The Magician Archetype – Interview

With Marianne Hill – Healing The Shadow Practitioner

This is the transcript of an interview by Carolyn Clitheroe, a psychotherapy student who has developed an interest in shadow work and the archetypes. In relation to her studies she interviewed Marianne about the Magician archetype. This is the third in a series of interviews, the first was the Sovereign archetype interview, the second was the Warrior archetype interview. Before the Sovereign interview transcript there is a simple overview of all four archetypes. If you’re not familiar with the four archetypes you may wish to take a look at this summary to help put this Magician interview in to context.

This interview took place in Bristol in May 2018 and focuses on our inner Magician. The discussions are wide-ranging and a variety of topics relating to the Magician are discussed – transformation and trauma, truth and lies, shame and fear, power and abuse, wildness and freedom and more… Inevitably the other three archetypes – the Lover, the Warrior and the Sovereign – are also discussed, since all four archetypes are interwoven and interdependent.

Marianne Hill interviewed by Carolyn Clitheroe (Sampritti)

May 2018 in Bristol


C:  OK so we don’t have the corners (Lover, Sovereign, Warrior, Magician) in front of us today so I want to start off by asking you what’s usually in the Magician corner to help orient us to it a little bit.

M:  Well the first thing that comes to mind is feathers –  and that’s because they represent the flight of the Magician. The Magician is essentially high up in the air and able to see down and see everything that’s going on with a sense of perspective. So the feathers represent that airiness and ability to rise above, to soar above everything.

C:  That brings me to the first question actually, because there’s a confusion for me between the Sovereign’s ‘vision’ and the Magician’s sense of perspective that you talk about. I’m thinking about when people go on shamanic vision quests or something, there are often feathers or a sense of flight involved in those rituals as part of getting a vision – so how do vision and perspective work together. Are they different things?

M:  Essentially yes. The Sovereign is attached to their vision and their vision has come from their sense of morality and the way they choose to live their life. The Magician doesn’t have that morality, so she can step right back and see all the different options without being attached to any of them. So that detachment is quite juxtaposed with the Sovereign who has this heart and warmth and passion about what they are wanting to do, whereas the Magician will be above, and not be attached to that, and be able to see all the different options available and all the different ways forward.

C:  So lets go back and see what else is displayed in the Magician corner. 

M:  Well another thing that comes to mind having had that conversation is that I like to put pictures there that look different when you look at them differently.

C:  Like those Escher pictures?

M:  Yes. There’s one that I’ve got where if you look at it one way you’ll see a young woman and if you shift your perspective, look at it in a slightly different way, you see an old woman. And this is where the key role of the Magician is – around transformation. And transformation involves that shift in our consciousness, that shift of perspective. The Sovereign doesn’t really hold that possibility because she is on her mission and clear about that, whereas the Magician can step up and above and see things from a different perspective. Transformation and raising of consciousness can take place because they’re not attached to a particular outcome or a way of being.

C:  Is the Magician then from the world of, say, the unmanifest? Are we talking about ideas and perspectives, maybe quite radical perspectives, that are not yet born – Is it that sort of world that the Magician lives in?

M:  Yes absolutely, the Magician has the ability to generate options for us, to help us see all the different possible options.  I was remembering back to when I was a single parent and I was talking to my therapist and feeling really angry and resentful about having to bring up my son on my own and being stuck in that. She presented the idea that it was a choice, and I really struggled with that, and then I got into this Magician place where I could feel all the different options: I could see the option of sending him to live with someone else or putting him into care or not bringing him up with the high standards that I wanted to bring him up with. Once I could see all those different options I could see that I was making a choice to bring him up, and to show the level of commitment that I was showing.

C:  So Magician is choice and Warrior is decision?

M:  In the heat of the moment the Warrior will choose from the different options generated by the Magician but really it needs to go through the Sovereign. The Sovereign listens to the Magician. When we think of the Sovereign we see the image of a king or queen with their court. The Magician is one of the people in the queen’s court and the Magician will come and say ‘These are the different options available’ and then the Sovereign will choose.

C:  So the Magician brings the options that haven’t yet been filtered by the values of the Sovereign?

M:  Yes, exactly.  And that detachment is necessary to come across something that’s truly new and transformational. So again I’ve been thinking about how this relates to the work that I do as a facilitator. We often see the facilitators as being the Magicians in the room, and I remember before talking about the Sovereign and how important it is to bring Sovereign and unconditional love and support to the person that you’re working with. And that, if you like, is the bedrock in my opinion. Nothing can be started until you have that sense of unconditional positive regard and acceptance for the person you’re working with. And yet that’s limited if you can’t also step back into a Magician place and reserve judgements, and allow the possibility of something new and different to emerge.

C:  So the Sovereign provides that trust that they will be accepted unconditionally no matter what thoughts the Magician brings forth.

M:  Yes. So in a similar way to the way I was talking about the incident with my therapist, she helped me to step back into the Magician and she didn’t buy into the way I was seeing reality. She helped me to step back and helped me see my situation from a different point of view. As the Magicians in the room who are facilitating, we reserve judgement when we see certain parts of people showing up because we welcome all the different parts of people into the room. Sometimes we can have parts showing up that are really cruel, mean, attacking and aggressive, or hopeless, weak and despairing. And if we were just coming from a Sovereign place we may want to rush in and stop the mean parts, or hold and support the weak parts, but actually that can prevent transformation from happening. So from a Magician place we’ll trust that those parts are there for a good reason and we can’t yet see that reason – so we will reserve judgement and step back and allow those parts to step forward and be and express and explore themselves and in that exploration and expression we find that those parts transform. But we couldn’t possibly know beforehand what they are going to transform into, we have to be stepped back and reserve judgements and at the same time have trust in the unfolding process.

C:  That’s very interesting. I mean what I’m hearing in what you’re saying is really it’s freedom that the Magician embodies, a type of freedom, a kind of wildness to be allowed to think wildly about things without the conditions of culture and values.

