Welcome to the very first card of the tarot: The Fool. If you haven’t grabbed the card yet, please do! These words and ideas will help you – but to really remember them and relate them to the card itself, you’re gonna need to hold it in your hand and study its image.
Ready? Got your card? Let’s begin!
And we begin not at number 1, but at zero. Though we are beginning, our journey has not yet taken shape.
The Fool is all about beginning a journey, and is a great place to begin exploring the winding road that is the Major Arcana. Over the next three weeks, card by card, we will encounter 22 archetypes, each with an important life lesson to teach, each adding another piece to the puzzle that is our existence in this big, strange, scary-beautiful world. The Fool, signifying beginnings, represents you, embarking on this very journey.
I’ve pulled the Fool card from each of three very different tarot decks, and am studying their images. The first shows a person who is about to walk off a cliff, head held high, apparently oblivious (the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot). Next, a hitchhiker in the midday sun, thumb out, stripy socks and pigtails, a small pack at their feet (The Collective Tarot). Last, a fledgeling bird, perched on a branch, ready to learn to fly (The Wild Unknown Tarot).
What do these images have in common? They all show a figure who is on the brink of taking a risk. A leap of faith. Each of these figures is about to step into the unknown.
Which is a perfect metaphor for the Fool – the very first card of the tarot, and the ‘hero’ that represents each of us, embarking on a journey into the tarot, and into life itself.
What image is shown on your card, and how does it represent these ideas?
As card zero, the number before numbers, this is all about unformed potential. It is nothing, a blank canvas, awaiting action, awaiting projection. As Rachel Pollack writes in Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom, “all things remain possible because no definite form has been taken”. Pollack points out that the number zero is like an egg, full of life, getting ready to hatch. But we don’t know what’s inside the egg yet.
This isn’t about conscious will. It’s not about knowing, or having a set and specific goal. It’s about the first step. It’s bold, but it’s not about setting intentions or showing steely resolve (that comes later, for example in the next card, the Magician, and the Chariot, among others). It’s more about just not giving a damn. Being absolutely in the moment, here, now, ready to start. And that, I think, is the bravest thing of all.
The Fool asks us to enter into an exchange of trust with the Universe. It asks you to place your trust in the unseen, allow yourself to be guided by curiosity, move beyond self-doubt and fear of failure… and in return you will find yourself on a journey that is richer, more challenging, more rewarding, wilder, freer, less predictible, and more fun. You place your faith in the Universe, and in your own self – together. You plus the mystery of life, is a magical combination. You’re set to go somewhere good.
Others may look on and see ‘foolishness’. Don’t they realise that hitchhiking is dangerous/they are about to fall off a cliff/their wings aren’t big enough to fly yet?
And it can be so scary and difficult to trust yourself when the rest of the world is saying “no, don’t be stupid, turn back, it’s dangerous!” Far easier to turn back, not to try. Not to move forwards.
But the Fool knows something everyone else has forgotten: the world is a magical place. And it is yours, a place to explore, to name, to discover over and over.
Advice from the Fool
The Fool encourages you onwards, whilst acknowledging that this may require a leap of faith. This may come naturally to you – for example if you feel ready for adventure, to make a change, to experiment – or it may feel scary. It can be hard, not knowing what’s on the other side! What if you fall? What if there’s no-one there to catch you?
But that’s exactly what this is about. Don’t second-guess what’s on the other side. Move forwards, despite your fears. Remember that you do not have to have all of the information in order to act. In fact, the Fool posits that the less you know, the better! This is not about having your mind made up, but being ready to learn.
The Fool is about beginnings of all kinds. Big new starts in life, a new home/job/relationship, a new spiritual journey, the start of a major personal transition. A new era in your life, or simply feeling that it’s time for one. Maybe you’re walking away from something that is done, ready to start over – or you’re about to. It can also be a smaller thing – finally getting ready to begin a project you’ve always wanted to do. Sending that pitch. Getting that haircut. Climbing that hill. If it involves some degree of ‘getting over yourself’, then that’s Fool energy.
In all cases, the Fool is your cheerleader. “Go for it!”, this card says joyfully, giving you a wave from the road. Don’t overthink this. Trust your gut, trust the Universe, and take that step.
Key words and concepts
- A blank canvas, unformed potential
- A fresh start
- Taking a risk
- Not caring what the world thinks
- Answering a ‘call’
- Trusting in the universe
- Overcoming self-doubt
- Embracing uncertainty
- Defying social norms and being your rad self
Some common symbols
- A cliff-edge or precipice (leaving safety behind)
- Sunshine (positivity, action, embracing life)
- A dog or animal helper (because you are not alone, you are supported)
- A small bag (travelling light, taking only what you need)
- A wand, held lightly (you have access to magic, even if you don’t know how to wield it yet)
- Flowers (purity, beauty, lightness of spirit)