Today, I’ll compare the Magus from the Thoth deck with RWS (Universal Waite version) and Druid Craft magicians.
The Thoth will always be a contrast to most other decks, particularly these two RWS types. Overall for the Magician card, it’s a contrast between concrete and abstract, working with objects in a scene in the real world vs. playing with alchemy and objects suspended in the unconscious dream world of Crowley and Harris.
The RWS Style Magicians
The Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) and Druid Craft Magicians share the authoritative stance of a master. They hold their wands high in the right hand, and have a table in front with the tools of the suits, along with the infinity symbol. It’s over the RWS Magician’s head and on the belt of the Druid Craft one.
Pamela Colman-Smith in the RWS added roses and lilies. I found out that the frame of roses over the top of the RWS Magician originates in a Roman practice where that which was spoken of at the table framed by the roses was secret knowledge, not to be repeated elsewhere. So the Magician carries the secret of using magickal power in the world. Lilies usually indicate purity or possibly death. The Magician seems to have potential power over both sex and death in the symbolism of this card.
The Druid Craft Magician is located at a central symbol of Druid power, Stonehenge, and has a hen looking on. The hen pulls in the energy of the feminine with its association with women tending chickens and gathering eggs at home. In some stories, the hen is a symbol for the female seer or witch. So, our Magician is not just a symbol of masculine power (we leave that to the Emperor). The Magician also wears a cloak of raven feathers, a power animal for Celtic myth and Druidry. No living plants, though, in contrast to the RWS. The color contrast is pretty profound between RWS and Druid Craft, with subdued colors in the Druid Craft and dawn just breaking. Compare this imagery to the recolored Universal Waite with its bright reds, yellows, greens and whites.
The Thoth Magus
The Thoth is in some respects, a whole different animal. While the other Magicians represent the usual aspects of mastery of magickal knowledge and tools and the ability to use them in the world, the Magus seems much more self-absorbed.
With the Magus, this absorption in the joy of his own knowledge and power to manipulate the universe is much more obvious. Like the Druid Craft Magician and unlike the RWS, he is looking up and not out of the card. He’s suspended in the air (a common phenomenon in the Thoth) by winged sandals and very much epitomizes the Mercury/Hermes, the Greco-Roman Trickster god. The trickster metaphor is also associated with other interpretations of the Magician, particularly the older Tarot de Marseille card style. In this case, though, there’s more of an alchemical theme of the mercury as that fascinating liquid/solid element with magical properties. And the Magus is the only one of the three that visibly portrays the negative side of this card, with the monkey god climbing up to disrupt our Magus’s fun.
Ultimately, they all represent the power of ego tinged with the first awakening of wisdom leading the manipulation of energy and magick in the world. As with all things where the ego is involved, a shadow side appears, in this case the risk of becoming drunk on one’s own sense of power. The trick, as the Druid Craft Magician shows, is to allow the entire energy of the cosmos to channel freely through you, to listen as well as to speak, and to remember the virtue of humility.