The Fool dances on the edge of a cliff. In at least one 19th Century deck, the Wirth Tarot, there is a crocodile, waiting expectantly for the Fool to fall into his open month. We all know people like this, who seem to take risk after risk and always come out on top. We care about them so we are relieved when they succeed, but we also, deep in our subconscious wish, just once, that they would fall so they would learn not to be so reckless.
But the Fool is not reckless. Risk is good for us, we may fail, but if we don’t try at all, we DO fail. As many would point out, if Columbus didn’t try to sail around the world, we would not be here. But Columbus did not expect to fail. He was fairly certain that the world was round, not flat and he would not fall off. Sure there were unexpected problems, it was farther than he figured, there was this big continent in the way, but he tried and found some success, if not the solution he was looking for. The Fool may seem overconfident, but diffidence and timidity never achieves anything. Do or do not, as Yoda would say, there is no try.
The Fool is also the student, just started on a new Life Journey. In many decks, he carries a bindlestiff, a pack on a stick over his shoulder. This are his tools, to some tarot scholars, this pack contains the cup, sword, and pentacle of the tarot, while the wand is used as the stick. This is the beginning of the tarot journey of discovery. The Fool is numbered zero, at the beginning of the quest for knowledge that the Major Arcana illustrates.
The Mediaeval fool–the court jester–was the like the child who said the Emperor had no clothes. He see and speaks the truth with a childlike baldness. He is simple, but not stupid, just a bit naive. He has not learned how to lie. The Fool is creative because he doesn’t know what is possible or not possible, whether he is making good art or bad art. If he will succeed or fail. If we want to be Foolish, we must let go of all assumptions and even of all knowledge and start with a clean slate. If you get the Fool in a Reading: think, I can do anything I want, what do I want to do?
Reversed the Fool is Foolish or reckless. A clown who performs just to get a laugh, a person who gambles without checking the odds, or even listening to his own Inner Vision.
This aired 10/27/09