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A New Series From Madeline Montalban

January 16, 2014

This is the last series I will be re-publishing of Miss Montalban’s. I don’t have any further articles to share. The series covers only the Trump cards; it does not go on to include the minor arcana. In the first two articles, Miss Montalban has some valuable things to say about the way a student of the tarot can be called to the study of occultism and what it means to take up that call. A.T.

Knowledge is Magic

Beginning a new series on The Tarot

by Madeline Montalban

With this article I am starting a new series on the Tarot; one which is designed to answer the hundreds of questions that have been put to me over the years I have been writing on this subject.

This new series will deal with the Tarot in its aspect as the Book of Thoth, for that is what it is. Hidden in the pictures and symbolism is all the accumulated arcane knowledge of the ages, for Thoth was the name of the ancient Egyptian Recorder, the preserver of all knowledge, both arcane and otherwise.

Because this is a mighty study we are all beginning together. I am not going to deal with the Tarot from the predictive point of view. It is, and always has been, far more than a mere fortune-telling device. For looking into the future, the method that uses an ordinary pack of playing cards is much simpler to learn than is the Tarot. Books and methods abound on reading the Tarot as a predictive medium. Those who just want to study it for this purpose are recommended to a booklet called The Tarot, written by McGregor Mathers, which can be supplied by John Watkins of 21 Cecil Court, London, W.C.2, price 7/6. This is one of the most comprehensive and cheapest books on the fortune-telling side of the Tarot and, having recommended it, I feel that for the purpose of this series of Tarot articles we can turn to the magic of the Tarot itself. For the Book of Thoth is the book of knowledge, and knowledge, when properly applied, is magic, inasmuch as it can work wonders.

The person who really wants to understand the magic and mystery of the Tarot has taken the first step to gaining this wisdom and magical knowledge. The second step is to be aware that the pictographs of the Tarot are manifold; as is its wisdom. There is no such thing as a complete book on the magical side of the Tarot in existence. It could not be contained in one book, or a hundred; a whole library would be needed to give even an idea of its immensity.

You are the “Fool”!
As a beginner wanting to understand the magic power of the Tarot, you are represented by No. 1, or the Juggler. The name “juggler” is applied to that aspect of Tarot Trump No. 1 that represents an uninstructed person (sometimes called the Fool). He is trying to “juggle” with what he knows about life and the hidden powers within himself, some good, some evil, which can cause him to make mistakes, and through them come to wisdom.


The other name for Trump No. 1 is The Magician, or Adept, which represents the instructed, aware and magically-powerful student of the occult who has learned of the powers behind Nature, its laws and lore, and the Universe itself, and who has the wisdom to apply them. We shall wind up this series by dealing with the Magician-Adept side of Trump No. 1, when we have come full circle through the mysteries of the trumps. But we must begin at rock bottom, by dealing with the lesser side of the trump, known as The Juggler, and by finding out what he represents. Briefly, he stands for the curious and inquiring mind that is desirous of learning the magic of the Tarot, but which admits that it knows nothing. That is the beginning of all magical learning. To admit you know nothing is the beginning of wisdom.

Not an escape from life
The first step is to acquire a balanced mind about it. All juggling implies balance and dexterity, and from the Tarot point of view it is mental balance and dexterity that is implied. So you must begin by laying aside all preconceived notions that magic is necessarily black magic, that powers can be obtained with no effort or study, or that even the knowledge of an Adept will free you from the limitations and trials that life imposes on us all. It will not. Life is experience; from experience comes wisdom. Wisdom is magic, when you learn to use it. Again, as the beginner, the juggler with words, ideas, conceptions and symbols, you must avoid falling into a very obvious trap; that of wanting to talk about it when you stumble on a secret of importance. Conversational get-togethers on the subject of magic, when the student is in the initial stages, do far more harm than good. Nobody who knows a great deal more than you do will want to talk to you about it. Those who know less, or just the same amount, have nothing of value to contribute. The wise student first must learn to keep what he learns to himself. This is the symbolism of the little seal on the right-hand side of the Juggler diagram. It represents the Egyptian God of Silence, called Harpocrates, seated on the lotus of knowledge, with his finger to his lips.

Learn not to talk
In ancient days the student occultist was bound to silence by a series of most sacred and terrible vows, and his life was at stake if he revealed what he learned. And for a good reason. Knowledge and power, if put into the hands of fools, can be very dangerous. Fools will not be taught, cannot learn, and will not be parted from their folly. Moreover, they are unscrupulous. Their own folly makes them so. Even today, any occult school that teaches things of worth asks for a pledge of secrecy from its students. They still follow the old system, because they have found it is good. Nobody can teach you when to talk, but you can learn not to talk . . . until you have attained Adept degree, when, oddly enough, you won’t want to talk about it!

The seal on the left-hand side of the Juggler represents Hermes, or Mercury, god of communications, intelligence and magic, whose name in ancient Egypt was Thoth. He bears in his hand the winged caduceus, representing mental, spiritual and physical expression, and he is raising from the Pit of Ignorance the psyche, or soul, always represented as a female figure.

Taken together the whole graph means: “You, the beginner, the Juggler, are about to learn of mysteries and powers that lie within you, and which will emerge as the result of an instructed mind. To this end you are enjoined to silence. Reflect upon what you learn, but do not talk about it. Then the God of Wisdom and Magic will lift your soul from the pit of ignorance and materialism. With this promise to yourself, and the will to learn, you have embarked upon a path that winds ever upwards, and when you reach the summit you can understand the mysteries of the Gods.”

Your mind as power-house
It sounds a tall promise, but is no more than a fact. If you have read this far, you are already interested, which means that you feel the need for such lore and learning. The most powerful weapon you have in your armoury is your mind. Again, this is represented by Hermes-Mercury-Thoth. An uninstructed mind is one without power to guide its owner through the labyrinth of life. An instructed mind is a power-house that can sway events and forces.

All magic, or occult force, works upon mental power allied to knowledge. It is not a matter of circles and diagrams, of mystic signs and strange pacts. Those are but the methods by which you learn. The only pact you make is with yourself and the creative power which brought you into being. The pact is that you will learn, and not abuse what you learn. That you will value knowledge and applied mind-force, and realize that by so doing you can improve not only your own lot, but that of others about you. If you stretch out your hand from the Pit of Ignorance, the God of Knowledge will grasp it, and lead you by simple but enthralling ways to possession of powers you did not know existed.

In the next article I will tell you of the subtle approaches that Thoth, Recorder and God of Knowledge, will make to you.
[First published in Prediction.]

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