The fool is the beginning and the end of the Major Arcana in standard tarot decks. He generally signifies the beginning of a journey, or literally, foolishness. He’s often depicted as a traveler with his head in the clouds, and usually about to walk off a cliff, while a little black dog barks at his feet persistently. This could signify ignoring the warning signs to something as well.
For this I looked at four different decks: Alester Crowley’s Thoth Deck, The Aquarian Deck, the Spiral Deck, the Hudes Deck, and a tarot deck kit.
I have gone through each one and written my observations and compiled them into thoughts and interpretations in my personal Tarot Journal.
Observing the Cards First
In the Thoth deck, a man in green clothing and yellow boots – looking like an image of Puck from A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream is circled and looped three times, one of the loops tightening itself to form the shape of a sideways heart over the man’s left breast. A winged egg atop the caduceus flies over his left oblique, while a shining white dove swoops downward to his right. He wears a belt with the sun as a belt buckle.
A tiger gnaws at his left leg and an alligator (or crocodile) is behind his right leg.
There’s far too much imagery to write down and retain some sense of, well, sense.
The Hebrew letter is aleph, and Air is also associated with this card in the Thoth Deck.
The Aquarian deck depicts a man (boy?) who carries a staff (wand) and a white rose in his right hand. He faces the left.
The spiral Deck depicts a man on his knees, facing forward and to the left. A black dog is near him, and an angel stands behind him, looking down at him with her left hand on his shoulder. His left hand holds a staff over his shoulder and his right hand is held up, palm facing outward. He stars at a floating, jeweled goblet. A white rose and red feather are in his hat.
The Symbol of Uranus is apparent, and there are three descending birds. The sun sets (rises?) behind a cloud which is dark and in the distant background.
In the Hudes Deck, the Fool is dressed in a burgundy tunic with jungle-green sleeves, chasing after a butterfly. He looks upward and to the left. He wears a belt decorated with the sun. behind him is a green hill and blue sky.
In the Tarot Kit deck, the Fool rides a cat with the symbol of air beneath it. Behind it is a five-petalled wilted flower. The Fool wears a hat, a yellow shirt and green pants, but no shoes. He carries a stick with his belongings gathered in a scarf tied to the end of the stick. A bird perches on it and another is on the Fool’s hand – both are blue. Both the cat and the Fool face the left.
In the Aquarian and Kit deck, it’s apparent in both the Fool is going to travel. Air relates to consciousness and spirit, so a mental or spiritual journey is implies. The goblet in the spiral deck suggests a goal, as does the butterfly in the Hudes deck.
In the spiral, Hudes and Kit decks, while all is looking left, they are looking up as well, suggesting the possibility of clumsiness because they don’t see where they are going.
I think the angel in the Spiral Deck represents intuition, guiding and looking after the Fool.
There are flowers in the Thoth deck, a rose/rose cross growing upward. From its base grows a single, large, five-petalled flower that is white, to the right. To the left are three smaller versions of the flower. It reminds me of the reference to Leviathan in The Illuminatus! Trilogy, how instead of this single-celled organism breaking off in order to multiply, it just grew and grew.
Thoth Deck - Crowley's Words
“In spiritual matters, represents ideas, thoughts, spirituality, that which endeavors to transcend earth. In material matters, may show, if ill-dignified, folly, eccentricity, even mania. It represents the original subtle, sudden impulses coming from a strange and unexpected quarter. [The Fool] is Air, or vacuum or Puissant innocence. He holds the male element of fire [*that would be the staff in his hand*], the female element of water, the sword of air, and disks of earth.
“He is the green man of spring, the great Fool of the Celts, Dalvah, and Parsifal. He is also Zeus Arrhenothelos, Dionysus Zegreus, Bacchus Diphues, and Baphomet.
“The fool is air, emptiness, also potential purity. He holds the wand of fire, cup of water, sword of air, and bag of planetary disks [*note Planetary, not earthly, referring to Universal*] round him is a rainbow issuing from and returning to his heart, he wears a fool’s cap, the horns of Baccus, he stands on Harpocrates, the Egyptian symbol of adolescent fertility, he is unconscious of the tiger tearing at his side, he is the Green Man of the Celts, Dalvah and Persival.
This is the divine moment of consciousness.”
Most of this means little to me. But the last line makes me think of the Fool as the second to last card, suggested in The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
Minor note on Kabala and Tarot
As I’m trying to pool my resources (and I don’t have my hands as most of my decks are boxed away at the moment), I’m including The 2 Hour Tarot Tutor, even though I don’t think very highly of it.
It shows a picture of the Rider-Waite deck’s Fool, where he looks to the left and into the sky. The sun is behind him and his footing is on a crumbling cliff edge. A white dog is barking at his feet and jagged mountains are in the background. He holds a white rose in his left and his tramp-bag in his right. A long red feather is in his hat and his tunic is patterned with flowers.
“Possible meanings: Innocence, risk taking, new adventures, foolishness.”
Modern Magick gives vague definitions as it encourages the diviner to come up with their own meanings via study of the Tree of Life. The Fool, by the way, is Path 11. 11 – for further thought on the number, look into numerology. This path connects Keter (the first, tip Sepherot) to Hochma (sometimes spelled Chochma), the second Sepherot. Keter is also known as the crown and Hochman as wisdom.
“Folly, foolishness, extravagance.”
Aquarian and Spiral
The Aquarian deck has the Fool at the end of the Major Arcana as well, though it is no uncommon.
“The fool denotes the positive inner forces which influence and individual in his choices.”
