A Pinch Of Thoughts

Tarot: Understanding The Fool’s Journey

The title is self-explanatory that this article is about the journey of the “Fool” the very first card in ant Tarot deck, which mostly consists of 78 cards divided in two groups: The Major Arcana (22 cards) and The Minor Arcana (56 cards).

Now, before I get to the Fool’s journey, I would like to pen down as to why I got involved with Tarot. This little story of mine happened more than a decade ago. It is like my (a type of Fool) journey into this mystical world.

Years back, from what I had read, initially Tarots cards were nothing special; just a pack of playing cards used sometime during the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe. It was only in the latter half of the 18th century that certain decks started being used for divination and cartomancy.

Here, Divination means to get an insight into a particular situation in life or question through certain occult practices. Cartomancy stands for simple fortune telling using a deck of cards. There is a lot more that goes behind these practices, but for now, let us just stick with this basic definition or meaning.

So, as I mentioned before, a friend of mine who was into Reiki, Oracle readings, Tarot and a few more things on similar lines, decided to take me to a tarot reader because she knew that I didn’t believe in these things (then) and she just wanted me to try. No harm, right?

I simply went and I was quite surprised at the simplicity of the set-up. No jazz whatsoever. It was a small office-like room. The only two significant things in that room were rocks of Clear quartz and Amethyst. That’s all. No photographs of deities and no incense smoke (things one would imagine and expect in such a setup).

My friend introduced me to the Reader, and she said that both of us came here for a general reading. Probably the Reader saw the skepticism on my face and intuitively knew that this was my first time. She simply smiled. She decided to do my reading first.

She lit a candle, spread a silk cloth on the table and removed the deck. She asked me if there is anything “in particular” that I want to know or seek an answer for. Obviously, I had nothing!

It seemed that she did a quick silent prayer and started shuffling the cards. She laid the deck on the table and asked me to divide the deck into three parts. I followed her instruction, and then she put those parts back together and fanned the deck. She told me that she will be doing something called a “3 card spread” which is a basic reading of the Past, Present and Future. I nodded.

She randomly drew out three cards, face down. She took a moment and turned the first card face up; it was the ‘3 of Swords’, the second was ‘5 of Pentacles and the last one was ‘Lovers’ but it was upside down (today I know that it was “reversed”).

The first question she asked me: Did you have any kind of surgery lately? I was stumped because just two months back (then) I underwent an appendectomy! But yeah, coincidence I thought.

Her next question, she was very polite about it: Are you “in between jobs?” My friend sat there silent and still. She obviously knew what was happening in my life and I also doubted that she must have told her; but I saw that the draw of cards was bloody random! I told her that I did resign from my previous job and was in search of a new one.

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And her last question: Are you in a relationship? Lovers, yes, I was expecting that. I said a yes, but she seemed a little grave. Again, it looked like she was trying her best to be as nice or sweet as possible. She told me that it is important that I assess the relationship well and try not to keep things unresolved. Finally, she said that this present relationship wouldn’t last long. At that time, I didn’t take the relationship reading too seriously as things were fine on that front.

Well, that did happen eventually though, a few months later.

However, the other two readings, now when I am penning it down I am reliving and am once again experiencing the similar awe I felt at that moment, when she so accurately was reading those life events!

So, here I am- I took a leap of faith, just like the Fool from our Tarot deck and embarked on my journey into this mystical world.

Now, to our hero’s, “The Fool’s” journey. I decided to call the Fool a hero because as he undertakes his journey, he goes through various transformations and emerges as a person who literally has “Mastered” the world.

The significance of the journey- The Fool’s journey is woven in such a way through the 22 cards that it signifies the various stages of our lives, the lessons that we learn and also certain stages in our lives where we are compelled to choose our paths which could have profound effects on our lives.

The Fool (0) is strangely empty but at the same time is free-spirited, filled with optimism and excitement is ready to start-off on a journey that he has no clue about. The card depicts this innocent character standing on the cliff totally unaware and smiling and ready to take a leap and assimilate lessons through every one of the remaining 21 cards.

The Fool soon meets two mesmerizing characters- ‘The Magician (I)and ‘The High Priestess (II). These two are the counterpart to each other.

The Magician teaches The Fool the skills to survive in his journey and the power of intellect. He teaches him the art of communication.

 Master of his Art, the Magician calls upon all the powers of the four elements: The Chalice (water) overflowing with emotions and love, The Wand (fire) which represents passion and ambition, The Sword (air) which is the symbol of intellect and communication and The Pentacle (earth) which represents possessions, work and body. With these, now The Fool is confident that he can create anything he wants. But he explains nothing more.

