(The above image is a copy of The Fool card in a standard Rider-Waite Tarot deck. The 10 symbols pointed out above are explained below.)
The Fool is normally the first card in the major arcana group, though it can sometimes be the last card. The Fool is special to the Tarot deck because the major arcana is sometimes referred to as The Fool’s journey. By starting at the beginning, The Fool travels up the Tarot sequence, experiencing every major event in life before ending the journey with The World card.
For more information about The Fool card, check out A. E. Waite’s description here.
Point 1 – ZERO
The number of The Fool offers some initial insights into the meaning behind it. Zero is the first number in the number sequence and yet it was the last number to be added. A complete circle, the symbol for zero has no beginning or end; it is timeless. The number zero is thus a paradox much like The Fool. The Fool card can be at the beginning of the deck or at the end. The Fool is an idiot and naïve, yet he speaks truth. The number zero is a reminder of the unknowability and absurdity that The Fool represents.
Point 2 – YELLOW SKY
The yellow sky could represent the dawning day. As The Fool begins his journey through the Major Arcana, the sun begins his journey through the sky. The color yellow also adds an element of intensity that a normal blue sky wouldn’t; The intensity of the sky, matched with the dog barking and The Fool in mid-step, coveys that this is a card of action, of taking a leap, of beginnings.
Point 3 – WHITE SUN
The white sun could illustrate a blank canvass. It is colorless, a clean slate. The Fool, at the start of his journey, has yet to fill his life with memories and experiences, or color. This naïve sun lights the path for The Fool and reveals to him the road to enlightenment.
Point 4 – RED FEATHER
The red feather could illustrate The Fool’s vitality and passion. Its intensity complements the yellow sky and dynamic actions in the card. While The Fool is naïve and innocent, he is not without drive. The Fool persists throughout the journey, motivated and resolved.
Point 5 – WHITE ROSE
The white rose could illustrate The Fool’s innocence and purity. It reiterates the blankness of the Sun, feeding into the idea of beginnings. Like the rose from the ground, The Fool is also detached, free to wander the earth in search of enlightenment.
Point 6 – THE POUCH
The pouch that The Fool carries could symbolize his individual and airy nature. Though The Fool is just beginning his journey, he is not free from burden. He must carry his own load and bare his own weight. The animal on the pouch is some kind of winged creature. Like The Fool, a winged beast is free to roam the earth. Some have interpreted the animal as a phoenix, a creature that forever follows a path of beginnings and endings, like The Fool in a Tarot deck. The pouch might also point towards The Fool linguistically because Fool is derived from the Latin “follis” meaning a "bag of wind."
Point 7 – STAFF
The staff, or wand, that The Fool uses to carry the pouch could illustrate The Fool’s need for support in the journey. The path to enlightenment is difficult. A walking stick is not a sign of weakness any more than friends or loved ones are. They are a necessary part of life that reflects the resolve and virtue of The Fool. Wands have a particular connotation to Tarot, often representing Will. There is an interesting Tarot motto of the “wands”: “in the beginning was the deed. A man of action.” The staff thus feeds into the idea of action, beginnings etc.
Point 8 – WHITE DOG
The white dog at The Fool’s heels reiterates the purity of the sun and rose as well as the support of the staff. The dog is The Fool’s companion. It warns of danger and provides friendship along the difficult journey. The dog’s ecstatic position also helps illustrate the dynamic motion of the card
Point 9 – THE MOUNTAINS
The mountains in the background could represent the long perilous path to enlightenment ahead. They symbolize what is to come, the difficulties in the mind but far ahead. They are a reminder that The Fool card is the beginning to a road, a road with a destination.
Point 10 – POSE
The Fool’s pose encapsulates the symbolism of the entire card. He stands, arms open wide, in front of a cliff, ready to embrace the unknown. The Fool’s eagerness and resolve encourages all readers to begin things with gusto; seize the day!
In Tarot readings, if The Fool card is upright, then it is a sign of new beginnings and fresh starts. An upright Fool provides encouragement to people who are unsure about a big upcoming decision. The Fool says to take the plunge. Embrace the unknown and experience life to the fullest. Like the dog protecting The Fool, The Fool card protects the reader in their uncertainty.
If The Fool is reverse, then it is a sign of hesitation and or a lack of confidence. Maybe there is something you are wanting to do but a fear of failure is preventing you from proceeding. You might be putting too many barriers between you and your goal because you are afraid of the unknown. Or maybe you are acting recklessly because you are focused too much on the destination and not enough on the journey. A reverse Fool can point to a need to be more carefree. It can warn you to live in the moment and encourage you to embrace the unknown.
The Fool has a variety of attributes in Tarot games. The Fool can either act as the highest or the lowest trump card in a game. In most games, The Fool is known as “the excuse” card because if you play it then it excuses you from following suit or trump. Additionally, if you play The Fool in a trick taking game, you may then add it to your trick pile after the trick is won and give the winner of the trick your lowest card for their trick pile.
For more Tarot Card Meanings, check out our blog here.
About the author: John Taylor is a content writer and freelancer through the company Upwork.com. You may view his freelancing profile here. He has a B. A. in English, with a specialty in technical writing, from Texas A&M University and a M. A. in English from the University of Glasgow. You may view his previous articles about Tarot here and his LinkedIn profile here.