A prisoner devoid of books, had he only a Tarot of which he knew how to make use, could in a few years acquire a universal science, and converse with an unequalled doctrine and inexhaustible eloquence.
– Eliphas Levi
The tarot deck is an expanded version of the regular playing cards
The classic tarot deck contains 78 cards (also called arcana) divided in 22 majors + 56 minors (four suits of 14 arcana). Each suit is then subdivided in four honors (Page, Queen, King, Knight) and 10 numbered arcana (also called pips). Unlike the regular playing cards, we see that (1) the tarot deck includes 22 major arcana and (2) each suit has four honors (added Knight) instead of three. Both decks have in common the same 52-card structure.
The Fool is just like the playing cards Joker
Similar to the familiar Joker card, the Fool can replace or combine with any other arcana. The Fool is sometimes treated as the first or sometimes as the last of the 22 major arcana. We see the Fool more as the first step of the his journey, but able to occupy any position from 1 to 22 during the journey. Below are four Fool arcana examples selected from four of the 1000+ tarot decks.
Tarot de Marseille – Created in 1760 by Nicolas Conver – Renovated in 1997 by Alexandro Jodorowsky (Author), Philippe Camoin (Author)
In the Tarot of Marseille, the Fool is named by “Le Mat”. For now, let’s just observe the Fool’s three horizontal lines (the sky blue stick holding his bag, the yellow belt and his costume yellow bottom edge).
Those lines divide the Fool’s body in four parts: head, heart, guts and legs. Those body parts correspond to the four vital human spheres: intellectual, emotional, creative and material. These four life areas leading to the spiritual sphere will frequently be referred to in different context.
Rider-Waite Tarot – Created in 1909 by Arthur Edward Waite (Author), Pamela Colman Smith (Illustrator), Rider (Publisher) – Revised in 1971
Unlike the previous arcana where the Fool was walking on solid ground, we now see the Fool looking to the sky walking carelessly towards a cliff. The dog in the previous arcana pushes the Fool to move forward as this dog warns the Fool of an imminent danger.
Both Fools carry a stick with a small bag but this one holds it with his right hand while the other on the left. Those symbols meanings will be explored in details in the next post.
Mythic Tarot – Created in 1996 and revised in 2011 by Juliet Sharman-Burke (Author), Liz Greene (Author), Giovanni Caselli (Illustrator)
The Fool here is walking over the cliff in a leap of faith by moving from the known to the unknown. The Mythic Tarot associates each arcana with a figure of the Greek mythology. In this case, the Fool is associated to Dionysos the eternally traveling semi-god. Let’s observe that his hair is intertwined with a pair of horn and a crown of leaves. The horns relate to Semele his human mother and the crown to Zeus his divine father. More details about myth, symbols and meanings to come in the next post.
Symbolon Tarot – Created in 1993 by Peter Orban (Creator), Ingrid Zinnel (Creator), Thea Weller (Creator)
Here we have a more traditional Jester walking happily on a safe path.
The Symbolon Tarot associates each arcana with astrological planets and zodiacal signs. In this case, the Fool is associated with Aquarius and Uranus its ruler, which symbolize a journey towards freedom and humanism.
The Fool is now walking on the path to the Age of Aquarius.
In the first card post, we will analyze each of those four Fool arcana in detail followed by a set of practical exercises. You will have the opportunity to increase your awareness by (1) expressing your emotions via your inner child coloring, (2) awakening your intuition using symbolic observation, (3) stimulating your inspiration with the Internet, (4) involving your active imagination using a Carl Jung creative technique and (5) increasing your level of consciousness with personal memories and reflections.