M:  That’s a lovely way of looking at it. Again on the train on the way here I had quite a lot of time to think about how I see the Magician and I was thinking about the image of the wild woman or wise woman (or man), but I was particularly thinking of a woman who lives outside community as you are saying, outside of the rules and the laws of the community, and from that place people visit her to receive her wisdom because she is detached. That Magician thinking can help her to free herself from the rules of society that someone who didn’t have so much Magician might get drawn into because their lover wants to connect. The Magician can help us to see lots of different options rather than buying into the options of our particular society or organisation.

C:  It’s interesting that you imagined that in the feminine form because I think that ability to flow with ideas and not be constrained by cultural rules often is something that the feminine symbolises.

M:  Yes the feminine Magician holds that wildness. We think of the masculine Magician as a little more ordered in the way he brings about transformation. He has a recipe or rules to follow, and they work, and that’s incredibly effective and that’s necessary: Both the masculine and the feminine are necessary, but the feminine is more of the wildness and intuition and the deep wisdom.

C:  We have very different images for wizards than we do for a witch, which seems to be much more to do with nature and natural processes, whereas wizards are much more to do with starlight and showmanship. Those are my childhood associations with the two aspects! So are there different aspects of the Magician that are associated with more masculine or more feminine approaches or is the Magician beyond all that actually?

M:  Well it’s helpful to think in terms of a masculine and a feminine aspect but it’s important to recognise that they’re not to do with male and female. It’s just a way of thinking of two sides of something. 

To bring about transformation we need the rigour of rules. If we think about scientists for example, scientists raise our consciousness, they bring about transformation by studying the world in a very rigorous way where they detach from their emotional involvement. For example, they may detach from any religious or spiritual ideas that they’ve got or the way they think the world should be, and they just look at it coldly. To do that they need a series of steps and they need to be very rigorous around them. But if you speak to most scientists they will say that when they’ve discovered something new there’s also been a moment of sort of inspiration, when they’ve ‘seen’ something – and that’s the feminine Magician – where there’s that intuition or inspiration that comes through.  It’s actually built on a foundation of solid steps but that kind of allows the transformation to come through.

C:  I’m thinking the Warrior is about seeing things ‘as they are’ so then the Magician is seeing things ‘as they could be’ or as they may be.

M:  Yes, so through an alternative lens. The Warrior is dealing with facts – and obviously it’s questionable what actually constitutes a ‘fact’! You know I could say ‘this sofa is yellow’ (points to a yellow sofa) and we wouldn’t have too much discussion about it. You might ask, say ‘what shade of yellow?’ but most people would agree. But the Magician deals with the greater areas, the subtleties. So for example: Is it a comfy sofa?  Well that’s a matter of opinion. So what the Magician can do is reframe things. For example, someone might come along and say ‘Oh this is a saggy sofa it’s not supporting me’ – The Magician might say ‘Well it’s a really comfy, soft sofa, I can sink right in’ and kind of both are true, but it’s a reframing. 

And that actually forms a really important part of the work that I do, because we can have taken on certain beliefs about ourselves and used certain language – from our childhood for example – and we may have a pejorative view of the way we are.

A common example might be being ‘needy’. We might have a belief that we are needy, and other people call us needy, and we refer to ourselves – maybe in private – as needy, and we feel shame about that. Whereas if I can reframe that for someone and say ‘I am someone who wants love and attention’ then that person can start to feel some pride in that:  ‘Well I want love and attention, I am a human being’ and so that’s a reframe of the same characteristics.

C:  I had a similar experience recently because we are going through an assessment process for dyslexia for my son and I was thinking ‘Oh god it’s a curse’ and then I watched various lectures about dyslexia and realised that, especially in our current climate, it’s actually a huge blessing – it’s a curse in terms of him interacting with institutions like schools, but that is a short-lived part of his life, and it will be a blessing for the rest of his life – that was a real paradigm shift.

M:  Yes many years ago I had a boyfriend who was dyslexic. Once and we were in a science museum which had a maze of mirrors to walk through and I was completely lost! I was literally just walking and bumping into mirrors in front of me because I couldn’t tell if it was a mirror or the way forward, and he just took my hand and walked straight through the maze without any hesitation! He was very dyslexic and couldn’t read or write easily, but he had other sides of himself that were very highly developed, and that’s the first time I really appreciated that – it was fascinating.

C:  I mean they are saying that that’s the part of the brain that was developed for wilderness. We didn’t need to read and write in the olden days – it’s only very recently we’ve needed to emphasise those skills, and there are forms of intelligence that we have to a greater or lesser degree that are to do with thinking for yourself, being single minded, having your own way of seeing things and trusting that as much as, or even more than, you trust any institutional thought or official dogma.

M:  Yes and that would be the feminine Magician, and intuition is something that’s not generally respected in our society. It is the Magician with a formula that would carry more weight in general and be more respected.

C:  What interested me just now, when you were talking about scientists and how they are very detached, is that even the way scientists look at something will impact on the results of the test, so we can never be 100% objective. But I suppose the more aware we are of what our perspective is the more we are able to take it into account. But our perspective is the water we swim in, we take it so for granted that it is very difficult to do that, and even those questions that scientists are asking have to come from somewhere!

M:  Yes, I guess our brains are designed so we will never be able to go right above and out of ourselves to that extent, and in a way I think the universe is designed like that. When I studied theoretical physics I studied the fact that the way that you set up an experiment effects the results. As you start studying it, or studying anything, you are effecting it, and it is proved at a quantum level now. So there is a limit to how ‘Magician’ we can be.

