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What does the Fool card mean or represent?

Author: Gerard

Well, if you could only have one question about the Tarot and Tarot cards, that would be it.

Many interpreters of the Tarot consider the Fool to be a central card to the whole deck. The Fool is a special card, even among the 22 of the Major Arcana. It's Card 0 (or 22 depending on your system). In a real sense, understanding this card opens up the Tarot - and a lot more.
(Or so the really wise people say.)

As you may already know, when looking for meaning in the Tarot, keep going back to the picture; there's a lot more in them than a first glance suggests.

It's the start of the Major Arcana 'story' - a young person, a 'prince or princess of the world' setting out on a sunny morn on a wonderful journey - right over a cliff !

Not, you'd think ordinarily, a very bright thing to do!

But the Fool strides trustingly over that precipice, and, according to the Tarot, the trust is well placed. The whole 22 cards of the Major Arcana are seen by some interpretators as the Fool's journey, which ends with the World, key 21, which is about successful completion, accomplishment and fulfillment.

There are a lot of other qualities which lead to that success, but they would be worthless without the Fool's willingness to trust and be open to that journey.

Sometimes you have risk, to go against everything society says is 'sensible' or 'wise', to act rightly. It means the inner forces, the inner certainty, intuition - no, less tangible than intuition even - which is at the heart of great endeavors - or right action.

It says that in some things, you must trust your inner voice, not those of the many people in your surroundings and society willing to tell you 'the smart thing to do'.

Indeed, to many people, the Tarot itself seems 'foolish'. To them the whole idea of shuffling some pieces of cardboard with pictures to reveal hidden truths is in itself a pretty silly thing to do (I've met quite a few myself!) So in their eyes all who use the Tarot at all may be 'fools'.

I think we're pretty wise fools, myself.

The Fool is about those positive forces with us which influence us in our choices - trust, belief in the ultimate goodness of creation, ideals - the 'hope of a bright tomorrow.'

But above all, this card tries to assure us that there is a point to such an endeavor, that life has a point, that trust has a point.

And yes, if you look at the evil in the world, at the loss of young lives, at the failure of principle, believing in some rightness of existence, some point in hoping and trusting, can look pretty futile, pretty pointless, pretty ...foolish.

But believe anyway, is the message of this card.

In a reading, this may identify a need to trust ourselves, our inner knowledge or intuition, perhaps about whether it's the right time to 'take a leap', or whether it's not.

Just to complicate matters, if you use inverted cards in your readings (I do!) the Fool inverted can warn that a decision may be foolish, too extravagant, that there IS a danger in taking risks too casually.

So this card isn't about 'do whatever occurs to you, as it occurs'; that would be a fun, but pretty unsustainable life.

It is about being open to that inner impulse, learning to differentiate between it and the dozens of other urges and impulses.

And how does a person do that ?

Search me.

I know what works for me.We all need to find our way. Some people use meditation, aids such as the Tarot, and study of various arcana. (Meditation works for me, by the way.)

Others just lead their lives, one day at a time, and it just comes.

A paraphrase of an old Zen teaching story, but the closest I can recall;

A monk was out walking in ancient Japan. He encounters a wild cat, and as he is fleeing, slips over a cliff, but manages to grab hold of a gnarled root at the edge of the cliff. He looks down, and sees sharp broken rocks below. He looks up and sees the wild cat, snarling at him.

As he looks around, he also sees beside him a bush with a single bright, succulent berry on it.

He looks up, then down again.

He plucks the berry, and pops it in his mouth.

How sweet it tastes!

That's the Fool.

The wise Fool.

( Or so one old fool thinks.)

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