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Tarot Hermeneutics

Exploring How We Create Meaning with Tarot

On the Fool

April 1, 2006

This note was written some years ago but is universal enough to be worthy of your timely eye.

Besure to add you own versions of the Fool. This fool wants to know!

The fool is the favorite card of many tarot readers. We actually give the fool carte blanche with all the other majors and minors too!

So much has been projected onto the Fool that from some points of view he is overworked and carries way too many contradictory and contrary meanings.

Especially since the Golden Dawn interpretations, the Fool as Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. He represents the pre-created cosmos and idiotic demiurge.

The creator of the William Blake Tarot, Ed Buryn has gone so far as to separate these two Fools and make two cards into the cosmic function of the unmoving mover Fool, and the foolish Fool. I wonder about this wisdom?

First of all, we must be aware that the Fool seems mutable and contradictory, but is actually immutable and insidiously consistent. "The fool who persists in his folly will become wise," to cite Billy Blake.

Second, much of what we know of the Fool is based on a foolish Jack mode of wise-idiot folk story. I think we should develop aspects of the foolish Jill too. Why does Jill come tumbling after?

Here are some of the many facets of the fool that occur to me off the top. Feel free to add your own and comment.

1. The oppositional Fool. You say, yes, I say, no!

2. The mimicry Fool. You're a pompous self-important ass, and the Fool struts around beside you, preferably in your shadow, exaggerating every gesture of your magnificence!

3. The judging Fool. You're a self-important pompous ass, the fool in that corner is loud, loud in his bray! Heehaw!

4. The childlike innocent Fool. Look at the wonderful emperor's new clothes! But Momma, the emperor is naked!

5. The speak-truth-to-power Fool. Mr. President, wars never go as we plan. There is no such thing as a simple war or an easy victory.

6. The speak-lies-to-the-conceited Fool. Tell them what they want to hear, and be rewarded. Tell them the truth and no one will hear. (The yes people are insidious dupesters, thinking they get ahead, they destroy the goose that lays golden eggs.)

7. The Cassandra Fool. As much as I reveal the future, no one will listen to me, no one believes me, alas I am as if I have no voice.

8. The Slick Lover Fool. You know the type, wonderful to look at, sometimes great in the sack, but nothing, nothing going for them anywhere else.

9. The pity-me, victim Fool. Please help me, I am helpless, lost and have no way to figure things out for myself.

10. The disguised Fool. I am really special, but nobody can see through my disguise!

11. The radical self-reliance Fool. Don't worry, I can do it myself, for myself, and need nobody else but my Self.

12. The trickster Fool: Everything I try to do, turns out different than I expected. But I always expect the best, and usually get the worst. (There are many variations for the trickster).

13. The self-forgetting Fool. Ten fools cross a river; each counts the others and forgets to count oneself. So they began weeping for their lost brother in the river. Until a stranger comes along, finds out what?s wrong, counts up ten. The fools are whole again, they're missing one restored!

14. The wise Fool. I just don't get enough respect!

15. The timid Fool. Please don't hurt me, I am afraid.

16. The joyous Fool. Oh what a beautiful day! Whoops I fall down! Hurt my knee! Limping away, oh what a beautiful day! Ouch! A beautiful day indeed! Ouch!

17. God's Fool: Yep that's Jesus as Harlequin. But let's face it, anyone who attempts to follow in Jesus's footsteps is one too. The sufis have the Madzub, those so drunk on the vision of God that wherever they turn to see, they only see God, even in you and me!

18. God as Fool: Dare we blaspheme! From our minuscule point of view how can we comprehend the ways of the great? (Paraphrasing Job), especially a sovereign who is willing to wager with the devil himself on our particular fate!

I'm sure I've left some important ones out of the mix. Got any that need homage?

The fool takes many forms, and can invert any reading. That is reading any Fool as a joker, a wild-card that throws all the other cards out of focus! Beware the fool, he stars at you in your mirror!

Have a Foolish Day!

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