Understanding, Knowing, even Owning the Tarot's Wisdom comes through all our senses and deepens through time experience. It's less intellectual nimbleness and more immersive experience of an otherworldly realm. As my own Tarot experience ripens, I pulled one card from the Majors to help me along in the journey. And as it so often happens, who's surprised at what card shows? I take Fool's hand and we head toward what's to come.
Many believe what is going to happen will happen anyway. There are some who say we are all victims of ourselves (and yes, what was once a clever quip eventually came home to roost, believe me). You might gather I allow for both determinism and free will. I'd say one of the major arts of life is wending your way among both, much like Fool. To what degree are any of us able to effectively oversee ourselves? How broad, wide and dispassionate are our perceptions? How clearly can we tune into our wholistic story?
It's said history belongs to the victors; they're the ones who get to tell the story. If we understand anything about the Tarot, we get that it accommodates multiple congruent stories and universes. By tradition, Fool starts and/or ends the Major Arcana group, essentially bookending his or her (or your!) own story. That makes sense, doesn't it? We're there when we come to life and when we depart. Fool is assigned the number “0,” a symbol worth a thousand words if there ever was one. “0” contains All, all we ever know, ever do, ever believe, ever experience.
MJ Cullaine's Guardian of the Night deck brings us the Fool's scene as a tableau set in the natural world. A wolf intently approaches a rabbit on a frozen pond. The ice is beginning to give under wolf's weight, rabbit is well-supported for the moment. Wolf's attention is on rabbit, not really on personal safety. Rabbit, as they so often appear to me, is at once impassively quiet yet intensely present to the moment. So which represents Fool here? Wolf ventures into potential danger, awareness otherwise directed. Rabbit has let danger come close in an exposed environment, no refuge in sight. Yes, rabbits are extremely adept at bounding away in a flash, but in the moment we're shown, that flash is not nigh. There is no hint of clear victor, no definitive outcome clearly sussed to be set in the stone of history's story. And isn't that the point? “0” never ends, it has no real shape, it encompasses All. More about personal safety later.
But isn't “0” empty? You may well ask. Here's how some of our smarty-pants ancient ancestors thought about it (we know this from the Old Ways of thinking and creation explanations). Preceding existence there is a state of all potential, albeit totally undifferentiated. Think of a miasma without any substance that contains all the raw materials and plans for Everything that could possibly Be. Anything could happen, no holds barred, and by golly, something does happen. Something Becomes. Let's leave the conversation about whose, if indeed there is even a whose, intention drives Becoming for another time. I think I'd need to go into training for that one and I'll need some lead time. Anyway, a world, a universe, a multiverse, a whatever precipitates out from this emptiness, this apparently empty state of all potential. So, yes, if you're talking beans to be counted, an absense of beans is zero and “0” serves. But if you're talking Tarot, “0” is the Fool stepping out into that vast undifferentiated place of all possibility. It only seems empty to our human senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching – more later on this). Smith Waite Rider's Fool is classically at the precipice in mid-stride. Ciro Marchetti's (Tarot Grand Luxe) Fool steps out into an empty flat expanse. Coincidently Marchetti's Fool looks down from the heavens upon him/herself, adding an interdimensionality I just love.
This same Tarot Grand Luxe Fool wears an elaborate headdress. That got me looking at what was happening regarding Fool's heads in the other decks, wondering about symbolism pointing to extra sensory perceptions. Sure enough, SWR's Fool sports a jaunty red plume and there are Little Red Riding Hood-worthy ears in Guardian of the Night's Fool (especially rabbit's ears, of course). ESP, all the “-clairs” (clairvoyant, clairaudient, claircognizent, etc) help us humble humans a bit more deeply sense the true nature of “0.”
And this image of gazing down upon oneself, overseeing how and who we are from a different perspective. Illuminating, isn't it, like catching a glimpse of yourself reflected in a window across the way. At once embodied and en-spirited, here and there. The Rider deck's Fool has an air of simultaneous self and not-self. Even the great Tai Ji symbol (yin/yang) presents unity and duality. We assume we know what's going to happen and sometimes we do get lucky, riding on the Wheel of Fortune. How often are we surprised at the turn of the wheel (and so events)? Many ask: is there not an ever-shifting entire new universe born each moment as the old one passes away, all within the span of a breath, a heartbeat? Think about what stories humans tell about evolution, how changes come about through generations of DNA and of humans, even the simple party game Telephone. How those stories ride changing tides of human beings! Some stories update frequently, some hold steady through time.
Before I forget, a few words about personal safety, one of our deepest primal instincts. Something (we may or may not understand what) draws The Fool ever onward, even beyond the cognizant thought of keeping life and limb intact. Fool at the precipice, Wolf on thin ice. Whenever I've been at the edge of a vast space, there's been an unexpected draw, a quiet but steady idea of how nice it would be to join the vast power within the apparent emptiness. Niagara Falls, Kilauea caldera, an out-cropping near Whiteface Mountain. Clearly I declined the invitation, but they were compelling moments wherein a conscious choice was needed. Is it the attunement to a beckoning call from power spots that is The Fool? Ulysses never stood a chance with the Sirens.
Change and same, they interact more intimately than yin and yang. The persistence of morphologies and memories. The rhythms of Gaia's spin. Is the Grand Canyon but a toddler or an ancient crone? By what measure? The Fool glides eternally through change as the same, yes? So each succeeding moment, thought, action is creation in action (another concept well-known to the Ancestors, no new news here), doesn't that mean we need to bring our own creativity in kind? You are your own performance artist after all.
And this is how the Fool A-Mused me for a while.
Linda S Davis
Sometimes I have fun pushing thoughts and words around.