Shrouded with confusion as he doesn’t exactly know what to do with these powers, The Fool comes across The High Priestess. He tells her about his quandary, but The High Priestess doesn’t say a word. Instead, she hands him some ancient scrolls which give him an insight into his newly acquired tools. He still is afraid of making a mistake. Here, The High Priestess tells him to trust his instincts. She is the gatekeeper of intuition and Divine wisdom. Thanking the Priestess, he sets out to continue his journey. He realizes that the High Priestess knows a lot more than what she shared with him. However, he realizes that not everything that is real can be seen.

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He then comes across The Empress (III), who he considers as his Mother. She appears to be pregnant and is all about nurturing, fertility and abundance. He then meets his father The Emperor (IV), who is embodiment of pure masculine force. He teaches him the importance of principles, structure, and discipline. He also sets certain rules and regulations to be followed which will help The Fool keep his path safe and stable. The lessons he learns from his father will help to keep him grounded while steers into the path of spiritual awakening.

Now that he has taken leave of his celestial and earthly parents, he meets The Hierophant (V), his teacher who helps him understand cultures, religions and the workings of the society.

The Fool has learned a lot and now he craves for a companion. He finds one and forms a union as The Lovers (VI). Here, he learns how to incorporate and find a balance between his masculine and feminine energies.

The innocent Fool has now become an adult. He has developed a strong sense of identity. He wants to be successful and with his willpower and disciple, he rides The Chariot (VII) victoriously through the world, possessed with the assured confidence of a youth.

As time passes by, life throws a lot of challenges at him. But he moves forward with Strength (VIII) and resolves to keep going despite the hitches. Now, he is more mature and has also developed a lot of self-control.

His journey has been long and arduous. Now, he seeks a bit of solitude, simply to reflect on all that he has learned and been through till now. This is when he encounters The Hermit (IX), or we can safely say that he becomes The Hermit. He wants to know how and why the world works the way it does. His isolation and introspection make it clear to him that everything is connected and is a part of the Divine planning of the Universe. He finally sees the intricate patten of the world and its wonderful designs. He realizes that The Wheel of Fortune (X) symbolizes that things will happen the way it has be destined and, in the end,, we are all subjected to fate.

He realizes that in the end, the Universe will restore balance, the actual concept of Justice (XI). He knows that all his actions will have consequences. It is Justice that will balance the situation and will also bring resolution to any legal matters. Karma always comes back around.

The Fool still moves on undaunted and determined. But somehow, he realizes that it is not all that east to tame life. He goes through an experience that overwhelms him and he decides to surrender to his experiences than fighting them. Honestly, he knows that his life has now turned upside-down. The Fool becomes The Hanged Man (XII)– and ready to explore the world from a different point of view. It is now calm and serene. He then feels Death (XIII), the death of his ego, letting go of his familiar self. These changes are unbearable and are crushing him, but The Fool realizes that death is not permanent state but a transition to a new meaningful and fulfilling life.

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He is now poised and is in a state of equilibrium- The Temperance (XIV). He understands that not every situation demands immediate action.

He tries to move on but finds that he is still bound to his past- emotionally, physically and financially. And these shackles are not really letting him grow. Here he meets The Devil (XV).; nothing sinister. Simply a representation of our attachment to the material world and the need to release things that no longer serve us. A reminder that we are nothing but slaves to the attractions of the material world.

He desperately wants to get rid of the Devil. This is when he comes across The Tower (XVI)-the representation of ego around his inner innocent and beautiful self. Actually, a prison. These crises that happens within ones ‘self can create such powerful energy that is capable of destroying the strong walls of any prison. The Fool did too. His energy blasted the despair. The powers of the Universe, that he always believed in, help him set free or let’s say, caught him when he was about to fall.

He is now serene, and a bright light shines through him. He becomes The Star (XVII)– we call it as the light at the end of the tunnel! A hope. A renewal. A peace after a storm.

But will this peace continue? Is there any other challenge that The Fool might have to face? Well, the truth is that it his bliss that ends up making him vulnerable to illusions, apart played by The Moon (XVIII). The Fool still lacks mental clarity and ends up having a distorted picture of the truth. In fact, The Moon has a lot of effects on The Fool. On one hand it stimulates his creativity but on the other hand, few fears and anxieties from the sub-coconscious begin to surface.

Once again, The Fool is determined to fight his fears and anxieties and once again gains clarity, and his light expands. He becomes The Sun (XIX)– his old self is completely shed. He is enlightened and discovers his true purpose in the world.

And the comes the final Judgement (XX) where The Fool is now reborn, and he feels absolved. He realizes his ignorance and the mistakes he made in the past. He is now able to choose wisely. He knows what to keep and what to discard. He finally answers his soul’s calling.

And this is the end of our hero’s journey. He has now mastered The World (XXI). One whole cycle completed and a new one is about to begin!

This journey of the Fool helps us understand the role of the 21 cards of the Major Arcana. At the same time, it does kind of mirrors our lives and the lessons we learn throughout our lives.