Behind the Cards: Dark Magical Composition

Franco Ferrara

10/31/2016 11:06:00 AM
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Hello and welcome to a seasonal Behind the Cards. Since we're coming up to “Samhain” (pronounce saw-win), October 31st and November 1st, I figured I'd write about Dark Magician. Samhain's the third and final harvest, and is considered by believers in the occult to be one of the two most important Sabbats. It's the night where all sorts of magical practices can be enacted, when the veils between the worlds are at their thinnest.

Many of the tricks that the Dark Magician employs are reminiscent of classic escape routines. The Dark Magician is both interesting and enigmatic, with his magical talents lying in the realm of stage magic and sorcery. Many ancient Egyptian priests, healers and shamans used illusion-based techniques that are comparable to modern entertainment magic, and many of the Dark Magician's cards are represented by magical props; think Magical Hats, Magic Formula, Thousand Knives, and the Mystic Box and Dark Renewal. The use of “magical boxes” and vanishing and reappearing is a theme we'll discuss in more detail below, but they're actually concepts tied to Isis and Osiris in Egyptian myths.

In the animated series, the Dark Magician would later be revealed as the soul of Mahad, the Pharaoh's sworn protector, now sealed in a monster tablet. In the show, they were be translated into cards in the form of Palladium Oracle Mahad and Eternal Soul. But not all Dark Magicians are Mahad: only Yugi Muto's is.

In fact, there are at least four different versions of the Dark Magician in the show's lore: V-Jump's black armored, pale skin version; the animated series' flesh toned and violet armored version; the blue clad green-skinned magician; and a more sinister red armored version, owned by Arkana, which acts as the Dark Magician's foil in the Battle City arc.

Note that the green skinned Magician is the only that doesn't make an appearance in any media beyond actual card artwork.

Stage Magic And Magical Stage Hands
Stage magic imagery is prolific in the Dark Magician theme. The oldest Dark Magician support was stuff like Thousand Knives, Magical Hats, Mystic Box, Dark Renewal and Dark Magic Curtain. It wasn't until much later that we started to see less theatrical support and started to see the Magicians embrace more dangerous and mystical imagery; Dark Magic Veil, Dark Magical Circle, Illusion Magic, Eternal Soul and Magician Navigation. Of course, those cards were created to further the theme and give them a much needed power boost, but then why not continue with the illusionist motif instead of the “magic possessing” monster?

The Dark Magician Girl acts as a stage hand, magician's apprentice, and magical practitioner. It took her years to come into her own with various promo cards like Dark Burning Attack and the new Illusion Apprentice Magician. The latter could be a reference to Mahad's apprentice, Mana, another character from the animated series and manga who'd later become the Inspiration for the Dark Magician Girl. She also has more support thanks to the new Dark Side of Dimensions Movie pack; the Magician Girl support there let Dark Magician Girl branch out and become her own deck.

The Dark Illusion brought us Dark Magical Circle and the Dark Magician's staff, in Magician's Rod. The set officially gave the Dark Magician the tools needed to practice spell crafting. In real world traditions of the occult, magical circles are an old technique practiced by many modern and ancient spell crafters. The circles are usually drawn out physically on a floorspace in water or a pigment, or drawn symbolically on the floor, often with a wand of some sort.

 Dark Magical Circle
$34.79
$19.45
$14.00
Dark Magical Circle121314
Set The Dark Illusion
Number TDIL-EN057
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

When this card is activated: Look at the top 3 cards of your Deck, then you can reveal 1 "Dark Magician" or 1 Spell/Trap Card that specifically lists the card "Dark Magician", among them, and add it to your hand, also place the remaining cards on top of your Deck in any order. If "Dark Magician" is Normal or Special Summoned to your field (except during the Damage Step): You can target 1 card your opponent controls; banish it. You can only use each effect of "Dark Magical Circle" once per turn.


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The circle is believed to be important for many reasons; they're said to provide protection for those within the circle, they harness and draw energy to be used during the spell or the ritual being performed, and they're useful for containing those energies once they're found. Depending on the type of ritual or spell being cast, these kinds of circles will be adorned or blessed with various items, herbs and oils. The extra components give context during practice. People can be used as circles as well, generally by linking hands or standing in specific places, and usually the more people involved with a ritual or spell, the more powerful and potent it's believed to become.

The stave or wand is obviously a common and very important item used in spell crafting and practicing. The wand is usually adorned with some kind of gemstone material for added effect, a conduit or energy harnesser. The wand is considered to represent the element of fire. As a staff, it's the symbol of importance and ceremony and is usually associated with the role of leadership.