C:  In certain schools of Buddhism they talk about the Kayas which (in my very basic understanding) represent the unmanifest world where everything goes and everything comes from and there are different levels. So it kind of goes through different strata, where there is the absolutely unmanifest – things that we cannot possibly conceive of – and slowly something might become more accessible to us and then a little bit more. It is only through practices like meditation or initiation practices where we step through fear, where we open ourselves very purposefully to the unknown that we can welcome and host those unmanifest ideas or forms into the conscious mind because normally by the very nature of the fact they have been excluded there is resistance to them.

M:  I mean our Magician operates most of the time with a bias. She uses her skills in habitual ways that are there for good reason, usually from our childhood. So one of the key roles that the Magician seems to play is around safety.  So in childhood most of us, in one way or another, will have learnt to look out for certain things that are unsafe for us, and that may be just about anything: It could be someone knocking on the door, it could be men with ginger beards, it could be sunny days, it could be a dog barking and a whole host of other much more subtle and nuanced things that we might learn as children to pick up on as signs that something isn’t safe. So when our Magician scans around and uses this ability to see all the different options, then she is likely to not be scanning all the possible options, but to be scanning the ones that might be unsafe. So she is likely to be looking at the world through the filter of ‘what might not be safe for me’ and looking at all the options and possibilities that might relate to lack of safety for us, and pretty much disregarding all the other possibilities, because one aspect of the Magician is very much about survival. 

So that’s our primal need, and especially as children the way that the Magician looks after that is to look out for things that might not be safe, so that we can take some kind of form of preventative action before that unsafe thing has manifested.  As a child we can’t usually use our Warrior because we’re not big enough, we’re not strong enough and we’re also utterly dependent on the adults around us. So to stand up to them, to set boundaries, isn’t going to work because then we’d have no adult available to us. So we’re forced into a situation of relying on our Magician to warn us, to scan around and see if anything might be unsafe or if any of the future possibilities looks like they might not be safe, so that we can take action in a more Magician like way to try and prevent us from encountering that.

C:  Yes that’s interesting. I recently heard a program on the radio about a Holocaust survivor who said that she has a capacity to always always remember a face and to always knows who is who in a room, and that that’s a burden but also a gift. She described how she can see somebody one side of town in the morning and see them 20 miles over the other side in the afternoon and she’ll know it’s the same person because she will never ever forget a face. That’s the kind of gift that comes from a childhood where your survival depends on that kind of ability to be vigilant or even hyper vigilant.

M:  Absolutely, there’s a gift in here once we can begin to understand why we behave like that and start to use it to serve us.

C:  And if fear is the key emotion to the Magician’s then there’s that level of being able to be vigilant and know what’s happening and allay our fears that way, but is there actually a stepping through fear as well as part of Magician?

M:  Yes there is. Let me just say a bit more about fear being the key emotion for the Magician archetype, because it’s very relevant to what we were discussing about childhood experiences: As I said before, when we’re children we don’t have the power, the kind of real-world power of the Warrior, behind us. So if something scary happens we can’t react in a way to defend ourselves, and we can’t usually flee either because we’re so dependent on our parents. So we can’t use the fight or flight response. The other response in dangerous situations is to freeze. So the Magician is associated with the ‘freeze’ response. And when we freeze we tend to leave ourselves, leave our bodies to a greater or lesser extent, and step back and see the situation from the outside. A lot of people who’ve experienced trauma report that sense of having been out of their body or of recollecting it happening as if they were watching from the outside.

When I went back in a shadow work session to a traumatic incident from my childhood we set the room up as it had been in my childhood, and I realised that I couldn’t have been standing where I thought I was standing, because I was seeing it from a really long way back, and when we set the room out we realised that I could not possibly have been that far away. So that was my Magician having just stepped back for my safety, so that I didn’t have to be really present and experience that trauma in a felt way, where I was in my body. But also where I could step back and see what was going on and look at options and try and somehow make that situation safer for myself. Usually the only way we can do that as a child is by reframing the situation, by seeing what’s going on through different eyes, by using different words that will make us feel safer.

C:  So one way of naming that would be to call it dissociation which is normally seen as a pathology. It’s usually seen as something we shouldn’t be doing, in therapeutic conventions, but it seems to me that actually it is a type of resource.

M:  It’s essential, it’s essential as a child to do that in terrifying situations because you’ve got no other way of getting out of there, and psychologically you’d be damaged if you allowed yourself to remain present and feel the feelings of that in your body when you don’t have the support or the resources or you’re too young to process it. It is essential as a child because you have no other way of getting out of it.

So let me describe one of the common reframes that people make if they’re experiencing trauma, when they’re being abused in some way: physically, sexually or emotionally. First they step back and look at it, and they see somebody doing something bad to them, but that is so scary for them to take on as a belief, when they’re utterly dependent on someone who’s being bad, that it’s very common for the child to reframe it as ‘No I’m bad. I’ve done something bad and that’s why this is happening to me.’

It’s another way of seeing it. It’s actually not true but the child will choose to see it in that way because then they feel safer, and they feel safer because if they’re doing something bad then they have some control, because they can try to stop being bad and that gives them some sense of control over what’s happening to them. 

Whereas if they saw it as somebody just being bad towards them and they have no control then that’s just too terrifying.  So it’s actually selling themselves a lie that’s going to help them to survive.  So many of us find that we’ve believed this kind of a lie about ourselves from childhood, and we grow up believing that we’re bad or dysfunctional or wrong in some way.  And actually that’s just our Magician playing a very clever trick, not to harm us, but to serve us and to keep us psychologically safe. 

This is where perfectionism comes from – perfectionism because, if I believe I’m bad, I’m going to try and do everything I can to be good. And, because I wasn’t even bad in the first place, that becomes an impossible task where I just have to be more and more good and more and more perfect in order not to be bad, in order to prevent anything bad from happening. So perfectionism is a common result of damaged, overused Magician energy from that kind of a traumatic childhood situation.

And, you know, you’ve said dissociation is commonly talked about as not serving us, as dysfunctional: Clearly in adult life when we have access to our Warrior the need for dissociation isn’t there so much and so then we can miss opportunities to speak up, to stand up for ourselves, to be present with another person because we’ve dissociated, when in fact that is a childhood strategy that might no longer be necessary.  

