The Rider-Waite-Smith Magician
The RWS Tarot makes a link between the Magician and an alchemist. Red and white – the Magician’s clothing – are the colors that represent in alchemy the two poles of duality, which must be fused into a (divine) unity. On an energetic level, these colors refer to the two energy channels, running along the spine, which in the yoga tradition are called ida-nadi (the feminine, white) and pingala-nadi (the masculine, red). They are also the two serpents that spiral upwards on the staff of the god Hermes.
Alchemy often uses images from nature, such as flowers. On the illustration from the manuscript of Basilius Valentinus (below left) we see a king – symbol for the alchemist who has realized the divine – standing wide-legged between a rose (red) and a lily (white). These are the same flowers that we also see on the RWS card of the Magician.
He is holding a sun and a moon in his hands. These are also symbols that express duality. The alchemical emblem with the mythical figure Hermes Trismegistus (below right) illustrates that the fusion of these poles takes place through the action of (the kundalini) fire.
The lemniscate, above the head of the RWS Magician, is a universal symbol that expresses this fusion. Around the Magician’s waist we see a so-called ouroboros; a serpent that eats its own tail. The ouroboros is an ancient symbol, also from alchemy, that with its circular shape stands for the cyclical nature of creation, and its underlying divine unity. This ouroboros as a belt symbolizes that the animal drives (the lower abdomen) must be mastered in order to experience the divine. The serpent is also a universal symbol of the kundalini-energy.