Tarot decks contain 2 distinct sections. The major arcana and the minor arcana. In this article we are discussing the major arcana; which contains 22 cards that tell of a journey! This post is going to explain what that journey represents, in this tale the fool is usually seen as the reader,that would be you. The fool card is marked marked 0 and he travels through each energy of the 21 other major arcana cards. This story will make remembering the meanings of the major arcana a cards easier! It introduced the vibe and over all summary of each card in this section of tarot decks!
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The first card depicted in each section below is a card from the Rider Waite tarot deck. This is a very classic deck and most people reference it when referring to tarot imagery. I have put together many different versions of the fool’s journey in this article. As with most myths and legends, all interpretations vary slightly but have the same message. Here, I’ve put together many different versions that I feel align with the true meaning of each card. This journey is very much like a dream, one second you are strolling and seeing strange things, and when you blink the scenery changes, you are in a new situation, and you’re surrounded by new obstacles. This story is told in short segments broken between the 22 tarot cards!
The fool is now numbered 0 in our modern decks, however for long periods in history he also had no number associated with him. Some believe that it is because he is the character experiencing this journey. He represents you, the reader! We are introduced to the fool as being young, care-free, naive, child-like, and adventurous! The fool is not only prepared to start his journey, but he is filled with excitement, innocence, eagerness, and wonder. It is suggested here that the start to any journey requires the spirit, energy, and curiosity of a child. The fool has collected all of his belongings, fitting in one small pouch (representing the few belonging he has when his journey begins). He blissfully follows a path not concentrating on risks or any downfalls just enjoying the present scenery and simply living his joyful life. The fool is unaware of any hardships that he will face on his upcoming adventure. The fool is associated with the number zero, so it is implied that he is empty, wanting substance. He is innocent and optimistic. The terminology of being called ‘a fool’ suggests that there is much to learn at every start to a life changing journey. He is also so preoccupied with his daydreams and visions that he doesn’t realize he is about to walk off a giant cliff!
He’s suddenly on a path along the outskirts of a village. Continuing his journey, the Fool runs into a magician! He is talented, skilled, active, masculine, mysterious, and powerful. The magician puts a trance over the fool. He has mastered the four elements, water, fire, earth, and air and plans to show the fool what he can. He is a guardian, a teacher, and also the master of illusion. His wisdom and teachings may come to us in odd ways, dreams, signs, things you could imagine a magician would enjoy to do. He could give us signs in glimpses and coincidences. He offers the fool guidance in hidden and confusing ways. He is thought of as our subconscious awareness. As a man prone to creative impulses, the magician grants the fool opportunity to learn about the four elements and their corresponding items, the love and emotion of cups, material possessions and work represented by pentacles, the intellect and communication of swords, and the passion of wands.
The fool then notices The High Priestess equally opposite to The Magician. These two are great balancing forces, that are opposite of each other but equal in influence and meaning.
2. High Priestess
As he turns he sees a beautiful and mysterious woman hiding her face. She was between two columns, and lit by the moon. The High priestess is inactive, unrealized potential, unconsciousness, and feminine energy. She listens instead of speaking. She is also a teacher to the fool. She is opposite the magician, quiet while he is loud, dark while he is light, observing while he was being observed, hidden powers while his are displayed.
The fool then admits to the High priestess that he has been given the tools of the four elements to be successful, but does not have the knowledge to utilize them. He has been given the gift of awareness, but does not know how to use it. The High Priestess does not speak, but mentally grants the fool permission to read the ancient scrolls of wisdom!
The fool then is suddenly traveling down the same path as before, just a bit further than he had remembered. He heard a voice that is new yet very familiar. “Trust your intuition” she offers guidance in the mysterious forms of questions.
3. The Empress
Having gained, researched, and practiced with his new tools, (cups, swords, wands, and pentacles) he then knew that he was ready to continue his journey! He stumbles upon a light haired empress, wearing a great crown, she may be pregnant considering the glow surrounded by her. The fool feels a warmth that reminds him of his mother. The Empress then morphed into his mother. The empress nourishes, cares for, and loves him. She can often be interpreted as Mother Earth, or the Godess! The great nurturing empress who has loved and cared for The Fool, then sends him off to meet….