So the answer to that is not to try and stop the Magician from dissociating but to try and build up the trust in the Warrior. Because if I know my Warrior is going to be there and protect me in any situation then I don’t need to take all these precautions, one of which might be dissociating, to protect myself.  I can protect myself in a real way, whatever that might look like –  maybe standing up for myself with words, it may be setting boundaries, leaving the situation, or maybe physically protecting myself. There are all of those options available.

C:  And that’s how you start to thaw the freeze?

M:  Yes, and then my Magician, my poor overactive Magician, that’s been working super hard for decades, can start to relax and recognise that that’s not necessary. A lot of the work I do is actually helping people to make that transition. And it’s not usually possible to make it in early adulthood because we’re still building our senses safety, you know literally creating a home for ourselves – creating work so that we’re physically safe and independent from our parents or from anybody who might want to abuse us. So we have to go through our twenties and thirties as well, probably even into our forties to get that sense of safety, so that we can then start to build up the Warrior and let the Magician go. Or rather give the Magician a different role, not let her go completely, but give her a felt sense of safety so that hyper-vigilance isn’t necessary anymore.

C:  I’m interested in how we locate ‘badness.’  We’re talking here about the Magician relocating the badness or threat to something internal, whereas the Warrior will re – externalise it so something could be fought against or resisted against or something like that…?

M:  … but the Warrior is not seeing badness you see,  it’s just seeing boundaries being broken. The Warrior doesn’t make that kind of judgement.  It’s the Magician that brings in the concept of ‘badness’.

C:  And so the whole world of legal battles – is that the world of the Magician?

M:  That’s a very very ‘Magiciany’ world, but ultimately when that’s done in a healthy way it’s the Sovereign in charge because the Sovereign holds morality.

C:  So it’s almost as though the Sovereign holds the spirit of the law and the Magician holds the letter of the law – and the Warrior does the punishing or the incarcerating?

M:  That’s a good way of looking at it, yes. But this idea of badness is really interesting you see, because when you talk about the Warrior, I think well, the Warrior is not interested in that (punishment) because that’s a judgement – to judge someone else as bad. How on earth do we really make that judgement, you know, what information do we use? Whereas the Warrior is making the judgement based on ’Is this OK with me?’  ‘Has a boundary of mine been crossed?’ and  that’s all she’s interested in. The other person may be good/ bad/ indifferent. And so the two can get confused because both Warrior and Magician have roles in protecting us and as I’ve said we often rely on the Magician because we can’t use our Warrior in childhood unless we have exceptionally healthy upbringings, but even then we’ll be using a lot of Magician to try and please the people around us, to work out what’s right for them so we can get our needs met and protect ourselves and keep ourselves safe.

So sometimes we’ll get muddled about those two different kinds of energies, and a good way to know the difference is if we’re making those kinds of judgements about another person being good or bad, and also if we want to punish. You talked about about the Warrior being the one that punished – but the Warrior isn’t really interested in punishment, it’s interested in setting boundaries. So we may put someone in prison because we need to protect that boundary, to protect ourselves,  but not, from a Warrior position, because we’re judging them as bad and believe they need to be punished – that’s Magician energy. Because the whole idea of goodness and badness, in my belief anyway, is a false one. I don’t believe that anybody is essentially good or bad. They may do good or bad things, they may make good or bad choices. So as I said before when Magician energy gets out of control in this way it’s often to do with the lie we’ve been sold in childhood, when we’ve experienced someone doing something very very bad to us, and that badness has to live somewhere, and quite often we’ll choose to take that on as ours in the way that I described before.  And then of course we don’t want to be seen as bad so we spend the rest of our lives trying to hide our badness, whereas in fact we weren’t actually bad in the first place. So we end up in a very Magician tangle. And one way we can try to hide our badness is to point out that other people are bad. Because if we can keep pointing out that other people are bad then we are less likely to be found out as bad.

C:  That reminds me of the scapegoating dynamic.

M:  Yes, yes absolutely.

C:  Relocating the badness somewhere else to be controlled or eventually rejected completely…

M:  Yes.  And this is why abuse can perpetuate from generation to generation – physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Because when we’re abused we tend to take on an aspect of the abuser (we take on the ‘badness’ we perceive in the abuser, as described earlier) and then generally we try to hide that in ourselves. But because that’s probably the only kind of power that we know – an abusive power – that’s also our only route to power. So when we’re very frightened, or feel out of our depth, we’re likely to protect or stand up for ourselves in that way. We’re likely to use abusive power – not directly to protect ourselves in a Warrior way – but to try and get rid of the badness in someone else in the hope that that will keep us safe. So it has this punishing, cruel aspect to it and there’s a real cycle that develops there around being abused and being the abuser and using that kind of energy which is based on the idea of somebody being bad and somebody needing to be punished. This cycle is likely to continue in some way until the pattern is made conscious and different choices can be made.

C:  That reminds me of the work you do with the Five Fields communication model and the way it supports you in making sure that your language isn’t ascribing badness to the other person. We’re describing discomfort or whatever it is to what they’ve done or what they’ve said but we’re not about to start assassinating their character and ascribing all the badness to them.

M:  Well if we think another person is bad we are encouraged to express that in the model, but we express it as a fear or a fantasy [Which we recognise as our own perception and which may not be true]. This is the important thing, because if we’re not allowed to say that then that thought goes into shadow and we end up in a whole bigger muddle – where we believe someone’s bad and we’re not saying it  – and we believe we are bad for thinking they’re bad and then we try and hide our badness (laughs). This is why we put a space where first of all we say the facts – and the fact is never going to be that someone is bad because that can’t possibly be a fact because that’s not something that can be proved – but we can say ‘You smashed the glass’.  That might be the fact. And then we say our opinion or our judgement of that and that may be ‘you are a bad person’ but we say that clearly, we say ‘the sense that I’ve made of that, since you broke the glass, I’ve started to believe that you are a bad person. That may or may not be true but that’s the conclusion that I’ve come to.’

