Last night I went to see The Prestige with some friends from my Tarot Meetup group. If you haven’t heard about this film, it’s about the rivalry between 2 magicians, played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and the lengths they will go to in order to be the better, more successful magician. Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, and David Bowie also have roles in the film.
Having just come from a meeting on Tarot, I watched this movie thinking about The Magician card. It’s part of the major arcana, which consists of 22 cards that represent archetypes. The major arcana also represent situations and psychological states of being. One of the most well-known cards in the major arcana is the Death card, which symbolizes transition, transformation, and letting go of the old so that the new can come forth.
The Magician card in Tarot represents manifestation. It’s about applying your will to a situation and calling forth what you want. In many Tarot decks, the Magician card shows a man standing in front of a table that has several tools on it. He’s got one hand raised to the heavens and one hand pointing downward, as if to say “As above, so below.” Whenever this card comes up in a Tarot reading, it’s an indication that you have the tools at your disposal to create whatever you want – you just have to make the choice as to what you desire, ask the universe or God for it, and then allow it to unfold. There’s a shadow side to this card, though: you can also use magic and manifesting to manipulate or trick others. If you lack confidence in your ability to actively create what you experience, you may end up in situations that are less than ideal.
The movie illustrated both the light and the shadow side of the Magician card. The desire to be the greatest magician was so strong for Jackman’s character, Robert Angier, that he could not listen to reason. While he was loved, talented, and well-respected, Angier was so consumed with knowing how his rival, Alfred Borden (played by Bale), performed a certain illusion, that he manipulated and tricked others into helping him find out Borden’s secret. In the end, he learned the secret, but not without first manifesting a lot of pain and suffering for himself and those around him. While Borden wasn’t exactly a saint either, he released his desire to be better and focused instead on making a better life for his child.
Michael Caine’s character, Cutter, stated the 3 parts of a magic trick at the beginning and the end of the film:
The first act is called the pledge. The magician shows you something
ordinary—but of course, it probably isn’t.
The second act is called the turn. The magician makes his ordinary something do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret, but you won’t find it.
That’s why there’s a third act called the prestige. This is the part with twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you’ve never seen before.
When I relate this structure to the Magician card, I think the 3 parts go like this:
The pledge is the vow you make. You want to create something new, better, or different in your life.
The turn is where you turn over the pledge to a higher power and say “If this is for my greatest good, make it so.”
The prestige is the part where your pledge is made manifest. Be careful what you wish for, though, because the vow will be taken very literally, and if you leave out important pieces, the prestige may not turn out exactly as you had pictured it.
I can tell you from personal experience that this method works. Try it out yourself with something small, like getting a great parking spot at the grocery store or shopping mall, and see what happens. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.