TAROT: A Fool’s Errand?

I was raised to believe Tarot was evil and I was an obedient little Catholic girl, so I didn’t even come to know Tarot until well into adulthood. I am also sure that if anyone even hinted that I was a fool, or foolish, I would quickly step back into line.

When I bought my first Tarot deck, it was nothing magnanimous. I don’t even remember to be honest. I do know that it was the classic Rider Waite Smith (RWS) deck, arguably the most popular Tarot deck in the United States, along with myriad decks that have been inspired by it. To a lesser degree, I have also studied Marseille Tarot, but I have not explored the Thoth deck yet. In my articles, you will see that most of the time, I refer to the RWS deck, or one of my other two favorites, both of which were gifts, The Light Seer’s Tarot by Chris-Anne, and The Witches’ Wisdom Tarot by Phyllis Curott and Danielle Barlow. This last deck is arguably more shamanic in nature to me than witchy, but it is a beautiful and fascinating deck.

The Tarot has become a faithful and honest friend, even though I disregarded and underestimated its magic for many years.

The Fool Card

Have you ever noticed that when someone steps out of line or disagrees with the majority, or the perceived authority, or the all-knowing and inflexible individual, that out of line person is immediately called a fool?

As a young woman, I never wanted to be the Fool, never wanted to be “foolish.” I was a pleaser through and through, but that eventually took an emotional toll, because it’s impossible to please everyone, and you can’t even please one person all the time. I was twisted in knots over it. Looking back, I think how foolish was that?

The Tarot Fool refuses to be like other people. This character (man or woman), generally depicted as a youth, is the one with very little to weigh him down, and the whole world of possibilities to explore. It is the card without number, or sometimes considered the 0 card, or the 22 following the World in some cases.

In the Quantum world, the Zero is the place of all possibility and the Fool knows this somehow. Still, she does not go out entirely unprepared. She carries a small knapsack, but also trusts that the world will provide somehow for her needs along the way. He is accompanied by a small companion dog and so not entirely alone either. I wonder if the dog doesn’t also serve somehow as a Spirit Animal, although you probably wouldn’t find that interpretation in most Tarot books.

The Pilgrim (equivalent to The Fool) from The Witches' Wisdom Tarot

In the Witches’ Wisdom* Tarot Deck, the Fool is renamed the Pilgrim and accompanied by a fox as she leaves a metropolitan area and heads for field, forest, and mountain. Curott describes the fox in a way that might resemble a Spirit Animal – “with keen senses and keener instincts, her companion and guide to the magic at play within the seem randomness of daily events and encounters.”

*Both Curott and Barlow performed shamanic journeys for each of the cards while drawing, painting, writing, editing, and completing the deck and guidebook. Perhaps it is that shamanic energy that draws me so strongly to this deck. Incidentally, errand comes from root words meaning both message, mission, and journey.

In the RWS Tarot and the Light-Seer’s Tarot, it looks as if the Fool might just leap or fall off a cliff, but there is a knowingness and lack of fear in their faces. Almost a surrender. Could they be seeing a soft landing spot or body of water to fall into that we don’t see?

In the medieval days, the court fool was the jester, the primary source of entertainment for the king’s court In many ways, this fool could get away with stating truths that might otherwise displease the king, much the way comedians of today can express sentiments that are only unpopular due to the social pressures of political correctness. The fool could get away with a lot, if only because he wasn’t taken seriously.

Call him the Fool, call her the Pilgrim, the energy of this card is one of innocence, adventure and discovery.  This Fool’s Errand is about forging one’s own path and acquiring knowledge and wisdom from experience, not from a third party telling or from a textbook. Of course, mistakes will be made, but this is where the growth and expansion happen.

Etymologically, the fool is most definitely not a flattering word, with meanings of silly, stupid, ignorant, and even an empty-headed windbag. Personally, I think this is part of the magic of this card, and the entire deck. Great wisdom is covered up by unflattering labels. Mystery is hidden behind more mystery. Only the true seeker dares travel down this path because they understand that things aren’t always as they seem.

We can recognize how entire groups can go along with a consensus label that just might be radically unfair, and so we can also recognize the value of the Fool, in swimming against that consensus current. The question is, can we exercise our powers of vision and understanding to see beyond the appearance or label of something and glean the deeper wisdom therein? The Fool says YES, even while he is laughed out of town. He’ll be back, and he’ll be wise beyond his years.

The Tarot is indeed the Fool’s Errand. It is a tool for anyone with enough courage, daring, and curiosity to experience the world in all its splendor, while understanding that there will be ups and downs, comedies and tragedies, joy and suffering. And the Fool will be better for going through all of it! The paradox of the Fool’s Errand is that the mystery is hidden behind seemingly negative words and even scary images (Death, Devil, Tower, for example). The Fool isn’t interested in what people call her. Nor is the Tarot itself limited in power and magic by narrow viewpoints.

Note: My posts on individual cards (upright) will be tagged as The Fool’s Tarot. My posts on reversals will be tagged as The Hanged Man’s Tarot.

Questions for the Fool:

When is the last time you did something, you knew in your heart was right for you, but the prevailing attitude from those around you was cautionary?

How did that situation turn out? Did you hesitate, perhaps stumbling through or did you proceed full bore with the confidence your heart held?

When was the last time someone you know took action you wouldn’t have normally taken? What were your feelings toward them? Can you see how that action might have actually served them in some way?

What dreams and plans do you have for your life that others consider foolish? Do you tend to hesitate? Completely stop? Or throw all caution to the wind?

What lessons have you learned from your most radical and so-called “foolish” experiences?

Card of the Day

The Fool is venturing out. You might find yourself embarking on something new that feels unconventional. You probably feel resistance from people around you, possibly even in yourself, but you are willing to undergo the journey. There is a sense of excitement and adventure.

Keep your eyes open, your outer eyes to the physical world and your inner eyes to your heart and intuition. All journeys and ventures have their potentials and pitfalls. Balance preparation with trust in your ability to find your way and to enlist help as needed, from nature, from people, from the world.

What are your thoughts on the Fool? On the Tarot as a whole? I’d love to hear from you!

♥ Runa

Runa Heilung is the founder of Old Soul Alchemy. She uses imagery and the imagination in meditative formats for healing, illumination, and transformation.