So we say it,  but we say it with a lot of ownership about it being our conclusion that we’ve drawn, and in saying that we’re accepting it’s not necessarily the truth, that there’s this little gap between my perception of reality and what reality actually is, and then it becomes something that’s up for discussion between the two of us.

C:  So that’s the Magician part in the Five Fields communication model then?

M:  That’s the Magician – the fears and fantasies we have in our head. The judgements that we make of others. Because this is where we’re playing with reality and it’s fascinating: If you take the example of someone who smashed a glass, that’s a fact, that’s the Warrior. We can’t argue with that. We’ve got a broken glass on the floor. But you get ten different people witnessing that and in the next section of the Five Fields model model, which is the Magician’s section which is our fears our fantasies our beliefs, we can have ten completely different versions of that. One person may say: ‘Gosh you must be tired, it’s probably good for you to have a rest this afternoon you’ve been working so hard’ – so that’s the conclusion that they’ve drawn. Another person might be saying: ‘You’re being really clumsy – maybe you’ve got some kind of neurological disease – we’d better get you to the doctor’s’. And another person might say: ‘You did that deliberately because you’re angry with me and you can’t say so, so you started smashing things’. …and so on.  That’s the power of the Magician, to have all of those different perspectives.  A healthy Magician would be able to withhold judgement and see all of those different possibilities and also be open to ones that she hasn’t even thought about. But for most of us, as you described earlier, our Magician is limited, and we are likely to pick out one or two of those options and focus more on those. 

If we’ve been traumatised in some way, maybe around people throwing things or smashing things, then we’re likely to jump straight to the conclusion that the person who smashed the glass is bad or they’re cruel or they’re trying to hurt us or are angry with us, because that’s the option that’s going to keep us the safest, because then we can take some action around that.

C:  It reminds me of the advert for the Guardian newspaper that was on TV about 15 years ago where you see a young man running down the street, then you see the young man again – the same shot of him running down the street but they widen the camera angle and he’s running towards an old lady with a handbag. Then you see it again with an even wider shot and you see that the young man is running towards an elderly lady with a handbag who is in fact just about to be run over. So in each version you get a bigger and bigger perspective and your understanding of the situation totally changes depending on the perspective. Even though it’s the same people taking the same actions you have more of a context and so this young man starts off looking like a threat and ends up being a hero and he’s doing the same same thing each time.

M:  And if we’re coming purely from healthy Magician then we would be able to reserve judgement in that way the whole time. But actually that wouldn’t serve us because at some point we have to make a judgement about a situation, we have to judge whether we’re safe, whether other people are safe. We have to judge what action to take and so on. So this is where we need other parts. Maybe we need our healthy Sovereign to come in and pick one of the possible options and tell the Warrior to take action based on that. We have to make a judgement at some point. So Magician gets a bad reputation for being the part of us that can make judgements but obviously judgements are essential.

C:  You’ve talked about development from childhood to adulthood and I can see a parallel with evolution as well where, as a species of human beings living in quite a threatening environment where there were predators, we had what we now call ‘Fundamental Attribution Error’ where we had to make snap judgements. When something unusual or unexpected happened, in the past we had to immediately react. We couldn’t afford to go and investigate because we might be dead by the end of that investigation!

Whereas now that we are less threatened by the natural world and most of us live in cities and in urban environments where we can relax that. So that if somebody, for example, walks into the room who’s dressed in an unusual way, we don’t immediately have to feel threatened. We can allow ourselves to have that moment of feeling threatened because it’s something unusual but then go beyond that, allowing ourselves to feel safer. We can include, or we can be open to the unexpected, in a way that the older, less evolved, part of the brain would not have been able to do.  It wouldn’t have been a safe thing to do.

M:  It’s interesting because in the trauma work I’ve been studying, if we look at animals, it seems as though they feel safe all the time when there isn’t a threat, and then if they see or hear or smell something that represents a threat they’ll take immediate action. But the rest of the time, when there is no immediate threat, their nervous system will be very calm and they’ll feel safe. Somehow we’ve evolved or we exist in a society where we almost constantly don’t feel safe because our Magician can imagine potential threats: we may be sued here, the house may be burnt down, the food we’re eating might have something poisonous in it… Whatever it is, it seems like there’s an almost endless number of possible things that might be unsafe and a lot of us exist with our nervous systems in a quite high energy state, even when there is no external obvious visual or auditory evidence that there is something dangerous. So I find that quite fascinating.

C:  It sounds like in this more homogenised sterile environment we don’t know where to locate threat anymore so it’s all-pervasive. Whereas when we’re back in the natural world we know ‘OK these are the threats: this type of animal, this type of weather, this type of person’ say.  And if none of those are present we are really free to rest because we know we’re safe. At the moment we are dislocated, in quite a literal sense.

M:  And another way of looking at it is that it’s possible that our nervous systems have been taught quite a high level of activation from an early age if we haven’t received the nurture and physical safety and protection that we could have had as a baby. So as a baby our nervous system is being set, and if we’ve had the kind of parenting where we haven’t been constantly held and constantly been (ideally) breastfed and learnt that the world is a fundamentally safe place, then our nervous system will carry that belief in a lack of safety with us and maintain a high activation energy. 

Then our Magician will actually respond to that sense of lack of safety by looking around for things that might not be safe, by trying to make sense of the lack of safety we experience. So I often wonder how much of that sense of lack of safety comes from things like people’s babies have been left in prams, pushed out of the door just left to scream or to cry themselves to sleep, not having had skin to skin contact for a lot of time, and their nervous systems never having learnt that really safe place.

