“RWS Tarot 00 Fool” by Pamela Coleman Smith – a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley (http://home.comcast.net/~vilex/) for the public domain, and retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot (see note on that page regarding source of images).. Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia.
This will be an on-going series of short articles that will hopefully help to add substance to your tarot readings, and make them stronger. This is my first article for Pagan News, and since I don’t know what I’m getting myself into, it’s fitting that today’s talk is on the Fool.
The Fool is traditionally numbered zero in what is known as the Major Arcana, or trump cards. The imagery depicts a rather smartly dressed fellow about to naively walk off a cliff. The Sun, which also has its own card, is to his back. An excited white dog barks near this person, acting as warning from our unconscious, “What are you doing? Can’t you wake up for a second and see you’re about to walk off a cliff. Are you listening to me?” Or perhaps this white dog is spurring our Fool on to his leap. “Oh boy oh boy! This is gonna be great!”
Before we get started about the meaning of this card, let’s go down a meandering path. In mythology and fairy tales, the hero or heroine may encounter an animal that leads them to another magical or forbidden area. In Celtic and Welsh mythology, these animals were unusual for they were depicted in these tales as having white fur. In Alice in Wonderland, the main character follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole, and finds herself, quite unexpectedly in another realm. By coincidence or design, our tarot Fool is encountering a white animal, and this same type of going into the unknown is happening.
The dog in the Fool card, and animals in mythology and stories that lead characters into hidden places, are representatives of the natural world. The Fool is in his head, the animal companion is not of the intellect, but of primal nature. Our dog reminds us that our bodies are entrenched in nature. The body can also surprise the person for both heart-warming and heart-breaking reasons. For example, pregnancy can be both an intentional and unintentional path.
An important point, all of this imagery is allegorical. If you go out in the woods waiting for some white animal to lead you to a new discovery, you will be sorely disappointed. Dreams are another story. Try to follow where animals take you in dreams.
But what of the Fool in the card, the main character? In older depictions of this card, the Fool is a bit of a wandering hobo. He has a disheveled, vagabond appearance, quite removed from the dandyish and clean youth of the Rider Waite deck. In the Waite deck, he holds a white flower, which symbolizes a freedom from primitive baser instincts, and also a straight staff tied with knapsack, full of hidden personal items. Again, our Fool in the Rider Waite deck may think he’s given up primal instincts, but remember our white dog, nature’s reminder of the animalistic, he’s along for the ride too.
The Fool may be naive about what they’re getting into, but not everyone leads a life like that. The Fool card is still relevant, for anyone, including the most structured planners. When we embark on any new project or path, we can plan for everything, but there is still an element of the unknown and accident. Changing careers, graduating from college, all manner of life changes are in the domain of the Fool. When encountering this unknown, it does require a leap of faith.
Ultimately, this is a card of immense creation, but don’t let this card be an excuse to jump off a cliff without a parachute or a plan. How many times in your life have you heard this clever plan?
Yep! We’re moving there. Hollywood (or wherever) here I come. I don’t have a job, I don’t have a place to stay. I don’t know anyone there. But, you know. I think everything is going to be okay. I’ll figure it out on when I get there.
This is still in the realm of the Fool card, but isn’t very smart. It easy to confuse the romantic notion of a pioneering, exploring spirit, which most people would agree is a positive, with simply being reckless. When encountering the Fool tarot card, try to figure out the multiple paths to land. Because you’re going to land somewhere.
Tarot aficionados will often use the term “Fool’s Journey” to describe the Fool’s interaction with other trump cards. The first characters the Fool usually meets are card number I and/or card number II, The Magician and/or The High Priestess. But different orders can and will happen. You could, if you wanted to as a way of getting to know the cards, map out the events of The Hero’s Journey to the trump cards of the tarot.
Quick Tip: In your readings, see which card the Fool has a relationship with, or is juxtaposed next to. If the Fool is next to a destructive card*, such as The Tower, be careful as it may be a warning of disaster. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. However, If the Fool gets paired up with The World, then this leap of faith usually has a more benign outcome.
*Yes, I know, save your letters! The power of Tower card can be just what you need in your life. We’ll talk about this at another time.