4. The Emperor
The Emperor… He approaches a great throne with an even greater emperor seated on it. The fool intuitively knows that he is someone to respect, even more so than a normal man. The fool acts accordingly during this interaction. The emperor radiated courage, bravery, aggressiveness, and creative imagination! The fool noticed how organized, structured, and smoothly the Empire was run while he spent time with the man. As the empress was like a mother to the fool, the emperor became like a father to him. This is the fools first encounter with rules, punishment, and discipline. This discovery is a bit shocking at first, but the more time with the emperor the more he understood the need for structure and consequences in life.
5. The Heirophant
Once the fool feels that he is ready to leave his parents, and become an independent adult. He decides to continue his journey on the long path! As he follows aimlessly down the trail he begins to think about questions he can’t answer. He can’t take the mystery anymore, and rushes to the nearest worship and kneels to the hierophant, seeking his guidance, and hoping for some answers. It is at that moment that he discovered education and organized religion!
This is his very first encounter with traditions and culture, from others that differ from his own. The Hierophant represents organized belief systems and the people whom we associate with teaching or having a limitless knowledge. The fool learns about society and learns what it’s like to be a part of a group, and he creates new traditions. As he found the answers to some of his questions, he began feeling better about the mysteries of life. So one day he decides to continue his journey. He then approaches a cross-roads.
After leaving the heirophant he knows what his purpose is! He has a goal and almost nothing could stop him. He had planned and perfected his future on this journey! He will not stop until he is successful and achieved what he imagined! Once he reaches the crossroads ahead, he will turn left and continue on his way. But out of curiosity he peaks over on to the right path, and then sees her, the woman that he knows will change his life. She was not like any of the other girls that the fool had met, she was the love of his life he could feel it in his chest.
He then could not remember the strict goals or achievements he had planned for himself, he had decided to take a different turn, and head on a new journey with his other half. Even though the road he chose would possibly be more difficult and less planned, he was at peace knowing that it would be with her.
7. The Chariot
By this time the Fool is an adult, he has developed character, and has a very strong sense of self. He has done many things and has achieved many victories. He is confident even though he is still young. The fool is ready to continue on his journey, and success will be his outcome, victory is the only option! He has a sudden desire to accomplish and conquer anything and everything. He is at a point in life where he must progress and continue on with his original plans that he had made when meeting the magician!
The fool runs into a brave and noble, charioteer who gives him important motivational advice. He tells The Fool “When you feel like quitting don’t, there is no other way, you must win and achieve what you believe in.” He explains that in order to do so, the fool has to have the absolute belief that what he is achieving is the only option. “When your goal is achieved, make sure to plan and follow through with the next, because this journey never ends. And if you encounter opposing forces or enemies, over come them by any means. Destroy anything that gets in the way of your path.” With a new sense of self-awareness, confidence, and aggressiveness the fool continued on the path!
By this time in the fool’s life, the challenges have made him strong. He has the strength to overcome bad situations and has developed much courage over the years. He is still wandering on the path, but as he looks over he sees a beautiful woman getting attacked by a lion! He runs to the woman and is shocked to see that she is not struggling at all, in fact she is gently placing her hands on the lions mouth guiding it closed. The fool was amazed! He asked the woman how she managed to get a lion to obey her. He then looked at the woman, her gentle and genuine nature radiated out and he then could see how she was able to calm the beast.
The Fool realized that maybe it isn’t always wise to come at a problem with iron fists, some beasts need to be tamed by pure kindness and warmth. He learns how important it is to have patience and to keep his cool in stressful situations, most enemies can smell fear. The fool conclusively walked away from the woman having learned quiet and peaceful inner strength. It can sometimes take more strength to control your urges of aggression, rather than to lash out.
9. The Hermit
Somewhere along his journey, the fool starts to become overwhelmed with his own thoughts. He becomes obsessed with learning. He feels that he needs to know more in order to become whole, he needs answers. He decides to seclude himself, searching for answers only he can find for himself. It is time for the fool to retreat and embrace solitude. He moves into a cave he found in the woods. Making sure to come out every night with the light of his lantern. He explores the land and the creatures that he had never had the thought to pay attention to before. He searches only in the darkness, he searches in himself, only what he knows and feels with no others to judge or give opinions. Instead of the pouch the fool had packed the day he decided to start his journey, he now holds a lantern, symbolically representing the inner knowledge and progression of his spiritual well-being, rather than his material possesions.