So it’s a chicken and egg thing really as to whether it’s the ideas that come that the Magician generates or whether it’s kind of the nervous system feeling unsafe, and then our Magician tries to protect us by looking around to see what might not be safe when there isn’t actually anything, it’s just that our nervous systems have learnt to be quite highly strung.

C:  I’m interested in the connection between the Magician and the other archetypes and the circuits between them in the way that we’ve talked about that before. Just now I’m thinking about how, if I get into a very threatened place, then there’s a certain amount of tension that gets stored and that it’s through emotional offloading or catharsis or crying and being held that relieves that. So I’m imagining that’s a connection between Magician and Lover.

M:  Yes the Magician tries to keep the Lover safe. In the way that I described, when we are very young and when we’re in situations that aren’t safe, we develop a strong Magician and a very active Magician to try to avert disaster and to try to take whatever action is necessary, either internally or externally, to avoid something in the future that might be dangerous. So the Magician works very hard to protect the Lover.  Now of course what’s needed that would really make the Lover feel safe is the Sovereign, is the parent in the childhood who can be there in the way that I described and hold that child even if there is trauma. Because of course we all experience trauma and difficult painful situations and upset and distress but if there’s a parent right there, immediately available who can hold us, they can allow us to cry, allow us to process those feelings. [And then they don’t get stuck in the body as long term trauma].

If I go back to the traumatic incident that I was working with from my childhood, there wasn’t another adult there. And if I’d had an adult there who could have held me and understood how terrifying it was for me and allowed me to cry and process then it wouldn’t still be trapped in my body, and I wouldn’t still be dealing with that terror now in my life. So the real healing for fear comes with the Lover. The Lover contains all our emotions you know so if we feel fear that Lover part of us, that vulnerable part of us, needs holding physically and emotionally so that the emotions can come: the fear and the grief and the anger and everything else and then that doesn’t get held in the body.

When we don’t have that experience in trauma that’s when the terror somehow gets held in our body because it’s not processed at the time. And that freeze response requires it to be held in our tissues and then, you know, if we’re lucky enough to have a safe space later in life to process that – then it can come out.

C:  But otherwise we keep wanting to resolve it, we keep looking for opportunities to resolve it?

M:  There seems to be a drive to move towards situations where we might meet similar traumatic situations and we might have a different result – we might get the comfort and reassurance we want – because we know that unconsciously it is being held in our bodies and it is damaging us. 

So would you like to know about the relationship with the other archetypes?

C:  Yes we’ve touched on them a bit, but it would be good to hear more about those.

M:  The Warrior I find really interesting because the Magician is about seeing, as I said at the beginning – rising up above seeing things from perspective, and it’s also about how we see ourselves. So the Magician develops this idea of ways that we might choose to see ourselves.

C:  Because you have a mirror in the Magician corner don’t you –  we haven’t talked about that…

M:  Absolutely, yes so it’s about the choices we make around our identity or how we choose to see ourselves. So I see myself as a middle aged woman who is going through the menopause, I see myself as a facilitator and coach, I see myself as… and I could go on. There are lots of different identities that I could choose from and lots of different ways that I could choose to present myself to the world and the Warrior makes those identities real. So I might have an idea that I’m slim and attractive – well the Warrior would have to go and do something to make that identity real.  The Warrior would have to take me running everyday, the Warrior might have to get up early and apply make-up or whatever was necessary so that that way of seeing myself, that the Magician has, can be maintained. So the Warrior makes real the self image that the Magician fantasises about us having. The Warrior has to take action in the world so that that is not just a fantasy.

C:  That leads me to the connection between the Magician and the Sovereign because I think I’ve got confused about the Sovereigns ‘vision’ and the Magicians ‘seeing’.  When I try to visualise how I would like things to be I think maybe I use a combination of those two things?

M:  I think it’s subtle but I think when the Magician is looking at how you see yourself that’s very much something from the outside – how you are seen in the world – whereas the Sovereign is about your heart and how you actually are internally as a human being. So the vision of the Sovereign is probably not going to be  ‘I look really smart and business like’ that would be more how I am seen in the world. The vision of the Sovereign might be ‘I’m going to run a successful company with everything that that entails’. So the Magician again is a bit more detached, a bit more potentially manipulative. Manipulation lies with the Magician and how we present things. You know, for example if I was meeting a friend for coffee and we were going to talk about a new workshop we’re going to run I could say to someone, ‘I’m going to meet a friend for coffee,’ or I could say to someone ‘I’ve got a meeting this afternoon’ –  and they both make the person see me in a different light. My Magician can choose how I want to be seen and the truth is still the same – I’m going to be sitting in a cafe with a friend, you know, but how I’m seen is different – both sort of through my own eyes but more importantly through other people’s eyes. So the Magician is building.. creating this idea of self and how we want to be seen in the world.

C:  That’s interesting, yes, I noticed that a lot with my husband he always says that he’s used up a certain amount of food so he’ll say ‘I’ve used up all the avocados’ which is like ‘I’ve done this really good thing to use them up’ and I’m thinking ‘You’ve used up all the avocados!?’ (both laugh).

M:  Yes that’s a great example of a Magician – different point of view on the same facts! So the Warrior will ground that, this way we would like to be seen, and this way we do see ourselves, which might be slightly delusional, but the Warrior will make it real one way or another if it’s going to be an enduring image of ourselves.

C:  But I can see how you would want to present yourself in different ways to be safe as well. You know I can absolutely see that when I do that kind of thing and I say ‘I’ve got a conference call now’ and what I mean is ‘I’ve got to ring a friend’ (both laugh). I’m saying that because I want people to think well of me and I want people to respect me so they will treat me well so that I will be safe. So it is manipulative, in a sense, but what’s behind that isn’t bad  – it isn’t wrong.

