When we first pick up a tarot deck, the metaphors are often enigmatic, leaving us feeling as though learning their mysteries is an insurmountable task. The subjects’ distanced faces and their old-world symbols at first give the tarot an aloof vibe. However, their mysteries becomes easier to understand when the cards are seen as different rites of passage in the seeker’s journey.
During different times of the seeker’s life, he or she can be represented by many different cards. A range of personal attributes can be picked up by the cards depending on one’s challenges, frame of mind or aspirations.
Likewise, each card can mean something different depending on when it is pulled and what calls out to the reader at the time. At one time, the colour red may show the reader that the seeker is full of energy; at another time, it may show that more energy is required. Thus, it is best to trust your own intuition when reading, and to be aware of your own personal symbology. This will lead to multilayered reading and deeper insight. Memorising a card’s meaning is important, but so is knowing when the quiet voice of intuition is speaking, nudging you to pick up on something else.
Lastly, interpretation of a card’s meaning can change depending on the deck used. Many decks are based on certain templates, such as the Rider-Waite Smith deck or the Marseilles deck, and so these can be interpreted in similar ways. However, even their readings may differ slightly based on the reader. Therefore, today I am starting with the Rider-Waite Smith deck. We’ll be looking at what can be considered the first and last card of the Major Arcana: The Fool.
The light: spontaneity, fearlessness, carpe diem.
The shadows: negligence, vanity, carelessness.
The major arcana represent a cyclical journey, beginning with the innocent, naive Fool as he traverses through the joys and setbacks of life. Initially, we see that the Fool is set against a sunlit background, and he wears a tunic decorated in flowers, representing the flourish that gives way to the fruit of life. He stands at the edge of a precipice as his little dog rears at his feet. Some say that the dog is warning the Fool, others state that he is encouraging him to work through the frightening first step. The mountains behind him can symbolise the trek that he made in order to make this calculated first step, reminding us that the conclusion of one adventure is the beginning of another.
Meanwhile, all he has he carries – his bag and a white rose to represent his purity of intent. It is a good reminder to those of us starting on a journey that we often need less than we think we do in order to make that first step. Further to this, we can interpret that materialism has not yet affected the individual in question, and that the goal could be one of youthful ambition. This card can also represent the gut feeling one has when pursuing a project even though it seems ludicrous to others. In this type of scenario, the individual may be channeling a mystical cleverness devoid of reason. Such a pursuit has also been called a ‘holy madness,’ driving saints on in their mission when others believed it to be unrealistic.
As an individual, The Fool represents the unaffected, untainted soul. He may not be taking a fully practical approach, as he is oblivious to the cares of the world, but he is a dreamer. Because of this, it can be interpreted that this journey starts in utter innocence. He also has a spirit of initiation and spontaneity, displaying the joys of starting a new project. One can enter the journey free from prejudice and with a strong sense of spirit and purpose.