Thursday, 17 May 2012

is the fool foolish?

In the first seven cards of the Major Arcana, from The Fool to The Chariot, it's easy to see representations of family life, of the first and most influential archetypes and of who we are at our core. The influences that our past experiences and learned behaviours have brought to our lives can be addressed by cards like The High Priestess and The Emperor, and there's clearly a structure underlying these cards and how they tie together which speaks of deeper self and intrinsic personality traits which have been forged since the beginning of our lives. The subconscious is not a bunch of thoughts and feelings that we can't gain access to or ever become aware of. The subconscious is available to us because it is something about ourselves which has been developed, but it has become second nature, so it does its work largely without acknowledgement from us. Dragging the subconscious out into the light is the process of acknowledging and recognising where our thoughts, feelings and instincts came from. Why do we feel the way we do about a certain situation? Why has a particular thing always bothered us whilst other people seem to get alone fine with it? The Fool begins this journey into the realm of the subconscious as a naive, childlike figure, but also as someone who has no preconceived notions and so feels able to accept all manner of possibilities. The card works with the power of potential and acceptance of what might be pulled out into the light. Is the fool foolish? Yes, but he's also free. He's wandering into the unknown with his senses switched on and his mind open, which puts him in the best position to guide us on the journey into the Major Arcana, which speaks of our most deep-seated emotions and base, primal urges. I see the Major Arcana as an open invitation to look into 'the shadow' which Jung used to describe the part of our unconscious where repressed short-comings, weaknesses and self-loathing are stored away. Working with the shadow requires a certain degree of fearlessness. There has to be a moment where you jump in. A 'what the hell' moment. You're aware that it won't be easy, that it will be deeply challenging and that it's going to hurt, but you're also accepting of the long-term benefits that will arise out of such cleansing work. 

The Fool also tends to be a celebratory image of the power of letting go and jumping in despite having been hurt in the past. Often he will show up in a reading as a message of daring. Daring to be vulnerable in love, daring to have our feelings exposed and daring to let go of the buttoned down, careful version of ourselves in order to take advantage of the joy that the universe has in store. The Fool is a risk taker, hence why he's often seen strolling nonchalantly towards the end of a cliff. It's easy to feel that risk is negligible when you're a child and you don't know any better, but when you have a myriad of blue prints inside of you from the benefit of cruel experience and you know how much it hurts to be hurt, you play it safe. The Fool is encouraging you to loosen your grasp on the situation. Open up your fists into empty palms so that there's more chance of catching what comes your way. Be open to what you will learn about yourself and, by extension, others. Allow yourself to follow your instincts for a while, not the rules.

I've often described the knapsack over The Fool's shoulder as a representation of his limited experience, and I think this will always hold true for me. But he doesn't let that experience weigh him down. It's a part of him. Since his journey will take him into the realms of his deeper, higher and inner self, it makes sense that he should be accepting of whatever comes to the light. The knapsack is his willingess to accept what will be discovered. It represents his openness to learning about himself. The companion he has with him (an angel or a dog, depending on your deck) could also be viewed as a part of himself. Maybe it's the shadow, which he will come to know intimately as he moves through the journey (his mission, should he choose to accept it - and he does).

What are the warning elements of this card? Well, wilful blindness could be a factor when The Fool appears in a warning position. The unwillingness to accept what is on offer in terms of inner discovery will thwart the querent in their journey and stunt spiritual fulfilment. It's important to use the message of The Fool as a warning against denial. There is a lot of work to be done, the journey will be long and, at times, arduous, but it will be entirely worth it.

The relationship between The Fool and shadow work is a strong one and it's one that I'm planning to go into this month as I begin my shadow work for the year. Look out for posts which address how Tarot can be used to address and grapple with the shadow aspect.