If the Fool is the beginning of the Journey then the Magician is the first sure step taken. While the Fool wanders without care or aim, the Magician is focus and will.
While the details of the Magician vary from deck to deck, there are quite a few things that remain the same (At least within the decks I myself have) and I’m going to start with those aspects.
The Magician/Shaman is surrounded by the tools of the Tarot. The elements are represented – strikingly so in the Mystical Manga deck, and perhaps most subtly in the Shadowscapes deck. But these foundations are present in all the cards. Notably well-balanced in presentation in the Radiant RWS deck on the far right.
Also the sense of Will lingers in all these cards. There is a self-assured strength of will in the Magician that no variance across decks seems to shake.
But then the paths begin to diverge, if ever so slightly – it’s in the details as they say, so these variances are just as important as the similarities.
Setting aside what each deck states of it’s own Magician, just looking at the cards and their art gives us a good idea of those variances. The Mystical Manga Magician is young and roguish. He appears to wear a patch over one eye while the other burns with determination – he controls all the elements and associated artifacts with practiced ease. This is someone who has sunk ALL his energy into this kind of control. Something compels him to change the world, and no power in the ‘Verse is apt to stop his sure steps as he journeys toward his goal.
Conversely, The Shaman is old wisdom. He already devoted his life to the knowing of things, but there is no focused goal here – at least not for himself. There is a sense from this card that his devotion is to the very wills of Life itself. If any will is to be the Shaman’s own, it is that of Balance above all. He could easily bend the wills of the world to his own pursuits like the Mystical Manga Magician – and likely to greater effect in his older age and wiser years – but his is more the patient guide. His will is to bring focus to Your Will. (To which the MM Magician would be pleased, but if you can’t learn by observing, I don’t think he’d actually spend time teaching.)
For the Shadowscapes Magician, the journey is very nearly at it’s beginning. While having learned the trade on his own, it is a visit from The Fool that opens his eyes completely, and gifts from her what help him focus and progress. The will is there, the focus is there, and the tools that had – Perhaps – been lacking, are now his. Fully capable of exerting his will through the knowledge he has, I’m left with a feeling that he doesn’t much know what his will is. The Shadowscapes Magician is focus and drive, and good things to see in a reading, but to me I can’t shake the feeling of it being un-focused focus and drive. This is a story with 100 projects surrounding him. Fortunately for him, he has the time to do all, and will focus on each in turn, it’s just hard to say if any one desire holds esteem over the other 99.
Finally, the RWS Magician. The patience of the Shaman, the sure step of the Mystical Manga Magician, the 100 projects of the Shadowscape Magician. This is the professor you hope for in all your college classes. This guy knows his stuff. Knows it so well his own body is capable for standing in for any piece of equipment needed. He knows all the little twists and turns, all the alternative routes, he knows a thousand ways to reach the same goal and a dozen ways to teach you how to get there. This is Confidence in proper balance – a step down from Mystical Manga Magician (who runs a risk of hubris if he doesn’t plan properly). That said, I don’t think the RWS Magician wants to deal with anything less than your very best.
I get the sense you’d find yourself assigned a new teacher if you weren’t putting your best foot forward. That said, this is also the card that knows Very Well, that 100% on Tuesday is completely different from 100% on Thursday.
Planting ones foot onto a determined path after the aimless, childlike, and carefree wandering of the Fool almost makes me feel as though I’ve made my first choice in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Each deck leading down what will be an increasingly different story.