I love stories and the art of story telling. As a kid I wrote stories for hours about all sorts of things. I even moved to Hollywood as a young adult to pursue a career in movie making. In fact it’s why I fell in love with the Tarot, because it tells a story. The Tarot’s star character is The Fool. The Fool is just an ordinary soul having an extraordinary journey through the experience called life. He starts with no knowledge or understanding of his world, relationships, environment, or personal power. His story winds through the cards, just as a snake coils its body into a perfect, circular ring, ultimately chomping down on its own hind end. This path encounters the Fool to an understanding of his world. The people, places and occurrences he discovers along the way support his evolution to become more human, more spiritual and strive closer to his own ultimate enlightenment. During his journey the Fool experiences blissful highs and wrenching lows, incredible love and furious hate, soul mates and soul enemies, grief, loss, sorrow, love, joy, excitement. Joseph Campbell refers to this embattled and rewarding tale as the Hero’s Journey, Hermes Trismegistus saw it as the path to enlightenment and Kabbalahists call it the Tree of Life.
The Fool begins his journey as we all do, as nothing. He has no knowledge, no experience, no judgment. In fact his number in the Tarot is zero, meaning he has no value! He simply is a flesh and blood body infused with a spiritual center. As the Rider Waite Tarot image shows us, The Fool begins his journey, blissful and naive, stepping out on “the path” and nearly careening off a cliff! His lack of knowledge and know-how glaringly apparent, like a young child running off into traffic! “But what could go wrong?” The Fool innocently asks.
The first two cards or “people” The Fool meets are his two spiritual parents The Magician (card 1) and The High Priestess (card 2). These two represent the Fool’s basic primal instincts – the ability to manifest what one wants/needs (The Magician) and the intuitive sense to help you get there (The High Priestess). These two cards work together in a ying and yang, conscious and subconscious fashion, always guiding The Fool to what he wants. They are the balance between the masculine and feminine qualities at work within the Fool, keeping him focused and centered. Their job is to steer him back onto the path and away from said cliff!
The Empress (card 3) and The Emperor (card 4) make their appearance next. The Empress is physical Mom. She is flesh and blood, warm and nurturing, life sustaining, protector and love. She feeds and cares for The Fool, and in this modern age she may also do his laundry, cook his meals and clean his room too! The Emperor is physical Dad, encouraging, protecting, supporting, expectant, judgmental, and coach. The one the Fool turns to for money or the car keys. He sets up the structure and expects The Fool to play by the rules. The Empress and Emperor work together to help the Fool grow and develop his identity. They set examples of male and female traits and how those gender dynamics interconnect in the world.
The Fool’s next step is The Hierophant (card 5) and The Lovers (card 6). The Hierophant is a wise teacher. He imparts the lessons The Fool must learn to survive and navigate in the world: Science, Art, Driver’s Ed. The Hierophant is a spiritual philosopher and encourages The Fool to develop values, compassion and respect for others, as this is how society survives. The Lovers are next and represent The Fool’s contemporaries, his friends, siblings and indeed his romantic conquests. Through them, The Fool learns how to navigate relationships and build bonds of love and friendship. These relationships are near and dear to The Fool as these “lovers” traverse along side him throughout his lifetime.
At the end of his youth, The Fool meets The Chariot (card 7). This is the ending of the child and the beginning of the young adult. The Fool has established a baseline of knowledge, an understanding and confidence in himself and his abilities. He is ready to test his metal against the rest of the world. The Chariot is a blazing saddle; The Fool rides in The Chariot ready to conquer anything that may come his way. He knows whom he is, where he comes from, who is friends are and how the world works. There is nothing that can stop him from achieving all that he wants. It may seem pretty simply, except of course his journey still has a long way to go before it is complete.
Check back for part 2 coming soon….
Illustrations from the Morgan Greer and Rider Waite Smith Tarot Deck were reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. (March 7, 2018) by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.