In the Spiral deck, the Fool is the quarent (the one asking the question) on his or her journey through life. He is neither at the start nor the end for he is the active player. He is Perceval.
“Around his waist he wears a belt of laurel leaves, reminding us of the victories won in life; attached to his belt is a small bag containing courage, optimism, loyalty and fearlessness…The object of his quest is to begin the spiral journey once more with renewed confidence and faith.”
Kay Steventen, the artist of the Spiral deck, tells the myth of Percival, who vows to become a night, and how he finds King Arthur’s court. He asks to become a knight and was told he must learn to become a night. An old knight told him to go to Fisher King’s castle to where the Grail was kept, and instructed him to ask “To whom does the Grail serve?”
When Percival got there, Fisher King was lying in pain, having been injured in the manly parts. Percival remembered his question, but his mother had warned him not to ask too many questions, and so he remained silent. The King, Grail and court disappeared. Percival spent years wandering a dying land – which was dying because its King could not be found. He came to the Hermit who helped to find the castle the Grail had been in. He found the same scene and this time asked the question, and the land was restored.
Uranus is in the card due to it being the planet of “freedom and the quest for human kind’s highest ideals…[it] symbolizes abstract thought. At this stage, the Fool is an abstract thought. He needs to make the journey to become real and grounded. The moment he commences the journey, he enters the realm of consciousness.”
As I said before, Tree of Life. The top triangle of the Tree of Life is about an idea coming into play (the first, second, and third Sepheroth). The first Sepherot is Keter, the idea of said idea. The voice inside the head that directs thought.
“The Fool is pure masculine energy, so when he sees the Grail, he is driven on by some unconscious force to attain whatever it is the Grail offers [*The Grail being a cup – feminine energy. Yin and Yang*].
“…On the Kabalistic Tree of life, the Fool walks the 11th path between Keter, limitless light, and Chokmah, Celestial father. The Fool signifies innocence of the spirit coming forth into manifestation. The eleventh path is the path of complete simplicity: the Divine informing it. Just so, the Fool is like a breath of life, a vibrant emptiness waiting to be filled…The Hebrew letter is Aleph, Ox. Aleph is a channel by which the infinite spiritual is brought to the infinite physical. The Aleph is said to contain the essence of all letters.
“Divinatory meaning: The card of the Fool signifies a time to follow our own intuitive, instinctive natures. With this card, we should step into life fearlessly and without prejudice; we should never waver from the quest. The fool succeeds through his unfaltering journey. He is true to himself, trusting his judgment and having faith in what lies beyond the abyss.”
Kabalistic Tree of Life
Hudes and the Rest
The Hudes Deck has a book which goes with it written by A. L. Samuel called Wisdom in the Cards, while the artist of the deck is Susan Hudes. Samuel writes:
“Zero indicates the realm of all possibility, an important part of the Fool is approach to life.
Because He draws on the quality of infinite possibility, the Fool can move easily in any direction.”
That explanation gives a very Sagittarian perspective – perhaps Uranus in Sagittarius? Sagittarians are very into one thing one moment, but they will be equally into another thing when it comes along.
This also makes reference to the Fool being outside the realms of reality.
“The fool carries no bag with him on his journey, which symbolizes his complete lack of mental ‘baggage’ which hinders us through life.
“…The saying ‘Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread’, aptly describes the Fool’s approach to living. He doesn’t usually plan very far in advance, nor does he do things ‘by the book’. He loves the unexpected quality of life, the liberating feeling of not knowing who or what will cross his path next….Over All, the Fool represents one of life’s great secrets: When we truly open ourselves to the Universe, it responds in kind.
“Openness to life. Joyful abandon. The capacity to trust that the Universe will provide for us. The ability to pick up and move at a moment’s notice. A potential for many opportunities. Honesty. Happiness.
“Planetary Influences: The Fool correlates to the expansiveness of Jupiter, with its attributes of luck and opportunity.”
Jupiter rules Sagittarius.
The Tarot Kit I haven’t explored very much. The definition of the Fool is to “Take things as they are. Matters are proceeding as planned. Do your part to settle outstanding disagreements. Kill others with kindness and let them suffer the consequences of their actions. This is a good time to build your investments or remodel your home.”
Not one part of that do I agree with in any way, though that may be because none of it can be interpreted on the non-superficial level, and I’m looking at tarot to be a tool to help me unlock the secrets of the Universe. However, I adore the sentence, “Kill others with kindness.”
Who the Jester is to Me
My gathering of the meaning/representation of the card is a mental or spiritual journey to gain completion within the self, an idea being realized that it is in the mind, waiting to be put into play. Being vigilant to the lessons the world has to offer, though the air of caution is present to not be misled or stumble.
What is always important in regards to tarot is remembering to create your own meaning, find what the cards mean to you. I have been studying for many years and still don’t have a full grasp on each card. Learning the cards is almost its own form of meditation, and something that is very personal, something that each person will have their own individual interpretation of. If you wish to truly pursue tarot, it is very important to keep a tarot journal, writing down readings you do, lay outs, and card meanings or ideas. This will help you build a stronger connection to the cards as well as help you see a bit better into your own subconscious.
Do you need to center yourself before a reading? Please feel free to try this Simple Relaxation Ritual
The Decks Used
The Books Used
Crowley is rather difficult to understand. There are many books out there that are dedicated specifically to interpreting his writings in regards to the Thoth tarot, but if you really want to learn the deepest depths of tarot, I would decode it yourself through intense study.