Archetypes: Magician

Rules of reality crumble before some.

If you’ve ever read fantasy, you know the Magician. Catalysts for change, Magicians operate on a plane above everyone else, able to conjure outcomes and affect change in ways that hoist them from mortal to magi in the eyes of the populace.

As I have mentioned in prior posts in this series, this collection of essays deal with the archetypes first put forth by psychiatrist Carl Jung, and the use of these archetypes in fiction. Every post deals with the motivations, character profiles, and Shadows (or negatives) of each archetype. This week we continue looking at the group known as the Self types, which are defined by goals related to the Ego, or agendas that serve to improve personal spiritual, mental, or physical standings with the world. The Magician, driven by a need for transformation, is next.



 The Magician


Also known as the visionary, catalyst, charismatic leader, medicine man, healer, and inventor, the Magician is the archetype that seeks transformation, and a deep connection to the cosmos, whatever their definition of that might be.

The Magician is not involved in the everyday of regular people; they do not find ‘mortal’ concerns interesting or curious. Rather, they seek the threads beneath the surface that tie a world together. Unlike the Sage, however, knowledge isn’t enough. The Magician wishes to harness magic for their own purpose. Similarly, unlike the Creator, who uses the rules of the physical world, the Magician seems to draw his power from supernatural skill or resources.

The Magician is known as the catalyst for a reason. In the Hero’s Journey, the Magician is the pin in the balloon of a hero’s sheltered life. While the Magician, in fiction, is powerful, he is also often maimed by the same power, restricted (or willfully determined) from assisting the transformation of the world, except from a distance. The Magician is the chess-player. One of the reasons that a Magician might not be willing to risk life and limb is because his power is born of ego–to in turn be corrupted or otherwise consumed by “evil” is one of his greatest fears. The Magician has an extreme duty to his own self-preservation.

The Magician is one of the less flexible archetypes, when it comes to fiction. The faults of the Magician are typically unvarying, as if those limitations did not exist, most epics would end at the second chapter. This means that the Magician is often perceived to be a cowardmanipulative, dishonest, and even cultish. However, when a Magician aligns himself fully to the light, away from his Shadow, he can be a force of great healing and transformation for others. The Magician can often return after a fall from grace as a galvanizing force for the Hero, and make all the difference in the world’s darkest hour.


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Recommended Reading:

Other Posts in this Series:

Archetypes-InnocentArchetypes-everypersonArchetypes-HeroArchetypes-CaregiverArchetypes-ExplorerJester Archetypes Jungian archetypes in fictionArchetypes-OutlawArchetypes-THELOVERCreator Archetype Inventor JungExamples of the Sage Archetype Jung

14 thoughts on “Archetypes: Magician

    1. They’re pretty hard to incorporate into books these days because of their inflexibility, but yes, they do make for some great imagery and powerful emotion in black moments. If you do decide to make one, you should try to get a woman in there––there aren’t enough, yet (that aren’t evil. 😉 )


  1. Another fantastic installment, Alex! I tend to find I’m drawn to Magician characters in stories – partly because of their enigmatic quality, and partly because of their desire to enact change on the world. I recognized a number of the example characters you showed: Gandalf, Saruman, Merlin, Snape, Ursula, Anakin Skywalker – and Crysta! It’s been ages since I’ve watched FernGully, but I liked the movie a lot, and I can see how Crysta fits as a Magician.

    I can’t remember if you’ve used Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter as an example in any of these Archetype posts yet. Where do you think he would be the best fit?

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    1. Enigmatic is a great way to describe them. They are fascinating, for sure. 🙂 I haven’t used Dumbledore yet. I’m saving him for the last installment, which should come out soon: the Ruler! Part of the reason I didn’t feel he fit the Magician archetype is because of their great fear/Shadow. Dumbledore’s assorted past, and the way he DID risk corruption to achieve his goals.

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  2. Hey Alex. Interesting you chose Snape over Dumbledore. I also liked the nod to Ex Machina (amazing film). Some real-life examples would have been interesting, such as Aleister Crowley, Don Juan Matus, or Madam Blavatsky, but still, a great post. Hope you are well.

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    1. Yeah, as I said in a comment earlier in the thread, I’m saving Dumbledore for the Ruler. 🙂 There are definitely a lot of real life examples, too, and your suggestions are great. I just try to stick to fiction for the sake of the series (since real life rarely follows the arcs common to archetypes.)


      1. Right on! I see the logic. I just always find it fascinating when actual people embody the characteristics of archetypes. I read an interesting article recently that compared Trump to Loki, demonstrating how Trump embodies the archetypes that comprise Loki. Anyway, great reading your posts, as always. TTYL. 🙂

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    1. My favorite archetypes are the Innocent and the Outlaw, which makes sense, since I like dichotomies wherever I can get them. 😉 What’s your favorite archetype, if not the Magician?


  3. The way that the magician archetype intrudes into a lot of our story-telling has always intrigued me. I suppose the original, in the western-modern tradition at least, was Merlin. I’ve often thought Gandalf to be the ‘archetypal’ archetype of the magician in more recent literature, but with a twist – really, he was Odin, not Merlin.

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    1. Merlin is definitely one of the originals of this archetype. I love how his power has always been very real; very visceral, in comparison to, as you say, Gandalf’s “tip of the hat” to the Magician as an archetype. I looked at your blog just now and saw that you have a lot of essays on Tolkein… where would you rank Sarumon?


      1. I always thought Gandalf was more the archetypal ‘magician’ – certainly in his first incarnation in The Hobbit, he was fairly precisely that kind of figure. Later he developed other and more complex dimensions, which is where I think Saruman also comes in – a much more complex character, less ‘magician’ as archetypal of the ‘fallen angel’ in some ways.


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