The first card in the Thoth Tarot deck shows us Dionysius, green God of spring,
representing new beginnings; childlike wonder; non-judgmental consciousness;
freedom from fear; healing the heart through joy and ecstasy. The fool is the zero
point, having no number in the deck, a complete picture of the mind of simplicity and
innocence. This card also symbolizes the birth of this new website.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s very few”
~ Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki
Can we keep a beginner’s mind through our journey through the Tarot, and life?
The Fool represents a trust that transcends everyday feelings of security for he/ she
is suspended in midair with no support in the material sense. She lets go and surrenders,
not to blind fate, but to divine providence, becoming like the lilies of the field, trusting in
the Divine within, the Tao, the Way. The fool also transcends gender.
It is said the the ego self cannot truly ever experience the present moment. There is a
deeper part of each person that cannot live in the past or the future, but lives each
precious moment as if it were the only one, as it certainly is. So part of the surrender
of the Fool is a letting go of ego concerns and embracing the Now.
The fool is the first confident step along the road to true self discovery. In the outer world this card signifies exploration of new pathways in life; the emerging of some new project; taking a risk; the challenge of leaping into the unknown. It also means trust in universal wisdom to support and guide us, thus its connection to the tarot deck and the reading process.
True play is a lost art in present day society. We “play” games, mostly to win and to hone our competitive nature. The fool reminds us of our childlike innocence and enthusiasm for life, our innate curiosity that gets covered up by fear of the unknown and cynicism in the face of change and new experience. He does not ignore fear, symbolized by the Tiger biting his leg, but gives it no power. The irrational impulse to leap into the unknown can sometimes be destructive and sometimes creative; and often they are both together. But if we never respond to these calls from a New World, then we remain in drab, meaningless, banal lives and wonder, as time slips by, what we have missed, and why the world seems so empty.
We celebrate All Fools Day on April 1st in some western cultures, but what do we do on that day? Play pranks. The Fool is forgotten, discarded, not valued. In days gone by there was a tradition of Fools to Kings and Emperors, sometimes allowed great license in court and even by the monarch's side, as Will Summer was to Henry VIII of England. Fools have certainly been honoured more in days of yore. I propose we bring them back, celebrate our own fool essence, truly play.
The shadow side of the fool becomes evident if the card is at the center of the spread, if it comes up reversed, or is surrounded by other negative cards. With this situation comes a warning to stay in touch with reality and not fall down the rabbit hole. Naïveté; foolishness; inability to deal with reality; escape into fantasy; indulging heavily in drink or drugs are all indications of the fool's dark side. The crocodile lurks at the bottom of the card, reminding us of the price of too much fool-ish energy.
On the highest, or spiritual, level the Fool represents the timeless state before self and other are differentiated; before positive and negative are split; absolute oneness and perfection. He represents intense awareness, symbolized by his wide open eyes and huge grin. He has a secret! He lives only in and for, the moment. He is inhabited by the Divine nature. God’s in, he’s out. This is the true inner ecstacy. The coins in the bag represent the riches that come to us when we see, like the fool, that the whole world is ours and we are, in the deepest and truest sense, the only enjoyer of it.
Quote for the Fool: Thomas Traherne, 17th Century English Mystic, wrote this after he had a deep, transformative experience of awakening to his true nature:
“The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold. The green trees when I saw them first through one of the gates transported and ravished me; their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things. The men! O what venerable and reverend creatures did the aged seem! Immortal cherubims! And the young men glittering and sparkling angels and maids strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty! Boys and girls tumbling in the streets, and playing, were moving jewels. I knew not that they were born or should die. But all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places. Eternity was manifest in the light of the day, and something infinite behind everything appeared: which talked with my expectation and moved my desire. The city seemed to stand in Eden, or to be built in Heaven. The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people were mine, their clothes and gold and silver were mine, as much their sparkling eyes, fair skins, and ruddy faces. The skies were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the world was mine, and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it.”
Was Traherne just a deluded fool? You decide.