Introduction To The Major Arcana Part 4: The Fool

The Fool is a card that represents innocence, blithe unawareness, optimism, and the potential for danger. Pictured is a young man taking his first steps into the world. He carries a bindle over his shoulder with all of his treasures in it. In his hand, he holds a white flower, representing innocence. At his feet, a white dog, also representing innocence and play, as well as loyalty. The Fool stands at the edge of a cliff and is about to step off, either to great danger or simply into the great unknown. The mountains behind him represent forthcoming challenges in his life. These features can all be seen on images of the Fool on tarot t shirts.

The Upright Fool focuses on the positive aspects of the arcanum: love, innocence, play, loyalty, freshness and childlike wonderment. The Upright Fool is especially symbolic of new beginnings, new ideas, and new phases in life. Unlike last week's Death card, which focuses on the terminus of a life phase, the Fool focuses on the beginning of a life phase. The Fool can be thought of as the aftermath of the Death card, like new green shoots rising from the soil after a forest fire.

The Reversed Fool focuses on the negative aspects of the arcanum: foolishness, stupidity, blithe unawareness of reality, and disregard for the consequences of one's actions. The Reversed Fool indicates danger, especially danger of which one is unaware. Rather than representing the unknown and possibility, the cliff in front of the Fool represents catastrophe. The Reversed Fool is a call for you, or someone near you, to get their head screwed on straight, and quick! There is one other possible meaning to a reversed Fool: perhaps it's not that you're being reckless. Perhaps someone is taking advantage of you or someone you love.

In a past-present-future spread, the Fool can mean the following:

  1. As past, the Fool represents the naive phase you were once in. Perhaps you are less oblivious now, but your current phase of life started as an adventure. However you wound up, this current phase of your life was begun in joy and possibility. The Reversed Fool in this position says that your current situation began with a terrible mistake, or with you being taken advantage of. The Reversed Fool here does not warn of future consequences, but shows how any current problems in your situation came about as a result of your obliviousness or other people's capacity to manipulate you.
  2. As present, the Fool shows that you are in a transitional stage. Or, more accurately, that you have just passed through a transitional stage. All of the dross has been burned away and the space is cleared for new creating. Now is the time to throw yourself headlong into new possibilities. The Reversed Fool in this position is a dire warning: watch out! Don't step off that cliff. Pay attention to the consequences of your actions and pay attention to what you're doing. Search yourself for any bad habits that may be contributing to a future of hardship.
  3. As future, the Fool shows a new beginning. This beginning can come about as the result of a catastrophic change, which is especially true if the Fool is preceded by the Death card. It can also come about as the next stage of the work you're doing now. All of your hard effort may lead to a flowering and blossoming into new potentials. The Reversed Fool in this position is similar to the Reversed Fool in the present position. The difference is in timing. The Reversed Fool in the present position predicts impending doom unless attention to detail is taken at once. The Reversed Fool in the future position is the warning not to make a mistake now that leads to that situation.

Next, we'll look at one of the most inclusive Tarot cards: The World!

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