Margarete Petersen Study - I - Magic


I must admit that this is not one of my favorite cards in this deck. For some reason, the image of the mask is disheartening (perhaps the same reaction a clown gets from someone who fears them - maybe that's it ........ this card reminds me too much of mimes).

Typically I am a big fan of Ms. Petersen's brushstrokes, but on this card, they seem disjointed. I know the four elements are being represented here (which I admire - I like the idea of representing the elements instead of the four symbols of the minor arcana).

OK, back to the mask - one of the meanings of the Magician is that he is the "trickster" or salesman. The mask would certainly seem to hint at this. I always saw this as a minor attribute for this card, but the prominence of the mask makes it come to the forefront.

The crescent moon is a nice touch, even if it does frame the mask. I don't HATE the card, but it will never be a favorite.

Oh, regarding the sitar ....... being old enough to remember the Beatles when they were still together (yes, I am THAT old), I believe it was George Harrison who started the experimentation with that instrument. The first song he used it on was Norwegian Wood which predated Sgt. Pepper by a couple of years. It was he who discovered the Mahariji and the rest of the lads followed along for the ride for a short time. Harrison continued a lifelong love for the sitar as well as Indian culture.


Alison Cross

Hi - here are my thoughts on Magic. I can see and agree with what has been stated in previous posts - except the sitar! - can't see that. I *can* see a bird - it's head is turned towards the yellow sun, its beak over the top of the mask's left eye, its wings outstretched - you can see the tip of one wing overlapping the silvery moon crescent.

Masks are deceptive - hiding what cannot be seen - giving us the idea of the trickster in the Magician. But also masks are used in ritual and magic. Used in this way we have the element of personal force, the High Magician, using his Will (in the Crowley sense) to make things happen. This is 'I am'.

Now - quite what the significance of the bird is....I don't quite know. Birds are about freedom, flight? Any clues anyone?

Why do you reckon the mask is such a strange shape - with a section missing from the top? Why not just make it round? Hope some of you are still kicking around to give me your feedback on this? :)


Margarete tells us in her blurb that this is the image of a sitar, so it behooves us to try to see it.

I also see a crescent moon.


The strange section you see "missing" from the top of the mask, as well as the crescent moon - are details from the gourd base of the sitar -- see the image - attached here.


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Alison Cross

Ah - yes, I do see that shape now. Would this mean that Magic is an instrument?

Firemaiden, do you see the bird? If so, can you give me your insights as to what that might bring to an interpretation of the card?

Good to hear from you - thanks for helping me along;-)


Not "magic is an instrument" - but the instrument is magic, and symbolic of magic, it allows the magical transformation of breath and strumming into sound, sound which expresses and invokes spirit.

As for the bird I do not see it, but it must be there, because Margerete's text refers to it. And I do not quite understand why the birds are in this text. I want you to know, before the English translatiaon was published, there was only the original German available, which is why I spent so much time translating her poems and putting them up here - (and why I began the study group). This way I really got to know her texts, they are not easy to translate, because her poetry is extremely economical. That means she says thousands of things in only a few words, and her words really need to be paid very close attention. When she writes:

* Sun-winds stroke the strings of a Sitar--
the songs of the birds -- air vibrates and pulsates --
it resonates through the mask - I AM.
The soul glides into the new body--
Always new self-configurations.

She makes a poetic correspondence between the sitar, the song of the birds and the mask. The mask being an empty vessel, is like a body which allows new souls to glide into it, and that is symbolic of how we are capable of transforming ourselves always into "new self-configurations". The sitar, is like the mask - in that it too is a sort of an empty vessel, which only a bit of wind can make sound. It itself is not spirit, but it is a container which allows spirit to blow into it and say "I am". It is the container which allows the spirit to take form. The same way the human body is the container, or, if you prefer, the channel which allows spirit to take form. That is how it is magical.

I do not know for sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion some of her ideas are inspired by Heidegger. I didn't read Heidegger, but took a course on his influence on French poetry. We spent a long time with his ideas about what an icon is - an icon being not spirit itself, but a vessel which allows spirit to slip in - thus a person who uses icons to be with spirit, is not worshipping the icon itself, but the spirit housed temporarily in the icon.

Masks in sacred cultures as you know, have a similar function in ceremonies, of being used to bring the presence of a spirit. Music is also used to invoke spirit, the music and the mask go together.

As for the birds, I do not know how they fit in with this concept -- they sing in the sun and they sing in the wind. To me they are always the pure expression of spirit. I don't know. Perhaps the bird you see is a manifestation of another kind of spirit - one of the many new "self configurations". I do not know. Perhaps there is a sacred bird spirit that would have been invoked. This warrants a bit of googling.

I do think Margarete's text makes a bridge between sacred rituals of ancient peoples - using masks and sitars etc. - and the modern psychology: in modern terms, it is not that our own bodies house many different spirits, but that we ourselves are limitless, and capable of morphing into many different selves.

So I think this card expresses the magic of self tranformation, self actualisation, the magic of channeling spirits, and then on the flip-side - also the potential shallowness of the instruments themselves when there is no air, no vibration, or sun or wind to make them say "I am" - the puppet without a hand to made it live....

There is the magic of animation - and then there is also the deception....

Alison Cross

oh - I don't know what happened there, I was half way through thanking you for your posting and my browser shut down! So there might be a half-baked posting winging its way to this forum even as we speak.

Firemaiden, other than the different coloured borders (and book in different language), what are the differences between the original German deck and the English language deck?

Have done a quick google for sitars/birds link but nothing obvious springs up - eg like a myth or legend encompassing both. Will keep looking though ;-)

Like others on this forum, this card is possibly my least favourite of the Majors. Perhaps it is the very fact that it is a mask that turns me off. I'm not a fan of clowns for the same reason. Thanks for your input in this- all the time and trouble that you are taking to accompany me on my wobbly journey through the deck ;-)

Little Baron

I just purchased the deck, as part of my seeking out Magician's that I found interesting for my 78 weeks study. And the first thing that I saw was the bird, Alison, hehe. I have not had enough time to look at the deck yet, but it is very different to anything I have had before. And I hope it will be useful in my 78 week study.


Alison Cross

Hiya - I'm so glad that you can see the bird, I thought I was losing my marbles.

Still might be though LOL!

'Tis a super deck and I've fallen a little behind with my studies of it. Hope to catch up with you on other cards :)