I The Magician
Leslie Cochran
The Secret Garden

The central character in ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett is Mary Lennox. An orphan, she comes to Misselthwaithe Manor with a pale and sour demeanor. The Manor and her often absent uncle, are remote and strange to her. Through her wits and keen curiosity she discovers her sickly cousin Colin hidden away in the house, and soon realizes her inner reserves of strength to inspire and begin the healing process for them both. But Mary had first discovered a forgotten garden and met the boy from the wild moors, Dickon Sowerby. He not only shows Mary that the dismal and sad garden can be brought to life, but also acts as a catalyst for change for both Mary and Colin.

Mary first hears stories of Dickon from his sister Martha the housemaid of the Manor. She is entranced by tales of Dickon running wild on the moors all day, with birds and other animals as his playmates. Animals play a key element in this story, as powerful emissaries from the wild world; helpers to the children who are by degrees removed from it. There’s the robin, who first led Mistress Mary to the long buried key. Once the gate is unlocked the story of the garden and those who are touched by it unfolds. The neglected earth seeded with magic, soon thrives with attention. Dickon has a crow named Soot and the fox ‘Captain’ is never far from his side. He tells Mary that "Sometimes I think perhaps I'm a bird, or a fox, or a squirrel... and I don't know it.” This statement reveals Dickon as shaman, keeping deep ties to the naturalistic realms.

This quote from the book describes the garden’s transformation from gray and seemingly dead to green and vibrant:

“The garden had reached the time when every day and every night it seemed as if Magicians were passing through it drawing loveliness out of the earth and the boughs with wands.”

I love the idea of Magicians “passing through” dreamily waving their wands, leaving sunlight, sound, color and scents of blooming roses in their wake. All those many Magicians are embodied in the character of Dickon, the original; the moorland version of Pan, with the power to charm both animals and people. Mary clearly thinks of him as a Magician and is strongly attracted to him. For all his sunny-ness and friendly ‘down to earth’ manner, he is a powerful force; magnetic and mysterious. Even though the garden is first discovered by Mary, it is hard to think of its re-incarnation without Dickon. Mary has the desire, and later Colin - the will. But it’s Dickon, with his woodland and moor-land knowledge of plants and animals, wind and weather that marshals all the forces of nature to channel the magical creative process.

Notes on the Card: A still frame of Dickon Sowerby, the Yorkshire sun illuminating his straw hat, surrounded by an arbor of morning glories and his animal familiars……. The 4 elements are represented on the card: earth and water, air (pale blue sky) and fire (sunlight). The coins suit is nicely illustrated in the actual story. Dickon buys seed packets at the seed house in Thwaite, Yorkshire, with the coins that Mary gives him. I named the establishment ‘Burnett’s seed house, in honor of the author, and chose the mysterious moonflower, sunflower, and of course ‘heather’ in honor of Dickon’s beloved wild moors. A leafy branch signifies wands . Mary once thought a dried woody plant was lifeless, but Dickon showed how green still flowed just beneath the surface of the bark:

He knelt and with his knife cut the lifeless-looking branch through, not far above the earth.

“There!” he said exultantly. “ I told thee so. There’s green in that wood yet. Look at it.”

The other 2 suits are imagined as part of the Secret Garden. The little rock fountain, flowing with pure spring water gathers in a little pool, representing the suit of cups. Sword ferns peak out from the cracks among the rocks. Robin, fox and a tiny garden spider join Dickon, as well as Soot the crow portrayed as the keeper of the key to the Secret Garden gate.

I - The Magician

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