfect choice for this card. Even today, you can easily find (especially on the Internet, something we might imagine as a secret creation of Solomon himself, or the angel Raziel) a whole range of “Solomonic seals,” for various magical goals: wealth, love, fame, protection, etc. Usually these seals consist of a sigil of some kind, with various Holy Names in Hebrew, and/or prayers. The Seal of the Angel Raziel appears on the back of these cards, with two seals invoking the Holy Name Shaddai below
One of the earliest works to depict Solomon as a magician is “The Testament of Solomon,”
written some time before the fifth century CE. It tells how Solomon summoned a parade of
demons and forced them to tell him their names, and powers, and how to control them, primarily by invoking the names of angels. The Testament (which shows clear Christian influences, if not actually of Christian origin) became the model or many later grimoires, or magical texts. In one of the encounters described in the Testament, Solomon imprisons the demon in a jar. This would later become the famous image of containing a djinni (genie) in a bottle, for in Muslim tradition Solomon, called Suleiman, masters both the djinn and the ifrits, or demons, creatures of great magical power who are sometimes described as made of smoke and fire.
Divinatory meanings: Wisdom, creativity, will, magical ability, especially in service to a higher cause. Fire, vitality, life energy, the masculine principle (in women as well as men). Mastery, whether of a skill or of the self.
Reversed: Arrogance, pride, misuse of power. Taken in another direction, weakness, doubt, blocked energy. With the Devil, danger of being tricked, taken advantage of, or controlled by someone else.