The Fool Tarot Card Meaning

The Fool tarot card from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.

I feel like The Fool in the most everyday sense as I sit to write this. Although when I’m doing tarot readings, and The Fool card shows up, I seem to have access to an overflowing storehouse of what to say regarding The Fool’s message, right now I feel at a loss for words. But here we go with the meanings of The Fool card in tarot.

Note: Keywords for tarot cards are everywhere! But I’ve posted a few of mine below.

The beginning. The unknown or unfamiliar. For me, these are the roots of the meaning of The Fool tarot card. Why? Because only a fool would take risks in order to discover something new and possibly unexpected.

Some say The Fool represents a choice of some kind. A leap of faith. This is evident in the artwork of the Rider decks (RWS or Rider-Waite-Smith) where The Fool is depicted as just about to step off the edge of a cliff. See the image at the top of this page.

This brings to mind the idea of spiritual essence stepping into a new incarnation of being human. He brings his karma in his satchel and his loyal dog. Some say the dog is warning him of the dangers of physical life and actually prevents The Fool from stepping into the abyss.

In my readings, The Fool tarot card is usually looked upon as a “positive” influence unless it’s followed by challenging cards such as 5 of Swords or The Devil, for instance. Cards such as these can transform the joyous innocence portrayed by The Fool into a naive and blind faith. 

Generally though, The Fool is suggesting something new and unfamiliar entering the questioner’s life; a possibility to start fresh.

Although a sense of risk and adventure might be involved, there's certainly a sense of enthusiasm in the air.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. - Heraclitus

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The Fool tarot card from The Gilded Tarot Royale by Ciro Marchetti

The Fool card from The Gilded Tarot Royale by Ciro Marchetti

The Holy Fool

The Fool in tarot is numbered zero. This is deeeeep!!! Similar to infinity, zero cannot truly be grasped in a concrete sense. 

Yes, you can see zero cookies left in your cookie jar - but that’s in a relative sense.  That's zero as compared to the dozen that were there before they were all eaten.

What does zero mean absolutely? In other words, standing alone without something to compare it to. Just take a moment and try to imagine it. Imagine nothing. Absolutely nothing. You can’t! Not anymore than you can imagine infinity. They're both beyond the limits of rational thought. 

Zero is a circle. Like the ouroboros, the snake of eternal and perpetual life biting its tail, a circle has no beginning or end.

Zero is also similar to an egg; in this case, the “cosmic egg.”

This tells us something important! The Fool exists beyond time and space. Because of this, The Fool is also beyond any gender polarity. But I’ll use the pronoun “he” for the rest of this article to make for easier and cleaner writing.

The Fool is the essence of the Unmanifest within which infinite potential is dormant yet alive.

These ideas are connected to the Rider Waite Smith template of tarot. However, in Tarot de Marseilles, The Fool has no Zero on it at all. Author Paul Marteau says this is because zero is like the undifferentiated infinite; this cannot be The Fool, because The Fool is an active process - going through all the necessary experiences in order to grow.

You are the same way. Your body has completely changed doesn’t have the same material in it as it did even 7 years ago! Yet there is an essence of “you” that is always present. Be careful here - by “you” I don’t mean the story of you. The story of you is your name, rank and serial number. Who you really are is much greater than any of the roles you identify with. 

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The Fool tarot card from Tarot de Marseilles CBD version

The Fool card from the CBD Tarot de Marseilles by Yoav Ben-Dov. Notice there's no numbered Zero  on it?

The Fool Tarot Card Meaning Applied 

In order to actualize this infinite potential, The Fool must brave the dangers of time and space and travel through all the major arcana of the tarot.

Maureen Clark, in her fascinating book The Fool’s Journey, connects the tarot to the Qabalistic tree of life. She sums it up by saying The Fool is a universal pilgrim travelling everywhere on the tree of life.

By travelling through these necessary experiences of light, shadow and apparent limitation, The Fool undergoes a vast amount of heat and pressure.

Putting on the clothing of a carbon based human being, this heat and pressure can bring into actuality what is known in Tibetan Buddhism as the diamond mind. The diamond can cut through any substance, but itself cannot be cut by anything.

I really love the explanation given by Hajo Banzhaf in his brilliant book, "Tarot And The Journey Of The Hero." He says that the attitude of The Fool is related to the "beginner's mind" in Zen. This is an attitude of playful curiosity where you aren’t afraid to try new paths or different approaches.

The Fool stands for the uncomplicated side of us that doesn’t care if something is perfect. They will joyously try things and not be fearful of making mistakes - because the shame of embarassment is not yet formed. 

Banzhaf points out that the more adult we become, the more we hold tightly to our pre-formed opinions and beliefs. Absolutely agree here!

Our mind will actually seek confirmation in the external world - and when someone or something doesn’t conform to our set notion, we are disturbed.

This is extremely common on the internet where people get caught in their own "echo chambers" perpetuated by algorithms.

As adults, we are often trapped in a conceptual world of do’s, don’ts and other rules or self-imposed limitations.

The Fool is also often associated with the planet Uranus. This is the wild card of planets. Anything can happen. Rebellion and anarchy. The brand new.

Being aware of this can add another layer of meaning to readings. Although I’m familiar with them, and it can be a useful method for some readers, I personally don’t work with astrological associations at this time. But just like the meanings that go along with The Fool card, that choice could change in the future!

Some More Quotes About The Fool:

  • “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” -Shakespeare
  • “Humankind is made of two kinds of people: wise people who know they’re fools, and fools who think they’re wise.” -Socrates
  • “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” -1 Corinthians

How To Use The Fool Tarot Card In Visualization

Use The Fool and his qualities of joyous innocence when you’re learning something new or you feel bogged down by your old ways of thinking.

There are no rules to this visualization practice, but this is basically how I do it:

  1. Look at the card and reflect upon the qualities of fresh and new, originality and beginners mind.
  2. Then bring to mind the life circumstances or issue you would like to approach with these qualities.
  3. See or feel yourself acting with these new qualities. Feel them as being a part of you - because they are! The Fool is universal.
  4. You don’t have to see actual images in your mind’s eye if that doesn’t work for you. You can simply feel it within your imagination. Feel joy, freedom and lightness.

Questions For Personal Growth When The Fool Shows Up

  • Are you ready to take on an adventure if one presents itself?
  • How set in your ways are you?
  • Are you stuck inside a comfort zone?
  • Nothing wrong with having opinions and beliefs - but have you stopped learning anything new because of having your very being identified with them? Are you only seeing what you want to see?
  • Are there any ways you aren’t paying attention to something in your life right now? Ways in which you’re not looking before you leap?
  • Are you remembering how to find lightness and joy in life? The most direct method is to tap into genuine gratitude for the amazing and awe inspiring experience of being human.

Basic Keywords for The Fool Tarot Card Meanings

  • joyous innocence 
  • new and unfamiliar, adventure
  • beginner’s mind
  • originality
  • lightness of being
  • leap of faith

Congratulations on getting this far! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. You also might be interested in checking out my song "Fool's Journey."

Go to the next card in The Fool's Journey: The Magician

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