The Magician - Strength - Devil Triad: Embracing Our Shadow

Hello friends, here we are a couple of days late from my usual Monday. I spent last weekend in the woods, away from cell phone reception, and participating in ceremony with beautiful souls who are very dear to me. It always takes me a little while to shift gears from ceremony back to the "real world."

Today I want to discuss the Magician-Strength-Devil triad in the tarot. This axis assumes a Rider-Waite based Major Arcana, with Strength as the 8th card. In some decks, we do see Justice as 8, but in all honesty that wouldn't change the analysis of this triad dramatically.


What do I mean by triad? When we look at the Major Arcana, specifically at the narrative of the Fool's/Hero's Journey, we often split the cards into sets of three. The Fool stands apart as the protagonist, and the remaining cards are arranged numerically into three levels: cards 1-7, 8-14, and 15-21. Each of these levels has a narrative, but my focus today is on the vertical triads that emerge from this layout. More specifically, the Magician-Strength-Devil triad. When we arrange the cards as described here, we end up with triad subsets: 1-8-15, 2-9-16, 3-10-17, and so forth. 

The first triad, 1-8-15, shows a relationship between the Magician, Strength, and the Devil. The Magician is the initial spark of consciousness and ego the Fool experiences. He learns to want and to manifest, thinking outside of himself and projecting his will. Strength is the first card of the second level of the Major Arcana. The Fool has concluced his journey in the physical world, departing in the Chariot to explore the next level. In Strength, he acknowledges his animal instinct and learns to tame it. But there is a piece missing in this process that doesn't come full circle until we reach the Devil. Acknowledgement is not the same as true confrontation and acceptance. 


It is one thing to acknowledge the untamed part of ourselves - it is quite another to give into it, dance with it, and come out on the other side. Only by immersing ourselves and truly stripping away our egos can we dispell fear and find growth. Light always casts a shadow, and the brighter the light, the darker the shadow. The Devil asks us to go beyond simply acknowledging our shadow selves and actually spend time with our shadows. 

Beyond that, if we look at the cards immediately following this first triad, we get the High Priestess, Hermit, and the Tower. This tells us that after dealing with the very projective and instinctual energies of the first triad, the next step is a turn inwards, seen in the High Priestess and the Hermit. In the tower, we are asked to surrender to a complete foundational shift. Once we have surrendered to the medicine of the Devil, we are ready to tear down our existing structures and build new, stronger foundations for ourselves. 

The Devil is the conclusion of the Magician, because we cannot truly come into our power without a full exploration of ourselves.