Saturday, 27 December 2014

Invoking The Magician

Janus, Roman God of Doorways gives the month of January its name

During the period between Christmas and the New Year we find ourselves in that no-man’s land where we fix our sights on the past year, reassessing it within the longer view of perspective and context.
And as the first day of the first month of the New Year approaches, it offers the freedom to turn the telescope round and peer into the unknowable future.

I was particularly struck with this image of no-man’s land when considering the movie Joyeux Noel that celebrated the soldiers of the 1914 Great War (“war to end all wars”) who lay down their arms on Christmas Eve 100 years ago to fraternize with their enemies in the zone where their dead comrades lay. Here they listened to Christian carols and flirted with the bizarre notion of peace on earth.

Once Christmas was over, such a dangerous idea was of course immediately flattened. The great war-machine of Church and State rolled over the maverick soldiers, who had re-learned their humanity and re-gained their foolish souls for just that momentary spark in time. Business was resumed as usual so the slaughter of innocents might continue.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today….

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace….

The key word being imagine
And of course the musician and pacifist John Lennon died a violent death - murdered.

So here we are in our annual  no-man’s land of time - the breathing space each year gifts us - with a few days if we’re lucky - to contemplate our past and future. This ending and beginning of the year is a floating dreamtime allowing opportunities to strike up a different kind of free-flow conversation with family and friends. A voice on the radio or in a book might open a new connection. Or maybe a FaceBook photo, an amusing Snapchat joke might jolt an old memory into a different re-arrangement in the jigsaw patterns of the mind.. Time takes on different rhythms and dimensions when not dictated by money and the structures of routine.

(Time IS money!? Is that what we truly think?!)
Holiday time is Dreamtime. And dreaming is where imagination roams, where new goals are formed and born.

In tarot terms the Fool is the embryo that floats in No-man’s Land and the Magician is the foetus that is formed out of and emerges as baby from this fluid womb.

The Magician is the first numbered card in the sequence of the tarot’s major mysteries. 

He is Number One and he is the master of illusion. Magic is cognate with imagination, image, imagine, magus.

So while we contemplate the Old and New Years - our resolve and our resolutions still in embryonic form - we come under his spell.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

The Magician is the archetypal agent for change. So while his first directive is imagination, his escort is transformation. His symbolical equivalent is the astrological Mercury who is shape shifter, trickster, hermaphrodite extraordinaire.


We pause here to allow me the luxury of an aside about gender and symbols:

For about three thousand years Mercury and the qualities of Number 1, and lately over the last 600 years so too the tarot’s Magician, have all been imaged and imagined by our mostly male Magi.

Take Number 1 for example. It is written as an upright shaft. This vertical line represents spirit and provides the link between the higher and lower worlds of sky and earth. From nadir to zenith and back again – it is related to such symbols as the trunk of the World Tree, the spine in our bodies, standing stones, the staff and the stave, the Sceptre and the Wand. Not to mention the upright Phallus.

Pythagorean philosophy stated that Number One is masculine for it is an odd number. This concept (which is not a universal one) has become fused in the West with the stereotypical re-writing of masculinity as bright and active, whilst the dark feminine is passive and acted upon.

Allegory of Mars, Venus & Cupid. De Young

For a long time, this has been a very convenient cultural description that helped to normalise a patriarchal social system of how and where women should be placed relative to men.

Of course biologically, the upright phallus is a vertical thrusting shaft, however humans have always been so much more than their biology. 

Women like men have a backbone, share the masculine ability to take the initiative, begin things and become independent thinkers; all of which are number one qualities.
The woman’s womb itself is indeed a dark hole that nurtures. However during the birthing process, the womb becomes a forceful, driving self- initiating organ.

Men may fancy their penises as upright thrusting life-giving shafts of light and power but more often than not they do not perform according to task and are normally limp and small, nestling and vulnerable.

Use biology at your peril to describe human and spiritual qualities.  An archetype often deteriorates swiftly into stereotype when examined closely.

When using a symbolic language such as Astrology and Tarot, gender too must be taken as a symbol. Each culture can then interpret gender according to its own cultural norms.

When we find Mercury implicated in the Number 1 card The Magician, we must assume we have a hermaphrodite God/dess symbol that is certainly not strictly male. Gender roles are rapidly changing. So too must the esoteric world adapt to new understandings of what it means to be a woman and man in each culture the symbols find themselves. Patriarchy is a horrible, outworn system of oppression that has no place in our work as symbolists!

Healer heal thyself,
Teacher teach thyself,
Magicians unite to initiate change!

The planet Mercury’s glyph is hidden within the older Marseilles tarot image. 

