Vocabulary 0: The Fool
Please note that vocabulary lessons are available as downloadable audio files as well as a written transcript below.
So, we begin at the beginning with the Fool card.
Go ahead and look at the card on your screen, or if you have a deck of your own, take the Fool card out and look at it in front of you. Take a minute to just connect with it and take it in.
And this is the procedure that I want us to follow every time we introduce a new card in this course. Before I get in to what the conventional or classical interpretation of this card is, before I start explaining all the symbolism or what the card means to me or what the established interpretation of this card is, before we get into any of that, I want you to be in the habit of taking a moment to just connect with the card yourself.
And depending on what your experience level with tarot is, you may already have some background information about this card. You may already have some experience or history with this card, or you may be coming to it completely fresh.
But either way, I want you to start cultivating this sense of connection with the card, of seeing what it has to say to you, what effect it has on you, what impression it has on you, because how you engage with a card is going to be completely unique to you. And that's really where Tarot becomes meaningful is when we're able to go beyond the traditional or conventional definitions of a card and really just engage with it organically in the moment of what that card says to us. And this may change. In fact, it probably will change every time you look at the card. If you're in a different mood, the card may speak to you in a different way.
So just take a second to connect with this card and see what it has to say to you today.
What do you notice about the card?
Does it give you a certain feeling?
Does it evoke any thoughts or memories, do you have any words or images come to mind?
Are there visual details in the card that stand out to you?
Take a moment to just take it all in. Feel free to pause the recording and take as long as you need to do that. Jot down any notes, anything that stands out and we’ll continue.
What I see when I look at this card is someone who is going off on an adventure. It's the very first card in the deck. The zero. And I love that the deck begins with zero and not with one, because you have this image of this zero at the top of the card. It's like this completely open space. It's like you're going through this portal into this new world.
So, with the Fool, there's a sense of new beginnings, of taking a leap, of stepping out onto a new path that you don't know exactly where it's going to lead, but you're trusting it.
The Major Arcana is often referred to as the Fool's journey, or you might be familiar with the concept of the hero's journey, which is a phrase coined by Joseph Campbell. This idea of the universal story of the hero who begins as more or less a blank slate, not knowing at all what they're getting into, where they're going to go, or how the experience is going to change them. But that there's a very profound urge to go on this journey, there's a deep calling.
The soul is being called on this path. And when we meet The Fool at the beginning of the Major Arcana, he is trusting that urge that he feels. He's following this calling and he's stepping out into this adventure which will lead him through the entire arc of the Major Arcana through every card until we ultimately get to the World card, which represents self-actualization.
So he's on this journey of self-discovery and growth. And the way that this is represented in the image of the card is: He is walking off of a cliff. So, it's the ultimate leap of faith. Right? He can't see where he's going or where this path will lead, and he can't turn back once he takes this leap. There's no going back. But he is going all in, following this intuitive sense that he has that this is what he needs to do.
Now let's break down the visual details of the card. You may already have noticed some little visual details. Go ahead and just take note of what stands out to you the most in this card.
The first thing that stands out to me every time I see this card is the color. You have this brilliant yellow color behind him, which is coming from this radiant sun in the corner that’s shining on him. So there's this warm, sunny, happy yellow color, which is also echoed in his clothing. It's a very optimistic color palette. You have the sense that he’s blessed, that the sun is shining on him on this path.
A big part of the Fool is understanding that, if you are allowing yourself to be guided by your soul, your intuition, whatever you want to call it, this deep knowing that comes from within... There's this sense with the card that you will be blessed, that the sun will shine on you and that your way will be lighted.
To me, the Fool often comes up as an indication that we can listen to our intuition, that if we feel called to do something which to the outside world may appear foolish or crazy... You know, he's leaping off this cliff. He might crash and die for all he knows. To the outside world it may seem like, “What are you doing? You're walking off of this cliff. There's nothing there to catch you!” But the Fool has this deep sense of trust that, if he leaps, there will be something there to catch him. So this card often comes up as an invitation. It's granting you permission to take that leap. It's reminding you that if you do something fully in alignment with your purpose and your intuition, that there will be something there to catch you, you'll be all right.
And in the same vein, the next thing I notice about the card is his posture. He's standing with this very open, very upright posture. His chest is completely exposed. His shoulders are back. There's a sense that he's going with his heart first. And he's very vulnerable. It's a completely open posture. He's not wearing any armor. He doesn't have a shield. So this tells us that the Fool is being guided by his heart. He's following his heart on this path and that he is completely in trust. He's totally trusting that this is the way for him to go and that he will be supported on his journey. So another theme that this card carries for me is the idea of trust. Both trust of Self and trust of the world, the universe, the forces around him.
