And that’s ok with me.
In our modern age, “being a fool” carries a decidedly negative connotation. We place high value on planning, goals, specific culturally defined aspirations and conformity to the norms.
In tarot, The Fool is the first card of the major arcana and represents the antithesis of modern structure and goals. He is blithe and impulsive. Deifying logical explination and purposefully going against the grain. Most of the time these actions are meant to remind us that our advanced systems and societal constructions are at times absolutely absurd or completely wrong.
In ‘the olden days’ the fool or jester was one who could make fun of even the most powerful person in the land. To bluntly state the contradictions, imperfections and dysfunctions of the king in such a way that even the high ruler could laugh at himself. Walking that line was a true gift. Court jesters that performed these tasks poorly, usually lost their heads.
This task could not be done without intelligence and the ability to state the simplest of facts; that we do not know everything. We never have.
The traditional tarot image of The Fool shows a jester on the verge of stepping off a cliff. With a dancing dog at his feet and his head raised to the sky he is completely unaware that his next step may mean disaster and death.
The Fool does not care. He is quite happy in his precarious state. Enjoying the moment and not worrying about what is next.
While it is easy to assume that his irrational acts result in his destruction- that is not what the image of the card implies. It most certainly allows for that possibility but says that even the most foolish chances do not guarantee failure. In some situations absurd and irrational solutions are the way to go. Especially when they represent trust in yourself over social conformity.
Even the fool reversed does not mean disaster, though it can warn against recklessness. Reveresed, it most often implies a failure to trust one’s instincts especially when they can be considered unorthodox or rash.
I try to interpret the cards with a ‘beginner’s mind’ or a ‘fool’s mind,’ if you will. I remind myself that it doesn’t matter how long I have been reading tarot or how familiar I am with my deck in particular, there is always more to learn.
Anytime I flippantly pass over a card in a reading-thinking “I know what that means” I loose the opertunilty to see it in a new light, to deepen its meaning and my understanding. This confidence in my own knowledge limits my ability to learn something new, to see an old problem with a new light.
Even when I have looked up a card’s definition hundreds of times, I still read over it again. There is always something I miss. Someway it applies to my current question or thoughts.
In my deck the fool is paired with the Hebrew letter; Aleph and the Rune; Wynn.
Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet it symbolizes the “ox” or “bull,” a sacred animal to many ancient traditions. It carries no sound, instead “symbolizes the mystery of the spirit, which cannot be described in ordinary words.”
I love the concept, silence is often the bridge over a void that no words can span. A gift of true understanding that defies verbalization. The concept that somethings are diminished by words and definition.
Like love, the best things in life are indescribable.
The rune Wynn means joy. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child; a time when the impossible is not only possible but probable. It represents taking a leap of faith and doing it with unparraled joy and optimism. Even when walking the edge of a cliff.
Children say things plainly; without contrivance or deceit. They are innocent of self delusion and freely pass along that condition to those around them. Children revel in the existence of every possibility. Life is only limited by what you make of it.
I hope that the significance of The Fool will continue to evolve. Right now, it means not fearing how close I am to the precipice because I believe I can fly.
I’m a fool.
I don’t know where I’m going or how I’m going to get there- so I’m just going to trust myself, laugh and not look down.