Feeling refreshed and ready to break himself of seclusion, the fool takes a stroll down the path during the daytime…
10. Wheel of Fortune
He had lost his canteen and hadn’t been able to find a replacement yet, he was thirsty but she he would find some water after getting to the village. As he thought about that to himself, he walked in front of a water wheel. He notices a woman, she is waving at him and asking if he’d like a cup of water. The wheel was gorgeous, and continuously in motion. He wonders if it was fate that had brought the two together, or simply a coincidence. The fool becomes aware of how small and connected the world really is.
As he watches the wheel he is thrown in a trance, he realizes that everything is a cycle much like the spinning wheel. The fool begins to think of the patterns of fate and destiny he had already experienced. Sometimes things happen that are just too good to be true and he thanks fate for bringing him such blessings. The fool is no longer going to be inactive, it’s time to jump back into things, get in motion again. He has a vision of the patterns in his life and recognizes all of the similarities and cycles that he’s been through. In this vision he also sees the harmonious and infinite possibilities.
It is now time for the fool to look back at his life. To finally realize responsibility for his actions, and realize that everything has a consequence. When looking back at situations, where he had handled confrontations based purely on instinct and emotions, he realizes that it is far more respectful and successful when handled with balance, fairness and rational thinking. He admits to himself when he had been wrong or guilty, and makes peace with himself knowing that he has learned and grown from his mistakes. Justice must be served in order for the fool to start a new chapter.
12. The Hanged Man
The fool, filled with realizations and lots to think about, understands now how he has neglected his spiritual self by worldly possessions. Realizing how unbalanced he was on the inside, the fool wanders underneath a giant willow tree. Staring at the branches, he wonders what the world would look like upside down. The fool then climbs on to a branch and hangs upside down looking at the world differently. He felt frozen in a memory, peaceful and consistent. Before he knows it, he has fallen asleep for 9 days. This has now allowed the fool to see everything from a completely new perspective.
As he awakes and finds his way down the tree, he is having visions from his time while hanging. He drowsily heads down a path that is just a bit eerie. The trees have no leaves, and everything seems very still. The fool feels waves of loss and mourning for no good reason. He looks up only to see a skeleton in a black robe. He knows that he is in the presence of death. He wonders if he has passed away and if death was there to take him. Death then approached the fool only to show him the death of his old ways. Now is a time for great transformations, things will be eliminated, something is going to end, but he also understands that these things need to end, in order for growth and improvement. Death disappears and the fool feels that there is a great transformation happening in his life.
The fool feels as if he is ready to move on to the next chapter in his life. He continues on his journey only to run into an angel, balancing with one foot on a rock, and the other in the water. He was mixing the four elements, and creating strange new elements. He asks the angel, how he could possibly mix two opposing elements, like earth and air. The angel tells him that anything is possible with the right balance. The two very opposite male and female join together to make a child, and so we can mix opposite forces and create balance.
With this in mind he realized all of the things that could be possible now that he understood the balancing of opposite forces. The fool is feeling amazing about life, he feels at peace, and balanced. As he is walking the path, he suddenly finds himself at the bottom of a black mountain. Which he knew to be ruled by the devil himself…
15. The Devil
As he traveled up the mountain, the fool soon became face to face with the devil himself. Looking around and seeing his palace disgusted the fool. All of the people and sin that surrounded him made him believe that this place must be a test of his fate. He would not give into temptation. He had already learned that you should not be anchored to material objects in the physical world. He was finally balanced and knew that indulging in addictions would tip the scales. “I will not be enslaved by material earthly possessions and desires!” The fool shouts at the foul beast!
He responds, “Take a look around, no one here is being forced to stay. Everyone in this palace is here by choice and may leave whenever they please. The fool then takes a second look around and realizes that none of these people are being held captive, they are choosing to live like this. The Devil tells the fool that he should not deny all of his sinful urges, it is important to acknowledge and work on these urges. Acknowledging addiction and impulse, is the first step to fixing the problem.
