There are many things that people have been saying about the Fool in the Tarot. The list is long, and the meanings and stories assigned to the Fool range from short to tall. Some very tall.
Tradition calls him an idiot. Esoteric approaches to the Tarot see the Fool as a representation of ultimate freedom. This is correct to the extent that the Fool IS an idiot, but when we think of how esoteric tarot is not so fond of the idiot AS a regular idiot, pushing him upwards to the rank of idiot savant, we understand just what is so unsettling about the Fool.
Most also like to think of the Fool as a representation of being on a journey. But why only the Fool? As far as I’m concerned, all the figures of the major arcana of the Tarot can be said to be on a journey.
The Fool follows his path. Aren’t we all? We may think we do things contrary to our nature and our true desires, following paths that are not ours. In reality this is not so.
We all do the things we do because we’re all subject to all sorts of conditions. We walk the path we walk because it is thus. We’re part of the flow of nature, not something culturally special, at the center of the universe, acting on free will and all the other fancy stories we tell ourselves.
Given this frame of thinking, I actually often wonder: What exactly do we presuppose when we associate the Fool with freedom and with journeys?
I’m not a fan of the Fool, simply because I don’t see any value in being utterly unaware, and lacking self-reflection.
As a Zen inclined person, while I can appreciate the idea of ‘relax and live in the now’, relaxing and living in the now is only possible if you take control of your mind. The Fool has no such capability.
I’m fine with the Fool as a mere idiot. I don’t expect anything from him, to inspire me or to frighten me. After all, who can have a relationship with the Fool?I give the Fool due kindness, or the kindness I’m capable of, and that’s that.
I asked the cards: What is the Fool like?
Hermit, Knight of Batons, The Devil
Well, that’s pretty clear. The Fool is not unlike a monk, living in the now, stripped of possessions. The only difference is that whereas the Hermit lets go of it on purpose, the Fool is clueless.
No awareness. Just action. Getting straight into all sorts of bondage.
It occurs to me that when we say, ‘you can’t fool me,’ what we’re actually saying is related to bondage: ‘You can’t bind me with your lies.’
What do you say when the Fool pops up in your readings?
I tend to dismiss him, or tell the others I read the cards for to get away from the Fool as fast as they can, if the Fool is on the table.
If the Fool follows his own path, it’s a path or errors. In Zen parlance, there’s no such thing. There’s just people doing people things. But culturally speaking, oy veh.
The Fool as an inspiration? No thanks.
Stay tuned for cartomantic activities via the Art of Reading newsletter. New: The Power of the Trumps now has a companion: The Power of the Pips, and the Marseille Foundation Course opens for registration on February 16. Check it all out on my website. You may have noticed also that I’m doing a series of essays entitled, ‘When the cards…’ that deconstructs what you normally think of your cards. Check with the tag deconstructed cards for more.