M:  In fact it’s likely to be trying to hide a sense of badness that you might have, which again is so core to the Magician.  If we just really believed that we were good and lovable we would say ‘Oh yeah I’m just going to lie in the bath for an hour’ rather than whatever other reframe we might have, like ‘I’m performing important preparation for my meeting this evening’ (both laugh).  We would just feel much freer to not need to censor how we are and what we’re doing. But if we have this slight sense, maybe subtle but it affects our lives in quite a big way, we have this slight sense that who we are is bad then this need to cover it up comes in.  So lying and manipulation are very much associated with the Magician. 

C:  That helps me to feel compassionate towards people who have lied to me. Not in a way that makes me more vulnerable to them but in a way of being able to look past those actions and see what was at the source of them.

M:  I find it very helpful to remember that people who are lying are probably trying to protect themselves, hide their badness, or they’re coming from a place of fear one way or another.

C:  I mean it makes me think a lot of shame because we were talking at the beginning about the Magician being able to just see all the options without any value judgements. You know ‘Shall I give my child away’ you know that’s like the ultimate thing to be allowed to think ‘Maybe I don’t want to be a parent’ you know it’s the ultimate taboo to allow yourself to have that thought. It goes beyond any sort of shame and then allows choices to be made in a very authentic place that aren’t to do with how we will be seen. So we are no longer held hostage by a fear of how we will be seen. We know ourselves to want to be a good parent genuinely from a free and wild place and that gives us a completely different experience of the same reality, we’re performing the same role but from a completely different context.

M:  Yes shame is very core to the Magician. And the reason shame is so painful is because we’re believing something that’s not true about ourselves. You know if we really were rotten, if we really were crappy, we wouldn’t need to feel shame about it we would just be ‘Great! You know I’m a horrible old cow and this is fantastic!’ (both laugh) but we don’t tend to feel that, we tend to feel: God I feel so ashamed of this aspect of myself.’ And that’s because it’s not really us, it’s this whole thing of the Magician when it’s gone out of balance being based on this lie that we’re bad in some way. And shame comes from that. We kind of know it’s not true so we have this deep internal struggle going on. We’re trying to cover it up but we also know that not to be our true Nature.

C:  I’m wondering how that works with compulsive behaviour and addiction then because that really feeds into the shame cycle doesn’t it? There’s definitely some locating of badness in our behaviour and in our desires. 

M:  It can do. However some people behave compulsively and addictively and don’t feel shame, there are lots of people that drink a lot and don’t feel any shame about it at all. So the shame is adding another layer of pain onto it.  I mean compulsive and addictive behaviours I see very much as being in the Lover archetype where it’s our inner child that needs something – we go back to the neediness I talked about earlier. It’s our inner child needing, literally needing love and attention, because babies can fail to thrive, they can die or become very physically unwell and…

C:  …not in an abstract way in a physical way.

M:  Yes, in extreme cases in a physical way, and more often in an emotional way. And so this young part of us that didn’t get that love and attention and holding it needed is looking for that somewhere, you know, that’s where addiction stems from. Anything we can form a connection with and start to trust that will hold us and make us feel better.  And of course because it doesn’t really fulfil that need that’s where the addiction comes in – because we’re looking for this connection in the wrong place. So alcohol isn’t really going to make me feel better, temporarily maybe, and then I’m still left with a hole to fill so I go back to it again. So you’ve got that wound and that pain, and then when you’re shamed for that with words like ‘needy’ or ‘addictive’ or irresponsible’ or however we shame people that have those addictive behaviours, then that brings shame. 

But also that shame can very much stem from childhood, where a parent has maybe managed us by shaming us for our needs, so that they haven’t had to provide something they were finding hard to provide. So they may well have used words like ‘needy’ or ‘demanding’ to control us, and in that way we’ve started to feel ashamed about that side of ourselves that wanted love and attention so the two are likely to go hand in hand…

C:  …and there can be some safety in feeling that shame just because it’s familiar and because it stops us showing the sides of our selves that get negative attention so shame plays a role again.

M:  It’s the Magician part of us trying to protect us and saying ‘No no don’t do that, don’t show that side of yourself’ saying that internally before we go and do something ‘shameful’ like saying that we want some love and then having to face the rejection or the pain of not getting that, of being shamed around that.

C:  I’m always struck by the connection between shame and humour, you know the greatest comedians are the ones that bring these shameful things to light and it’s quite healing when you hear somebody talking about something and you think ‘I thought I was the only one who thought that’ or ‘I thought I was the only one that had that experience’. They bring it to light and there’s something really magical about something possibly shameful being transformed into something quite joyful that we can celebrate about ourselves.

M:  And humour is very Magician because it can be used to control and humiliate but it can also be used to speak the truth. It can be a Magician part of us that can see something that’s going on that nobody else is really clearly seeing and then name that. So much humour is about that and it’s funny because it’s on the edge.  It’s something that we’ve formed some unwritten belief about –  that we mustn’t talk about it, we mustn’t speak. And a really good comedian can manage to name that and really get away with saying things that none of the rest of us feel able to say or that we haven’t been able to see clearly.

C:  So I wanted to ask you two things about Magician: One is that if we’re talking about something generally and somebody says ‘Well that’s really Lover’ and then we think that’s nice. Or we think ‘That’s very Warrior’ and then we think ‘Ha yes, well, we need to give someone respect for that’ and Sovereign is like ‘very Sovereign’ you know, it’s like an immediate seal of approval. But when someone says ‘That’s very Magician’ it never sounds positive – you know it’s like it’s suspect!

M:  My partner and I were talking about exactly the same thing the other day. So if we say ‘she’s very Magician’ it does seem to be used as a sort of put down, and obviously that’s talking about unhealthy Magician.