OK, so another detail about this card that stands out to me is this dog that he has with him. He has this little happy white dog at his feet. The dog is following him and kind of dancing with him. Animals in the Tarot have a very specific meaning. Whenever we see a card with a person and an animal, or you could also call it a familiar or a spirit animal, the animal represents the instinct. If we think of our animal instincts, animals represent instinct and intuition.
And ideally what you want to see is a person representing a kind of higher consciousness and thought, and then the animal representing the instinct and intuition, and the two are working together as a team. So it means that you're in harmony with your intuition and your analytical mind. And that your higher consciousness or your sort of spiritual self is in alignment with your emotional self and your physical self. We need all of these parts functioning together.
So when you have this dog with the Fool, you can see— the dog is happy and following along with him, so he's trusting and listening to his intuition. He has a healthy relationship with his intuition. But the dog is not leading the way. Right. The dog is following The Fool. This is an important detail because, to have a healthy sense of our intuition, we don't want to be entirely led by our intuition. We don't want our animal instincts to be in the driver's seat. Which is something that we will see when we get to the Moon card later on where we don't have any people, where it's only animals, if we have only our animal instincts, then it's very easy for us to be led by fear or by subconscious programing. But in the Fool card we see this nice balance where we have the instincts that are healthy and engaged, but the higher self and the higher consciousness is still the one leading the way.
The next thing I noticed is: in his hand he has a white rose. And this white is also echoed in the dog. The dog is also white, some of his clothing is white. So white is a color that we associate with purity. It's something a piece of fabric has never been touched. And it's perfectly pristine and white. So this echoes the idea of the new beginning, that this is a completely clean slate for the Fool. It's very innocent in the sense that he doesn't know what he's getting into yet. He hasn't really started yet. This journey is going to change him. He's going to learn about himself, about the world... A lot of lessons on this journey, some of which may be very painful or difficult.
So there's a sense of innocence with this card, of starting out completely fresh. Maybe even a little naive. Or maybe even fully aware that this journey is going to change him, but wearing that innocence almost like a badge of honor. There's something very beautiful about the way that the Fool throws himself into this experience, allowing himself to be hurt because he's ready. He's ready for this experience. He may not know what he's getting himself into, but he's ready to take the leap. So there's a great vulnerability to this card. It can speak to moments when we step into this kind of beginner's mind or beginner spirit. Recognizing that we may not have much experience, we may not know what we're doing or what's going to happen, but we're open to learn and to grow.
Another important detail on this card is, if you look at the packet that he's carrying in his other hand... He's got a stick with a little bag on it. You can see this is all that he's taking with him. This is all the baggage that he asked with him on this new journey. There's not like a caravan of stuff coming behind him. He is taking the absolute essentials of what he needs. And he's traveling light. OK, so the Fool is also often an invitation for us to release any emotional baggage from the past. To leave it behind. That you can't take it all with you into the next life, into the next adventure. If you want to take this leap, if you want to start off on this completely new journey, you have to release this baggage.
So, there's a sense of a previous life being left behind. And I love that he has this bag on a stick because it reminds me of like when a little kid is running away from home. There's this cliche image of like a kid with a stick with a little scarf or something tied on the end of it with their stuff. There's some sense, almost, like a little a little boy running away to join the circus. So there's a sense that the Fool is going on a quest to find his place in the world, to find where he belongs. Maybe he's leaving behind something that didn't work for him or a world that didn't understand him. And he's completely leaving that life behind and just taking what he absolutely needs. Which isn't much.
There is an understanding with this card that everything that you need, really, to step into this journey of self discovery-- everything that you need you can carry in a tiny little back. Because it's all carried within you. Your sense of home, your sense of belonging, your sense of who you are, your direction... All you really need is this tiny little bag and your animal friend and you're good to go.
So this card can also be a reminder to release any attachments that we have to certain identities, certain places, certain things in our lives. This card is a reminder that you don't need any of that. You can simply be in the world with all that you have on your back right now.
If we think about the word the "fool," this may evoke a lot of mixed reactions when we hear it, because ordinarily we associate the word fool— We have negative connotations with it. We don't want to appear foolish. We don't want to be a fool or be perceived as a fool.
