The archetype of the Fool is a powerful embodiment of potential, freedom and unbridled optimism.
Whenever the archetype of the Fool appears, there is a promise of new beginnings, of adventure, and a feeling of stepping into the unknown.
There is a thrill to the Fool, there is a freshness, like the smell of the earth after it rains. There is a sense of possibility, and of being unfettered, free and limitless.
The Fool is a reminder of our inherent potential and that fact that we are always free to walk away from situations that don’t serve us and into ones that do. Even when we feel stuck, we never truly are – it’s a matter of perspective. The Fool encourages us not to take ourselves too seriously, and not to get stuck in monotony and humdrum. Perhaps most importantly, the Fool reminds us that life is magical, spectacular, a journey.
What does the Fool mean in Tarot?
The Fool is the very first card in the Tarot’s Major Arcana and is labelled with the number 0. The number 0 is a representation of the primordial void, the state of openness and potential where anything can happen.
Depictions of the Fool vary slightly between different tarot decks, but most of them are based on the traditional Rider-Waite depiction.
In the Rider-Waite tarot, and most other tarot decks, the Fool card depicts a golden-haired young man accompanied by a small white dog. In one hand he is holding a white rose, in the other a stick with a small bag of earthly possessions tied to its end. The Fool character is flamboyantly dressed – his getup places him somewhere between court jester and aristocrat.
From his body language it is clear that the Fool is confident, optimistic and care-free. His arms are both spread out, as if to embrace the world and welcome whatever adventure awaits him. His chest is thrust forward, suggesting self-confidence while also making it appear as though he has just taken a deep breath in, inhaling the fresh and fragrant air of the mountain region in which he’s walking.
If we zoom out a little further, we see both the rugged blue outlines of mountain ridges in the background – and a deep drop off the edge of the cliff in the foreground, only a few steps ahead of the fast approaching Fool. With his head tilted slightly back and his gaze turned heavenward, there’s no way he is going to see how close he is to taking a tumble.
The white color of the rose and of the small companion dog in the Fool Tarot card suggests the purity of unblemished innocence of youth. White is also the color of spirit, of freedom, and of surrender.
Another prominent color in the Fool card is yellow. The sunlight filling most of the card, the youth’s hair and the flowers on his robe are all yellow, or golden. Gold or yellow represents optimism, fun, playfulness, positive energy, happiness and abundance.
The mountains and rugged cliff edge are the only ominous shadows lapping at the edges of the Fool card. The sharpness of the mountain ridge, far away in the background, and the impending cliff edge in the foreground suggest that there are consequences, after all. Perhaps not right now, but soon.
The Fool himself is a potent symbol of youth, inexperience, new beginnings, curiosity, the hunger for adventure and zest for life. The entire demeanour of the Fool suggests that he is living entirely in the moment, neither tied down by the past or fearful of where the next new step might take him.
The small bag the Fool carries with ease suggests that he comes with very little baggage – he is almost a clean slate. He does’t dwell on the past or carry any regrets or resentments with him as he heads out to discover his true potential.
The Fool doesn’t have much life experience yet, and so far he is not established in anything. No obligations bind him yet and he has nothing to defend. The Fool may be a young backpacker, an indecisive college student on a gap year, an eternal bachelor, or even a trust fund kid, if his expensive-looking outfit is anything to go by.
The Fool’s ability to live in the moment is admirable, but his light-hearted attitude does entail some potential pitfalls; unless the Fool looks down soon ate notices how close his feet are to the edge, his adventure may soon be over. At the very least, he’s in for a few bruises.
The Fool tarot card has many layers and faucets of meaning. The primary ones are new beginnings, innocence, freedom, optimism and a leap of faith into the unknown.
What does the reversed Fool mean in Tarot?
In its upright position, the meaning of the Fool is overwhelmingly positive, with little warning signs only creeping in at the edges. Reversed, the Fool card flips to its shadow side and the negative aspects of the Fool become highlighted and more apparent.
The sharp edges of the distant rugged mountains and the cliff’s edge a few feet ahead of the Fool now come into focus, implying that something very important has been overlooked and you are moving over fragile ground towards an uncertain outcome, and that you aren’t prepared for what you are trying to pull off.
Reversed, the Fool’s lighthearted attitude becomes wilful ignorance, dangerous oversight or a lack of realistic perspective. Reversed, the Fool’s confidence turns into flat-out foolhardiness and recklessness.
The reversed Fool can sometimes mean that there is an unwillingness to grow up, an unwillingness to assume personal responsibility or to face facts or consequences.
The Fool, The Magician and the High Priestess
The three first archetypes of the Tarot’s Major Arcana tell a story within a story.
Each of the three first Major Arcana cards represent a step on the path towards spiritual awakening and full self-actualisation.
Everyone’s spiritual journey is different and unique, yet there are certain archetypal experiences and stages that are played in a certain order, like chord progressions in a melody. The first chord of the Tarot consists of the Fool, the Magician and the High Priestess.
The Fool, the Joker of the Major Arcana
The Fool represents the first step on the path.
There is a rush of excitement as the journey begins, and as you begin to feel the metaphysical winds under your wings. The meaning the Fool has in relation to the spiritual journey is having the courage, optimism and sheer confidence required to take the plunge.
Someone with more life experience and burdened by a measure of cynicism may not have what it takes to embark on the journey – it takes a certain measure of blind dumb faith to dare to take a leap into the unknown, or indeed to embark on any new adventure, any new career, any new path.
