The Fool in the Tarot is one of the 22 Major Arcana cards. Today the standard is to number The Fool zero and place it at the front of the sequence but that wasn’t always the case. For example, many of the classic decks use Roman Numerals which has no symbol for the number zero. It simply went unnumbered. Its position in the deck was once considered more flexible as well. It was common to put The Fool at the front or the back of the set but it has also been placed second from last, perhaps just to emphasize that it can go anywhere. We can even consider that The Fool can easily be placed between any of the cards. This could indicate the function of messenger or go-between.
It is interesting that the root symbol of this card is the element of Air. Considering the fact that the Major Arcana only has three element cards (Water, Fire and Air – No Earth) I think this points to the concept that these three are the principal elements and that combined they form Earth, a derivative element. This concept comes out Hermetic Alchemy, where they also substitute the names of the elements for alchemical Salt, Sulphur and Mercury. That being said, elemental Air is the equivalent to the principle element of alchemical Mercury. Mercury of course was the messenger of the gods in Roman mythology.
The Fool seems to not only travel the Major Arcana but apparently can also be found in a standard deck of playing cards, in the guise of The Joker. Considering that standard playing cards are built along the same basic lines as the Minor Arcana of the Tarot, could we not also make the leap to say that The Fool can travel anywhere in the deck it pleases? In its variant as The Joker, it gives more the impression of the Trickster. Examples of this can be seen in the mythological characters of Loki, Prometheus and Lucifer. This also gives us an association with “Mercurial” figures.
We can also consider the concept of The Fool’s Journey. This interprets the sequence of the Major Arcana cards to be the journey The Fool goes through. More than half of the Major Arcana cards represent signs of the Zodiac. If we think of a journey through the entire zodiac, our final destination is right back where we started. The difference is that we have changed in the process and are not the same as when we started. This leads us to the connection with the quintessential Hero’s Quest as discussed by mythologist Joseph Campbell. You start the journey as the Fool (naive, curious, ambitious and foolhardy) and transform into the Hero through the various experiences and trials.
Various architects of Tarot decks have been compelled to change the sequence of the 22 cards in the Major Arcana. I have to wonder if they were trying to alter the path taken by The Fool. Changing the sequence can even change the final destination. This is very interesting to me as most of the decks and today’s standard sequence have been designed by practitioners of Right Hand Path spirituality. Perhaps there is a more appropriate sequence for those on a Left Hand Path. What are some of the cards that you think could represent the climax of the Left Hand Path? Would this climax be at the end of the deck? If not, which card would be at the end? I would love to discuss these things with you! Please leave a comment with your thoughts on these questions or anything else related to the ideas explored in this article or the accompanying video.
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