So part of what this card may be inviting us to release is any fear about how we're perceived by the outside world. We talked about how he's stepping off this cliff, which, to the outside world, might appear crazy. The Fool can be an invitation for us to just give less of a fuck about what anybody else thinks about what we're doing and to really recalibrate our sense of direction so that it is only being informed by ourselves and our highest sense of intuitive wisdom and not by any fear about what our peers or our community or our society expects from us or how they would perceive us. There's a sense of the Fool almost being an outsider. That he's going on his own path and that, by setting out on that path, he will find the people who support and understand him.
I also associate the word fool with a sense of playfulness. If you think of like the fool in a king's court, right, the court jester, there's the trickster energy to the word fool. And the Fool card in tarot is actually where we get the Joker card in the deck of playing cards. It's the same idea, that you have this card that is just kind of a wild card. So there's a very playful energy to the Fool as well. It can be a reminder to embrace the funny side of life.
So these are all very positive interpretations of this card. But what if the Fool comes up in a negative way? What if it shows up as the challenge or the enemy? Take a moment to just think about what are some ways that the Fool could show up that would not be so helpful. What ways could the Fool maybe be counterproductive or inappropriate?
The Fool as Challenge, Enemy
To me, if the Fool comes up as the challenge, if there is resistance to the Fool, this can often indicate that someone is struggling to listen to their intuition, that they're struggling to find that fool's spirit of letting go of the past, taking a leap of faith. The intuition may be out of alignment. There may be fear or confusion. Someone might feel like they want to take a leap, but they're not really sure or they don't know if they can trust it. The sense of trust and openness that the Fool has might not be there or there might be something kind of blocking it. So, when the fool shows up as the challenge, I almost think of it as if the Fool is about to take this leap and then his foot is about to leave the ground and he says, "eeehhhh actually.... I don't know." That there's this hesitation.
And sometimes it's hard for us to know if the hesitation is our intuition, telling us, "maybe wait." Or if it's just our mind getting in the way and telling us, "what are you doing, this is crazy." The Fool will have to have a very strong sense of his intuition and an ability to differentiate between his intuition and his mind. So the Fool as the challenge may mean that someone is struggling with that.
The Fool as the enemy...
So, situations where the Fool is not the energy that we need. This, to me, can often mean-- We spoke about the idea of a child running away, running away from home. The Fool when it's out of alignment or when it's distorted or counterproductive to what we need often indicates that someone is running away. So, ideally, the Fool is taking a leap because he's really being called on this journey of self-discovery, on this path. But sometimes taking a leap is not what's required. Sometimes a situation demands that we stay, that we see things through, that we finish what we started. Right? The Fool is this beginner energy and new beginnings are great. Everybody loves new beginnings, but we can't have new beginnings all the time. Sometimes what's called for is actually a middle or an end and not a beginning. So the Fool as the enemy could mean that maybe we are avoiding something or running away from something when it's becoming difficult. That we want to just cut ties with the past and start all over from scratch. And that that may not actually be the best thing for us.
I remember a reading that I gave once where the Fool came up as the enemy card. And this woman, she was dealing with a lot of grief. She had a parent who had died and she was really struggling to process it and to find her way. And she really just didn't want to deal with it, didn't want to look at it, and the Fool came up as the enemy card. And she told me that the day before she had been really upset, didn't know what to do, and she was actually looking online at flights to Dubai and she was saying, "I think I'm just going to move to Dubai. Flights are cheap. I think I might. I'll just do that." And she-- fortunately, she had a friend or someone with her that told her like, “OK, maybe wait. Maybe sleep on it, you know, maybe don't do anything drastic.”
But that was really this Fool energy coming in as a coping mechanism, as a way to avoid what was going on. "I'm just going to jump off this cliff. I'm just going to run away. I'm just going to start a completely new life so that I don't ever have to deal with this thing." Right? So the fool as the enemy can be running away or avoiding.
We also spoke about the innocence of the Fool. This could also become distorted. There could be a sense of the Fool being almost too innocent, being too trusting or too naive. There could be almost a passivity to the Fool. Like "I'm just trusting the universe to take care of everything for me." When actually maybe the situation demands a little bit more discipline and structure from you, a little bit more groundedness.
OK, so take a second to think about all of this. Take this in, see if there is anything else that this card brings up for you, if you have any memories or stories that you associate with it. And I want you to think about: If you were to sit down with the Fool and ask him for words of advice. What do you think he would say? What do you think his mantra or philosophy in life would be? And if you want to share this mantra in the comments below, feel free. I would love to hear it.
And then when you're ready to move on to the next card, I will meet you in the next lesson: The Magician.