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April Fool's fools

It is the 1st of April today and, instead of trying to deceive you, I chose to honour the figure of The Fool - the first card of the Major Arcana of the tarot - and talk briefly about the Fools in the decks I have in my collection.


The Fool is either number 0 or unnumbered, signifying the start of a person's journey towards enlightenment. S/he is often pictured dressed like a court jester, an entertainer of medieval and renaissance palaces, in colourful costume and a silly hat. We also find him/her as the village fool, an outcast living in the margins of society, naive or mentally unstable and wise at the same time. He is depicted as a male in pre-19th century tarots, but the Rider-Waite-Smith and some of its derivatives present him as a hermaphrodite, or of ambiguous gender.

The Fool is usually carelessly walking towards the edge of a cliff, blissfully unaware of the danger of falling, with a dog running behind him and often biting him as a warning. In most cases he is holding a staff with a dangling satchel that contains his belongings, and a white flower that signifies his innocence.


The divinatory meaning of the card refers to the start of a new cycle which the querent is about to enter inexperienced. They are enthusiastic and impulsive, and any lessons they may learn from their new endeavor will make them grow as a result.

In my Visconti-Sforza (mini edition), the Fool is in destitute condition. He has feathers in his hair, and wears only a jacket, underpants, and his socks. His staff looks more like a wooden bat, a weapon with which to defend himself while he wanders in the wilderness. There are hills and mountains behind him, and we can barely see the edge of a precipice before his feet. He has an expression of complacency on his face, of seeming calmness and peaceful acceptance of his fate.

The next two Fools (from the Barbara Walker tarot and the Mystical tarot) are the typical jesters. Both are dressed in red-and-white costume (a mix of desire and innocence), with yellow accents (signifying the element of air). The landscape in the Barbara Walker card is stark and barren, with a bright blue sky and a mountain range in the background. The Fool is heading to the edge of a cliff, and a black dog is running behind him. The white butterfly is a symbol of the soul and of transformation, and the Fool, with a frozen smile on his face, doesn't see where he is going.


The Mystical tarot Fool is forging ahead, unaware of the banana peel under his shoe, while a dog is trying to drag him from the bell on his belt. Owls are watching from the top of trees in the background and, beneath the cliff, a skeleton is signalling the lethal danger of a potential slip.

Moving on to Aleister Crowley's Thoth deck, the Fool now becomes Dionysus: the god of wine, feasts, fertility and excess. We can see the grapes on the right, and on the left the butterfly, the white dove as symbol of the holy spirit, and in front of him the caduceus staff of Mercury. The Fool's satchel is full of coins, each one showing a planetary or zodiacal symbol. In his feet lies a crocodile, alluding to the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek. Instead of a dog, we see a tiger biting his leg (the Roman god Bacchus was sometimes depicted riding a tiger), and a glowing sun in front of his genitals. As is the case with all cards in the Thoth deck, we are faced here with a cornucopia of symbols that require study on behalf of the reader.

The Fool with the tall, pointy hat comes from the Spanish El Grand Tarot Esoterico. He is dressed like an ancient peasant holding a corn stalk, presumably to signify fertility, and balances precariously at the edge of a cliff. A small dog that looks more like a big rat is biting his leg in an effort to stop him in his tracks. In the Crystal tarot, on the other hand, the Fool seems very young and is dressed in clothes of vaguely oriental origin. Instead of a flower, s/he is holding an apple, possibly a symbol of sin reminiscent of the Fall of Man.

We find two Fools with their arms wide open in Le Tarot Psychologique and the Greenwood tarot (of which I have a PnP copy, as it is out of print). Le Tarot Psychologique is in black-and-white only, and the Fool has no facial features. We recognize him from the diamond shapes of his costume, while the dog on his side is playfully blanacing on top of a cosmic symbol similar to the symbol of the atom. The Greenwood Fool is herself a butterfly ready to fly off the cliff, with a dog having already taken the leap of faith.

Finally, our last Fool, and the one I find the most amusing, comes from another out of print deck, the Russian tarot Lubok. He has a red nose (due to drunkenness?) and is riding a purple boar and blowing a long horn to signal his departure.


The inspiration for this post came from Tarot Oculus and his own April Fool's Fools of Note video.

If you had the patience to read thus far, thank you, and be careful not to be fooled today and in general. ;)

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Cadet Stimpy
Cadet Stimpy
Apr 02, 2021

Check this out on Amazon:


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Cadet Stimpy
Cadet Stimpy
Apr 02, 2021
Replying to

Oops. SCM strikes again!

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Cadet Stimpy
Cadet Stimpy
Apr 02, 2021

All those fools reminded me of watching a federal proceeding on C-Span. 😄


That was amusing in that Video you included, on card #2, when the guy says, "...playing with the balls, playing with the children, children not playing with his balls…". I didn't realize Tarot Cards had a perverse element. 😄


Athena, your cards seem to have an 'old school' look. Do you have any more modern looking ones, or do you just prefer those 'earlier' decks?



Here's one for ya, since you like owls:


I think you've made me decide to 'inquire' (after all, I am the Master of Inquires 🙂) about Tarot Cards. The most difficult task for me will be choosing the most beautiful deck, a…


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Athena
Athena
Apr 02, 2021
Replying to

I am very picky when it comes to tarot decks (and in general... ☺️) and usually prefer old school ones, as you say. But the ones you chose are indeed beautiful.


Tarot is very much in fashion these days, and there are dozens of decks available -mass market and Kickstarter. There really is a deck for everyone!


I have no idea about April Fool's, I would lose in Jeopardy too. 😄

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Zerbique
Zerbique
Apr 01, 2021

In the French Tarot de Marseille the Fool is called "The Apology". In the traditional trick-taking game, this is a one-of-a-kind card, as you can play it anytime (while all other cards must follow suit, and trumps can and must only be played if you cannot follow suit), and it can never be taken, it just automatically goes back to your "loot pile" at the end of the trick, nor can it take anything. There is one exception to this though, as if you play it on the last turn, you will lose it (and it may definitely happen). This is, by far, the most complex and rules-heavy card of the game.


It's also one of the most valuable cards…



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Zerbique
Zerbique
Apr 02, 2021
Replying to

Thanks! Yet another iconic bit of French culture that we just plundered from Italy, like the Joconde... A good thing we had neighbors to pillage from throughout history.


I must say that the scenes in the trump cards are really not very interesting and it's quite hard to decipher what they are about...


Anyway, I've found an online tarot website (it was bound to exist obviously), I'd be very glad to have a game one day with some of you! Standard trick-taking game, team-based (1 vs 3 or 2 vs 3 with a secret ally who is revealed during the game) but rather good and addictive.

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