April Fools Day, a light-hearted day filled with pranks and jokes, heralds the beginning, for me, of Spring Feveróthat feeling of wanting to ditch work and mundane obligation in favor of adventure, preferably outdoors. After hunkering down during a long, dark, cold winter, I am ready, even if there is still a chill in the air, to wander. And this, naturally, makes me think of The Fool card.
The Fool card is complex, and made no less so by the evolution of its imagery and meanings over the centuries. What began as a comical figure, base fool, often with his pants down (see the Universal Wirth Fool) has changed into something more admirable. Indeed, early meanings (in the 18th century) focused on madness, on being crazy. This is about being crazy or mad or insane. It is a state or nature. A person either is or isnít mad; they donít have a choice in the matter. In the 19th century, we see a shift in the meaning to Folly. This is more about choice; a person commits folly when they make foolish decisions. This is about consciously making choices where one isnít necessarily crazy but is acting so in the eyes of oneís contemporaries. These days tarotists often talk about The Fool as noble, as a sort of hero. In fact, many see the Major Arcana as a type of Heroís Journey, with The Fool as the hero. Also, The Fool card is said to represent a crossroads, a point in oneís life when all futures are possible, when one should listen to their intuition and move forward with faith, and the consequences be damned. It is interesting how The Fool has changed from a pitiful and inescapable state to an admirable and brave way of behaving.
The above observations are very general and barely touch the surface of the history of this cardís meanings. Even so, it is interesting that although the meanings are very different, the images retain many of the same elements. Although later Fools usually have their pants up and have lost the crazy, wild-eyed look (although not alwaysósee The Fool from The Sorcererís Tarot), they usually retain a person going somewhere, usually carrying something (like a sack on a pole), and accompanied by an animal (usually white and usually a dog). Comparing different Fools can open up many different ways of looking at the card.
Looking at the cards pictured here and The Fools from any of your own decks, note where they are going and by what mode. Are they walking without noticing where they are going, are they taking a physical journey or a mental journey (as in the Fey Tarot and the Sorcererís Fools)? Are they walking or riding (as in the Llewellyn Tarotís Fool)? What animal is with them and what is it doing? What are they carryingóor dropping, as in the case of the Witchy Tarotís Fool? What if there is no animal with them? How do all these things affect the meaning of that particular Fool card?
Besides the variation in imagery and meaning, there is variation in how we, as individuals, feel about the imagery and meanings. How do you react to various Fool cards? I find myself being repelled by the crazy, pants-less Fools. I love the idea of The Fool following his heart and just knowing that whatever he does is right and everything will be okay. I imagine thatís because I want to believe that is true. But is it always true? Arenít there times when we say we are ďfollowing our heartsĒ just because we want something or donít want to think things through or consider the consequences of our actions?
Back to April Foolís Day and spring feverÖwhen I opt to ditch my obligations and wander around outside enjoying the weather, am I making a foolish choice that will have consequences that Iíll later regret, or am I embarking on a journey that will refresh and nurture my soul? If I do a reading on this question, Iíll make sure I pick my deck carefully. You can be sure itíll be one with an optimistic Fool card. Is that totally cheating?
Whatís In Your Bag?
What if you are embarking on a journey or adventure of your own? As we noted, most Fools carry something, a bag or pack of some sort. People speculate a lot about what is in that pack. This spread is about what is in your bag as you begin walking down your path, whatever it may be. Keep in mind, this is not necessarily about actual stuff you are bringing (although it can be). It is more about attitudes, beliefs, and energy with which you are approaching the journey.
- This will be very useful.
This card shows something that will serve you well; youíll be glad you have it.
- This will be come in handy.
This card is something that you may not use often, but there will come a time when youíll be very happy you have it.
- This you wonít need.
This is something you think youíll need but probably wonít use. Youíll probably carry it along more as comfort or security, and thatís okay. It wonít hurt.
- This will weigh you down.
This card is something that is like emotional baggage. It will get in your way and cause problems. Definitely unpack this and leave it behind.
- You forgot this!