16. The tower
The fool then leaves the black mountain proud of himself. He came upon a beautiful, magnificent, tower. He stared at this gorgeous structure which gave him great nostalgia. It felt like a moment that would last forever! He appreciated the workmanship that must have taken to build and also the stunning mass. It was extraordinary! And then lightening struck the tower completely destroying it. In just a matter of seconds, residents were jumping from the tower, it had fallen to the ground, in pieces, with only the foundation standing.
The fool was experiencing pure shock at this moment. He had never experienced such a sudden change. He was scared and did not fully understand what had happened yet. How could something that was right in from of his eye disappear like that. And then suddenly, he had a moment of clarity. The tower of his past is now officially destroyed, he only has the option to continue forward, and rebuild on the solid foundation that is still left standing from the accident.
17. The Star
The day is done but the fool can’t seem to leave the site of the tower, he looks up at the sky to try and find some answers. He is still devastated and wonders if there is anything good left in the world at all. He sees the stars gleam in the sky and then hears something near the water. He sees a beautiful girl with a water urn, watering the dying plants. The fool asks why shy is doing that, she replied, “I am watering the plants so that if anyone gets hungry they can eat the healthy food from the garden.” The woman whose eyes were like stars offered some fruit to the fool, who glad fully accepted.
After the shock of the tower crashing settled, the fool experienced a long peaceful period for recuperation. This period completely rid the fool of any negative energy he had experienced from the devil and the tower. He has complete peace, and realizes he wants to be generous in anyway he can, like the woman watering the plants to feed the hungry. As he laid back on the floor gazing at the stars he thinks of how far away they truly are. He turns to thank the woman, but she had disappeared. Now, nourished and healthy enough to move on he heads to the path. He now feels that he has the stars to guide him in the future.
18. The moon
Following the star in the sky he continues to travel through the night. The moon rises, illuminating his path. He is beginning to get sleepy and starts to see things in the corner of his eye. The fool is so happy and calm that he is almost in a dreamy state. His state of mind made him vulnerable to all kinds of illusions and dreams.
The moon makes his mind creative, imaginative, and sometimes strange. The moon controls subconscious thoughts, like nightmares, anxieties, and fears. The fool is now, not in our world but in the spirit world. But what he needs to remember, is that most of the things that we worry about on a daily basis are just made up by our over thinking brains and subconscious. The fool needs to decide whether he is going to stay in this dream like forever or if he was going to bring himself back to reality.
19. The sun
Suddenly the fool awakes, the sun shining in his eyes brighter than ever. It seems that somehow he is in a pond, surrounded by a garden of gorgeous flowers. The sky is clear, the day is beautiful. He hears the laugh of a child and heads toward it. The child, filled with excitement, runs to the fool to excitedly show him everything in the pond that he loves. As a child does, he asks questions that the fool is glad to answer.
The fool catches himself smiling, being happier than he has been in a long time. The pure joy of conversation with an innocent child is overwhelming him. He suddenly recognizes the young boy as himself. As he disappears off into the horizon seemingly joining the sun. The fool feels as if he has been illuminated and that the fire has been re sparked in his soul.
The fool feels as if he has been born again! He feels as if he is himself radiating for the first true time! He allows himself to accept all of the mistakes he has made. He feels in his soul that he is good and balanced. He feels that he has almost completed his journey, he knows that it is near. What is stopping him? He looks up to the sun seeking guidance, and sees an angel instead.
It is time that the fool truly let go and become at peace with everything in his past. He must have no doubts, guilt, anger, or animosity from things that have happened in the past. He has nothing negative to tie him to the past, the fool is now ready to take his last step of the cycle.
The fool gratefully takes the last step along his path, and amazingly figures out that he is about to step off of the very same cliff from the beginning. The world shows the fool that everything happens in cycles. The world is connected in every way. He feels fulfilled, complete, enlightened, and whole. The future is promising with infinite possibilities. The fools journey was not meaningless and finally became successful. Now he must move onto his next journey!
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