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The Fool

Posted on August 2, 2016 at 12:20 AM

I bought myself a necklace for my birthday. I saw a picture of it at the shop and decided that if it was still there on my birthday, I would buy it.


It’s a handcrafted piece done by a local artist who has put tarot cards on a pendant. Since I first learned the tarot, the Fool has been one of my favorite cards. But I got special insight into WHY this weekend.


I wore the necklace on a trip. As our whole family was sitting at the airport, one of my daughter’s asked me about the picture. I told her about the Fool… how most often the fool is taken for an idiot, someone who doesn’t know much or whose ideas are so strange that people think they make no sense. And sometimes, that is true. But the Fool can also be the shadow side of Wisdom. Ancient texts talk about the wisdom of fools… and partly this paradox is why I love the fool card so much.


But try explaining this to a young child. So I tried to go even more concrete…. Because young children relate to the concrete world first – then get to abstractions from there. So we looked at the number 0 at the top. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the cards that are Roman numerals, it doesn’t fit with the court cards that have suits. It’s all by itself. It’s an exception. The digit ‘0’ is an odd thing. It means nothing. But it occupies a VERY important space. In fact, it holds space. It’s a place holder that is absolutely necessary in our numeric system in order for us to represent much larger numbers.


And therein lies the wisdom of the fool. A fool holds space. Quite often in the king’s court, the fool was actually very influential. Although the wise men and counselors had the king’s ear, most kings became very familiar with how even the most wise could be politically influenced by power or money… or how they could become mere ‘yes’ men. A great fool for a king was one who could speak the truth to the king in nonsensical ways – ways that would not make the king look bad but that would also point out another perspective or truth that the king might not have seen otherwise. Thus, the best court fools were also some of the most intelligent people in the room. A placeholder… a holder of space.


Although my daughter may not have gotten all of those abstract ideas from asking her question and listening to the story I told, I know that I will never look at the 0 the same way again. And I fell just a little more deeply in love with the Fool.

 Postscript:  Just to make the learning fun, we got out the tarot deck and looked through each card to see if we could find the 'match'.  My preschooler greatly enjoyed this game with all of the fun pictures.  She eagerly took in each picture to see if it matched mommy's necklace.  When it came down to it though, she made a VERY important discovery.  "Mommy, it doesn't match.  This sun is orange, and this sun is yellow."  Ah, the wisdom!

Categories: Tarot, Archetypes, Symbolic Guidance