Bateleur or Magician

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Le Bateleur (The Bateleur) from the 18th-century Dodal Tarot de Marseille
The Magician from the Leonardo da Vinci Tarot

History and Iconography

Early representations

In the earliest known list of the Trumps (Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis), this card is called El Bagatella, but it is later also referred to in Italian as Il Bagatto. The etymology of these words seems to be unsure, but is probably related to bacchetta (rod or stick).

The Visconti-Sforza Tarot depicts the Bagatella/Bagatto as a richly-dressed man seated at a sort of fold-out table. He holds a long stick in his left hand and lying on the table are a cup, two coins (or orbs), a knife and a fourth, rather ambiguous object. The stick, cup, coins and knife are interpreted by many as representing the four suit symbols, Batons, Cups, Coins and Swords respectively.

On the Rosenwald Sheet, the Bagatella/Bagatto wears a jester’s cap with bells or pompons. He holds a stick in both hands and several coins lie scattered on the table. The Cary Sheet shows the Bagatella/Bagatto seated at a low, ornamented table, again with goblets, knives and coins. He possibly holds a stick in his left hand.

In the Tarot de Marseille, the card is called Le Bateleur (The Bateleur). The following definition is given by the ‘Dictionnaire de L’Académie Française’ (1762):

Bateleur, euse. One who does conjuring tricks. "This Bateleur is very skilful, very sharp-witted." People who join the theatre in public places, like charlatans, cord dancers, jokers, are also called that way. "He enjoys watching the Bateleurs." It is said of a man who enjoys doing small flexible movements (tours de souplesse) that "He does the Bateleur".

The Bateleur is depicted as a energetic young man with blond, curly hair and a colourful suit. His broad-rimmed hat appears to show the vague contours of a lemniscate, which was the inspiration for the Magician’s lemniscate in the Waite-Colman Smith deck. On his three-legged table lie the tools of his trade, which are essentially the same as those in earlier decks (with the occasional addition of dominoes).

20th-century representations

In the Waite-Colman Smith, the card was renamed The Magician and shows exactly that. A lemniscate hovers above the man's head and lying on his table are now clearly the suit symbols, which have been reinterpreted as magical tools: a Wand, a large Cup (or Chalice), a Pentacle and a Sword. The Magician clasps a sceptre in his right hand and raises it to the sky, and points with his left hand to the ground, which is an allusion to the hermetic saying “As above so below”.

Suggested Divinatory Meanings

The Bateleur or Magician is the active principle - so much so, in fact, that the Major Arcana is sometimes seen as the Bateleur's journey in the tradition of the Tarot de Marseille (in which he is, after all, the first numbered Trump). He is often interpreted as being dynamic, agile and sharp-witted, a true "magician" of his own life. He may therefore also denote willpower and creativity. As the first card of the serie he also stands for the beginning of something (a new cycle, a new job, a new life...).


These are not accepted outside of those who follow such attributions


Golden Dawn oriented (and derivatives)

Numeral : I, 1


  • Astrology
    • Type : Planet
    • Name : Mercury
    • Symbol : ☿
  • Alchemy
    • Type : Metal
    • Name : Mercury
  • Colour : Yellow
  • Yetziratic Intelligence (Golden Dawn Version): Intelligence of Transparency
  • Musical Note (Paul Case Version): E Natural
  • Cube of Space position : Above
  • Tree of Life position : (1,3) (Kether, Binah)
    • Interpretations :
      • "The Crown of Understanding"
      • "Understanding of the Crown"

In other languages

  • Dutch: Magiër
  • French: Le Bateleur
  • German: Der Magier
  • Hungarian: A Mágus, A Varázsló
  • Italian: Il Bagatto, il Mago, il Giocoliere, l'Artigiano
  • Portuguese: O Mago
  • Spanish: El Mago