These days we more commonly see people toting a wand instead of a staff. They're easy to use, easy to transport and aren't as cumbersome. They come in so many styles and colors too! Walking out of your local occult shop isn't as awkward with a wand in a bag as, say, a giant staff. The use of magical staves is an old practice, dating back to powerful examples like the staff Moses was said to have used when he lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

There's many different theories on the evolution and transition of the magic wand and why the image of it exists. Some say that those created from living trees are thought to imbue the user with the power of the old spirits of the earth. Just be sure to thank the tree after you've torn off one of its limbs. Some say that the wand, much like the conical magician's hat, is a nod to the sky and the divine that have often been believed to dwell in it, acting almost like a spiritual “lightning rod”, channeling their essence and powers through the hat.

Magic wands and staves were an important symbol across ancient middle eastern civilizations and slavic traditions as well, and would later come to be regarded as an auspicious object worldwide.

Green Skin And Blue Armor
Every now and then, we're reminded that Yu-Gi-Oh! has some origins based in Egyptian mythology. The Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl both owe their heritage to Egypt, aptly as the Pharaoh's confidants in the animated and manga adaption. While most likely a coincidence, the Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl do draw some parallels to the story of Osiris and Isis, the Egyptian Gods.

Dark Magician's skin has been green since one of his first printings in Legend of Blue-Eyes but also had those alternate color versions we called out earlier. The “green” skinned monster is the concern here. Many of the new cards from The Dark Illusion feature the Dark Magician and his apprentice uniting to accomplish various tasks; Dark Magic Inheritance, Dark Magic Expanded, Magician Navigation and Dark Burning Magic. Even in the animated television series, the two monsters and their real-life counterparts Mahad and Mana, are frequently shown assisting one another as master and apprentice would.

The plight of Osiris and Isis is effectively a love story as old as Egypt. Here's what happened, and how these two Yu-Gi-Oh! monsters might, if only by coincidence, be analogous.

 Magician Navigation
$29.43
$14.99
$11.00
Magician Navigation121328
Set The Dark Illusion
Number TDIL-EN071
Type Trap Card
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Special Summon 1 "Dark Magician" from your hand, then Special Summon 1 Level 7 or lower DARK Spellcaster-Type monster from your Deck. If you control "Dark Magician", except the turn this card was sent to the Graveyard: You can banish this card from your Graveyard, then target 1 face-up Spell/Trap Card your opponent controls; it has its effects negated until the end of this turn.


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Osiris and Isis were both children born of the sky goddess Nut and the earth god Geb. Being gods, they could only marry their own and so Isis and Osiris married, as did their other siblings Set and Nepthys.

Osiris and Isis taught the people of the land how to grow and cultivate food, granting blessings and bounty along the way. One day, Osiris left the land to spread his wisdom and graces with the rest of the world. While he was away, his brother Set, the Egyptian god of the desert, chaos and evil, built a gorgeous box with the assistance of 72 cohorts. It was made from the most expensive woods and precious metals from the farthest reaches.

When Osiris returned, Set welcomed his brother back and had a great feast in his honor. At the feast, Set revealed the glorious box. It impressed Osiris, and Set declared that anyone who fit the box perfectly would claim it for themselves. Osiris fit the box like a glove and when Set declared his brother the winner, he swung the lid shut. He sealed the cracks with lead and set the box adrift at sea. With that, Osiris died.

Isis, through her magical abilities, knew of her husband's passing and began her search for him. When she found his corpse, she hid it in a marsh while she set upon the task of reviving him. Set happened upon the box while Isis was away; he tore the lid off and ripped Osiris into 14 pieces which he set adrift down the Nile. Isis embarked to collect the 14 pieces along with her sister Nepthys, Set's wife.

She managed to retrieve all the pieces, save for Osiris' penis, which Isis had to rebuild. When that was finish Osiris was reassembled, embalmed and his proper funerary rites were given. His skin was forever green afterwards. Isis then buried Osiris somewhere only she knew, and Osiris was able to proceed into the afterlife to become the God of the Underworld.

While I'm not suggesting the two monsters are husband and wife, I am asserting that their relationship has similarities as master and apprentice. By herself, the Dark Magician Girl is essentially a vanilla monster, but when you add in the Dark Magician, she becomes empowered by his death. In the story, Isis becomes a more powerful and unrelenting character when in search of her dead husband.

The Dark Magician Girl uses magic in the form of Sage's Stone to find the Dark Magician when she needs him. The use of coffins and boxes to “resurrect” the Dark Magician – namely Dark Renewal and Mystic Box – is another force that kept the Dark Magician alive in the old series (along with hiding in the Magical Hats). Coincidences, all of it?

I mean if you could resurrect the body of your dead master, you would, obviously. And the green-skinned Dark Magician appears in the newer Dark Magician support, while the flesh toned versions are never seen in card artwork beyond the actual Dark Magician card itself, and Amulet Dragon – it doesn't appear on complementary cards. The green skin is what makes me wonder if the Dark Magician is in fact a nod to Osiris.

Thank you for joining me today. Maybe you learned something new! Maybe not. Regardless, enjoy your Samhain and be safe. Be sure not to practice any magic without a skilled practitioner, or at least a worthy apprentice.

-Franco Ferrara


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