Mercury is the God of travelers and merchants. A trickster, a fairground shyster or performer, Mercury fits the tarot’s Magician perfectly for the older title for the card was The Juggler or Mounteback.

Always an androgynous and ambidextrous figure, s/he performs sleight of hand tricks to distract and entertain. 

Romany Tarot Magician

Mercury is the original wheeler and dealer, purveyor of information and of course, con-artist or spin doctor. Just like our own imaginations and indeed the mind itself.

Mercury rules our intelligence and the eloquence of the written and spoken word.

So this image/idea I’m using to begin our New Year is clever, monkey- brain stuff, requiring us to use our smarts, be self-focused. Thinking, writing, talking, communicating to stimulate new and innovative ideas.

In the Roman alphabet “I” represents the authority of self – I, me, myself. Number One in popular language means the best, a leader a winner. The purpose of One is action that is both self-centering and motivated.
In the image of the Juggler  s/he is holding a wand – the vertical line – but also a ball.

Another way of imaging 1 is a condensed circle so it becomes a point.
A point is like a seed or a bud, the first pinprick of light forming in the void, the start of new life in the womb.
Everything starts with a point or a focus that demands intense concentration. The point demands separation, isolation and aloneness. Going solo means there is no-one to rely on except oneself.
It requires self-mastery, well-developed will-power and inventiveness. It works optimally when it has a goal to direct itself towards.
Victorian Romantic Tarot featuring Faust as Magician

In this time in No-Man’s land imagine yourself as the central character in the play of your life.
If it’s to be, it’s up to Me.

Who am I? Perhaps one of the most fundamental questions we can ask. Ask it now as the end of the year approaches, so to better “know thyself” – one of the older precepts of the ancients.

Walt Whitman, in “Song of Myself” from The Leaves of Grass writes 

I celebrate myself and sing myself.

Or listen to Jill Scott sing One is the Magic;-

So many times I define my pride through somebody else’s eyes
Then I looked inside and found my own stride, I found the lasting love for me
If I’m searching for my spirituality passionately, I must begin with me

There’s just me, one is the magic number
There’s just me, one is the magic number

If I add myself unto myself multiplied times
You and yours and you again, there’s just me
And if I divide 8 billion, 48 trillion, 98 zillion, there is there is just me
If I subtract 1 plus 3 to the 5th degree, use any theorem, there’s just me

There’s just me, one is the magic number
Salvidor Dali as Himself

Enterprising, entrepreneurial, self-motivated, get-up-and-go!  Forgive me – the sounds of Number One begin to sing a paean of joy to capitalism and its entire self-promotion tout and hype our current society holds so dear.
When a community becomes alienated from its individual members, it is indeed easy for each atom to slip into sole self-interest and puff. Each atom pitted against another atom. Why not join the ranks of Key and company and become a master of illusion-delusion?

The Magician can be the conman, the adman, the arrogant selfish know-it-all who drives around in that SUV and bugger everyone else on the road. The Prime Minister who appears in his best performance mode as Magician – consummate Master of Ceremonies -  distracting attention with one hand in order to better deceive his audience with the other.

Number One’s individualism can also lead to loneliness - one of the modern social diseases generated by a selfish, self-regarding, self-absorbed culture.

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
One is the loneliest number, worse than two. Harry Nilsen

But the Magician like any archetype always consists of the extreme poles and all the shades of grey that reside within that dialectical tension that is me/us.

Walt Whitman
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Directing and focusing one’s mind and attention, to find the will that will transform circumstances to one’s advantage does not a capitalist make. In fact, if we want to change this society to a more socialist, more community- structured, democratic, healthy place to live in, we’d better magic up some goals quick smart.
The constant dumbing down of critical independent thinking in the public forums of mass media and political debate, is creeping fascism at work. Unless each one of us starts valuing our own creative thought and begins to exercise some deliberate cultural disobedience in more directed ways, we will quickly become slaves to totalitarianism.
Complete corporate control is in the air and on the march with a vengeance. It is only the will of the people that can prevent it. 

“In times of crisis I try to think and use my understanding.” Marilyn Monroe

“Thinking was where Monroe went in search of freedom”
Women in Dark Times by  Jacqueline Rose

In January when we all go back to work, unless we want that Kafkaesque machine of (what passes for) normality to steamroller us into the monstrous ongoing slaughter of our beautiful planet – we’d better ensure we have imagination and strong resolve to make the new magic that can begin the task of transformative change.

I invoke the Magician in us all -
-        Come artists and architects, pioneers and inventors, students and scholars
-       Come poets and musicians, creatives and communicators, healers and parents
-       Come scientists and dreamers, come one and come all
-       Come workers of the world – unite!

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood (and sisterhood John!!!) of ‘man’
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…..

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
John Lennon

No comments:

Post a Comment