C:  But interesting how we immediately go to the unhealthy…

M:  You know there is even a negative perception of the very healthy Magician qualities such as using our intellect, thinking things through in a rational and detached way and so on. Probably because society has tended to go too much in that direction, so we look to redress that balance. We see the result of too much overthinking, over analysis, too much fear based thinking, too much detachment.  So we have to remember that the Magician is one of the four, and those qualities are absolutely necessary. I see the muddles that people get into when they can’t use their healthy Magician and they can’t see different options for themselves – they can’t think clearly. So these are essential qualities. I think in general these qualities tend to be overused. So when we talk about someone being ‘very Magician’ we probably mean that they don’t have much Lover and we don’t feel able to connect with them. Or we may be trying to say they don’t have much Warrior so they don’t really stand up for themselves so they tend to manipulate and control rather than clearly setting boundaries and standing up for themselves.  So it’s actually other archetypes that we’re noticing that are missing, that they don’t have strongly.

C:  And then we were talking about the predator as an aspect of the Magician and you were saying there are different elements in each archetype that people are not comfortable with and the predator instinct is the one with the Magician.

M:  Yes the predator is a human animal instinct and it fits best with the Magician archetype. We are animals, and we’re animals that can be predators. That’s in our history, the way we treat animals now is a little bit different with farming them, but in a way that’s quite an ultimate predator thing of controlling and manipulating and breeding animals and keeping animals completely under our control. If we go back to the hunting instinct then, as predators we have to detach ourselves from our prey. So we don’t see them as living creatures that we could get attached to, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to kill and eat them. So the detachment of the Magician is related to predators.

They have to see what they’re going to kill or destroy not as alive, but as ‘other’. Also predators are usually intelligent animals, that use a lot of skill and slyness and trickery. They’re not just using straightforward force. It’s strategy, it’s working in packs. This predator quality is somewhere within us all and it’s probably the most denied aspect that we have as human beings. Most people don’t feel comfortable going round saying ‘I’m a predator.’ They wouldn’t feel comfortable to go around saying ‘I like to control and manipulate, I use trickery and deviance, I detach myself from other living creatures.’ But these are aspects that are within us all, and some people would even say that because we don’t hunt now we don’t have an outlet for that predator, for that healthy predator which is necessary. (Obviously it used to be necessary for us to be able to go out and hunt.) So it becomes even more put in to shadow in us and we don’t have a way that we can let that side of us out and play with it in a life giving kind of way. And then on the other hand some of us have been predated on in a really dark way. So people who’ve experienced physical, sexual abuse or emotional abuse, who have been manipulated and controlled as children, that’s one way that predator energy seems to come out now in our society and we certainly don’t want to be associated with that…

C:  Financially as well I think people see it as a hunting and killing. You know people that say ‘We made a killing’ on that property or project…

M:  …and completely controlling and destroying another company or completely destroying another person in court for example. It’s this really destructive punishing predator energy that is the one that we find really hard to own. It has no obvious goodness in it. It just wants to destroy, it just is cruel, it’s just punishing. It likes to toy with others, to play around with them, to have them dangling on a string.  You know when we’re looking at the concept of the shadow what we’re looking at is the idea that if we don’t own an aspect of ourselves it controls us from the shadows. So we don’t want to be that way – to be predatory – but then that’s going to slip out, most commonly with cruel hateful comments, or bitching, gossiping… 

C:  …competitiveness in the wrong place as well …

M:  …Yes, and you know deep underneath this predator behaviour is the survival instinct and is trying to keep ourselves safe. So we can often want to destroy someone or some type of behaviour that might be dangerous for us. When I first got together with my partner I really valued his gentleness, softness and sensitivity, and I was also aware that there was another part of me that could at any point turn on him and absolutely destroy him and tear him to pieces because of this perceived ‘weakness’. And I realise that that’s come from a part of me that wants to protect myself because my Dad committed suicide. He was ‘weak.’ That really destroyed me. So I think this part of me that wants to really destroy someone who seems weak comes from wanting to protect myself. But if it came out it would just be really thoroughly unpleasant and it could destroy our relationship. So I remember having an awareness early on in our relationship that that could happen. I think because I’ve had consciousness of it it hasn’t happened, and I don’t worry that it might happen now. So this is the value of bringing those predator sides out of shadow, even though they are ways that we might never want to act. Because if we can sit there and say ‘Well I have this side of me that might want to destroy in some way’ (and it’s different for all of us), then we can choose whether to use that side of us or not. And also we can maybe let it out in safe ways – let it out in a therapeutic situation or just let it out of us by writing or find some other way to release that aspect of ourselves so we know it’s not going to be damaging.

C:  One of the forums that people do use is their sexuality, isn’t it, to explore those sorts of energies?

M:  Yes, people play a lot of this stuff out sexually, and if it’s consensual then it can be very helpful because it has that playful aspect which is very much part of the predator. So lots of people will enjoy sex with one person being more dominant and one person being more submissive and you know, it’s fun to be in both of those places. It can be fun for some people to be the prey, if you like, and allow yourself to be predated on in that kind of situation. 

Interestingly I’ve heard that kind of idea about nature as well – that the prey kind of enjoy being chased and they get a thrill and a high out of it – that the thrill of the chase is the same for both the predator and the prey. So when we take it back to that kind of healthy joyful expression of nature then sex is one place that we would be able to find that and use that side of ourselves away from the negative, destructive connotations that so many of us have about predators…

C:  …and it’s very bound by shame isn’t it – there  has to be a lot of trust there first…

M:  ..Yes that’s a great observation. Shame and sex are often related and there’s that extreme vulnerability, you know if you’ve got the predator on the one hand and you’ve got the extreme vulnerability of the victim on the other hand.  When we have sex we have to completely trust the other person physically and emotionally.

C:  …yes it’s like the last bastion of wildness for a lot of people isn’t it? You can’t put a civilised sheen on it…

M:  …or you can try but it’s not much fun…

C:   …yes the evidence will be there! (both laugh).

M:  And obviously all aspects of ourselves are present in sex, not just the Magician. The Lover is the main element present there.

C:  And interestingly the next interview will be about the Lover archetype.

M.  Yes. The next interview is about the Lover.



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