The Magician commanding the elements
The Magician represents the stage of the process where you are feeling out and beginning to sense the contours of your full potential. There is great joy in the Magician tarot card, but unlike the joy evident in the Fool card, the Magician’s joy is based on knowledge and experience rather than on sheer optimism.
The Magician archetype is depicted standing at his altar, working with four simple tools representing the four elements and the Magician’s burgeoning command over them.
The Magician represents the stage of the journey where things begin coming together. You are no longer an entirely blank page, but are beginning to know your away around the place. A few people on the scene may even know your name. You are still no exactly established or have reached the peak of your powers, but you are growing and expanding. You are honing and refining your skills, and gathering the knowledge you need. There is still plenty of space for fun, experimentation and calculated risk, but you are no longer throwing your darts blindly.
The High Priestess of the Temple of Solomon
The High Priestess means a deepening awareness.
The Priestess is depicted in the Rider-Waite tarot and most other tarot decks as a mysterious, robed figure seated on a throne between two temple columns. The columns are inscribed with the letters B and J, a reference to the columns Boaz and Jachin which flanked the mythical Temple of Solomon in the Bible. A veil covers the entrance to the Temple, symbolically hiding the sacred knowledge from view.
The High Priestess represents the step in the journey where things start becoming deeper, where the true depth of intuition is discovered and where images and information start coming through via the subconscious.
The Fool tarot card meanings
Tarot card meanings shift, change and reflect depending on context. The Fool Tarot card has multiple layers and facets of meaning, and which ones are relevant depends on the context in which the Fool Tarot card shows up within a reading.
Here are the elements of meaning that the Fool always brings to a reading, regardless of context.
In readings, the Fool Tarot card always suggests potential.
The Fool offers a clean slate, a fresh start, barely touched snow. A blank page can be either inspiring and thrilling, because you can put any story on it you like – or it can be daunting and overwhelming. It all depends on your perspective.
The Fool suggests that everything is possible – but nothing is certain.
The Fool indicates spontaneity, impulse, inspiration and fresh ideas.
The energy of the Fool is light and malleable, receptive and impressionable. When there is openness, there is plenty of space for spontaneity. Often, true magic is found in the unplanned the unexpected.
The Fool tarot card often indicates luck.
Even when the outcome is uncertain, it pays off to put our best foot and attitude forward, and hope for the best. After all, why wouldn’t the universe provide for you and bless your efforts?
Self-belief and self-confidence
Of all the 78 Tarot cards, the Fool is perhaps the one most clearly indicative of inner belief and confidence.
The Fool is not too concerned about what others may think of him – he is simply enjoying the adventure of life, here and now. The past and the future don’t bother him, and neither do other people. Although he owns and knows very little, the Fool trusts that he is enough.
The Fool is a fresh death of air in any Tarot reading where he appears. The Fool promises a new beginning, a new job or simply a new and fresh chapter in life.
The Fool is the ultimate symbol of youth, although this is not necessarily to be interpreted literally.
Youth is not only a stage of life, but a state of mind, an energy, a way of looking at the world.
The Fool indicates the inexperience that is a necessary part of every new endeavour.
In the beginning we are inevitably going to lack experience, fitness and deep insight, these things can only be honed and acquired in time. Accepting that inexperience – and the risk of looking foolish, or writing a bad first draft – is part of the deal whenever we embark on anything new is ultimately liberating.
The Fool indicates a certain level of risk and reminds us that without it, there can be no thrilling travels or discoveries in life.
What the Fool tarot card tells you about this chapter of your life
When the Fool appears in a Tarot reading talking about your life and the chapter you are currently finding yourself in, it is often to ask you to take a chance.
Most of us, when we grow up and mature, tend to become less and less spontaneous, playful and willing to take chances of any kind. If don’t watch it we may even become paralysed with fear of anything new – despite the fact that it may be exactly what we need.
The Fool appears as a reminder to believe in the goodness of the universe, and to make the leap despite your angst.
What the Fool Tarot card tells you about love and romance
When the Fool appears in a reading about love and romance, it is often to beseech you to be more spontaneous, more trusting, and sometimes, to remember to just enjoy the moment. Perhaps you don’t always need to know how our relationships are going to evolve.
The reversed Fool
You are afraid of getting hurt, or of not being in control. Nevertheless, you will have to loosen up, let go, and trust.
What the Fool Tarot card tells you about work, business and career
When the Fool appears in the context of work, career and business, it is a sign that you are letting your responsibilities weighing too heavily on you, and that it is time to shake things up in order to rediscover the joy.
The reversed Fool
The reversed Fool in a Tarot reading about work, career and business tells you one of two things: Either now is not the right time for you to make rigid plans, you need to keep it open and loose. You may be just about to walk into a new opportunity.
Alternatively, you may be ill-prepared to meet the challenges that await you on your chosen path.
What the Fool Tarot card tells you about the future
When the Fool appears in a Tarot reading about where your next steps are going to take you, the message you are being given is that you cannot know. Right now, you may not even be in a position to prepare. Perhaps it is too soon for you to begin homing in – now is a much better time for exploring and following where your path takes you, trusting that it will take you to where you need to be.
The reversed Fool
The Fool reversed suggests that you may not have prepared well for your future. Consider what you may have overlooked.