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The Magic of the Major Arcana - The Fool

Updated: May 4, 2022

The Tarot begins with the 22 cards of the Major Arcana which take us through the journey of the soul as it transforms through the sacred archetypes represented within the deck. The journey begins with The Fool - the archetypal symbol of new beginnings and setting forth on new journeys.

The Historical Archetype of The Fool

The archetypal symbol of The Fool is universal and can be seen in cultures around the world. It goes all the way back to the ancient times of Pharaohs in Egypt where the wild performers would entertain the Egyptian royals. The fool can also be seen in Roman cultures, the Aztec empire, and European high society.

In Tarot, we see The Fool in early decks such as the Tarot of Marseilles but the iconic imagery most think of today was developed by Arthur Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith. The classic image of the nicely dressed young man with blond hair, perched carelessly on the edge of a cliff is synonymous with the archetypal energy of The Fool card.

The Fool in the Major Arcana

The Major Arcana in Tarot tells a story. It can be read from front to back, or back to front. If you begin with the final card in the Major Arcana, The World, it tells the story of creation. Whereas if you read it from front to back, beginning with card 0, The Fool, it tells the story of the human soul’s alchemical journey of transformation.

The Fool represents you. It represents the way your spiritual self journeys through the twists and changes of life. When The Fool card pops up in readings, it often means that new adventures are in store. It encourages you to take a leap of faith, to go out on a limb, and to trust in the Universe with a free spirit.

The Meaning of The Fool in Tarot Readings

The Fools number is zero, which represents an empty mind. You start your journey with a beginner's mind on a search for higher wisdom which you will gain as you proceed through the Major Arcana. Like the fool, take a leap of faith and walk your path with trust.

As with all cards in the Tarot, it also has a shadow side. The Fool, when out of balance, can indicate that you are indeed being foolish or impractical. It can be a reminder to be more self aware or a warning that you may become rigid or stuck if you refuse to try new things.

The Symbolism in The Fool Card

The symbolism in the Rider-Waite deck is powerful. Each piece of Pamela Smith’s incredible intuitive artwork has profound meaning that can lead to insights into your own life and subconscious knowing. It’s secret name in the Golden Dawn tradition is The Spirit of the Ether.

In the classic image, we see a youthful figure on the edge of a cliff, gazing towards the sky, and seemingly oblivious to the potential dangers below. The figure is finely dressed, carrying a staff, and has a dog at his side. Each aspect of this artwork carries a specific meaning - powerful symbols that can have impacts on your psyche and life if you spend time with them and learn to understand them.

The Fool possesses several magical gifts in this image. He carries a white rose, as well as a staff and satchel. He wears a hat with a red feather, and his canine companion remains joyfully at his side.

The white rose represents purity. It is associated with the white Tudor rose we see occur again in the Death card. It represents the beauty and the pain in this life. Every rose has its thorns, as the song goes.

The staff and satchel carried by The Fool show preparation for the journey ahead. The staff can also be viewed as a wand, representing passion and inspiration. The satchel represents accumulated knowledge that The Fool, you, carry with you on your new journeys.

The hat with the red feather represents Air, the overall element of the card. The color red represents power, blood, life, and passion. The deck pulls heavily from Egyptian traditions, and the feather echoes the headdress worn by the Goddess Maat who was the Goddess of justice, harmony and truth.

The white dog represents companionship on our journeys. It also is believed to represent faith in our subconscious and intuition. Again, the color white represents purity. I like to think of this as a symbol of the purity of friendships.

Even the The Fools clothes have specific meanings. His white undergarment represents inner wisdom and the purity within. The red in his robes represent fire and passion. The black outer garment represents ignorance - all that he has yet to learn. And the symbols upon the coat are said to be either fruits or spirit wheels, both representing life. His yellow boots symbolize confidence as he steps forward into the new adventure.

Symbolism in The Fool’s Surroundings

The bright white sun in the fool card once again represents the pure white light of the Divine. It is thought to symbolize the light of Kether in the Tree of Life in Kabbalah. It is pure enlightenment that will guide The Fool on his journey forward. It is a flame of creation illuminating the path ahead.

The blue mountains and the cliff indicate challenges ahead. The mountains can be seen as a symbol of challenges to overcome throughout the rest of the deck. The pointy white peaks that are capped in white snow express the enlightenment The Fool will acquire through overcoming the struggles found in the mountains.

Elemental and Natural Associations in The Fool Card

Within The Fool card, we see all four kingdoms of the natural world represented. Earth is represented by the mountains, plants are represented by the rose, animals are by the dog, and the human element by The Fool himself.

It is associated with the element of Air. Like air, the fool card desires to flow and expand. It is the breath of life.

It is associated with the planet Uranus. If there was ever a planet that was a wild card in the same way as The Fool, it is Uranus. Uranus is the planet of change and revolution. The Fool is the start of the revolution of Spirit.

Contemplations on The Fool Card

When The Fool Card comes up for you, it means your soul is about to embark. We can experience this archetypal energy over and over again throughout our lives, in big and small ways. The Fool might come up when you plan on starting a new career, go off to college, are at a crossroads, or literally plan on traveling.

It can be a wonderful reminder to embrace childlike wisdom, and adopt a more carefree attitude. The fool is radiant, courageous, transcendent, and a risk taker. It advises you to take leaps of faith, and trust in the Universe. It is your purest potential waiting to be made manifest.

If The Fool brings up contraction for you, perhaps the message is to move around stagnant energy in your life. Do not become so rigid that you can’t take a chance on something new. Remember that self awareness is key to self improvement. Going into the shadow side of each card can help us to heal and reach our full potential.

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