The Fool

The Fool: The Green Man If there is an opportunity out there, go for it. You won't regret it. Take a chance.

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

~ William Shakespeare

Again, Bette Midler expresses it well in the song "The Rose": "The soul afraid of falling, which never learns to dance; the soul afraid of losing which never takes a chance; the soul afraid of dying which never learns to live."

The Fool is the unnumbered card, although in many packs he is numbered zero, incorrectly in my opinion, because he can occur anywhere. He is the equivalent of the joker in a regular pack of cards and he can represent any other card. Zero is often associated with God or the divine spirit but while the Fool has many God-like qualities he can also be so frustrating that you will think he is anything but godlike.

There is a natural association between the Fool and the Green Man, the omnipresent spirit of the greenwood. For this reason I've chosen the Green Man in his "Foliate Head" form (described below) to represent the fool.

Belonging to the element of air and therefore free as the wind, he is also governed by the planet of eccentricity, Uranus. He is capricious, lawless, original and inventive, the spirit of chaos. He is also innocence and sheer zest for life. We had a good example of this kind of innocence at Christmas (2008) when I bought Alison a flat-screen TV. Before we even had a chance to tune it in, one of the kittens knocked it over and wrecked it. But how can you get mad at a kitten? He ignored it completely and just carried on playing.

If this card appears in a spread it is time to take a risk but fear not, nothing can harm you:

The astronomer Kepler commenting on Copernicus:
"After all, one approves of a toddler of three who decides that he will fight a giant."
~ Quoted by Arthur Koestler in "The Sleepwalkers"

The fool is self-confident in the true sense and has no need of approval from others; he knows the direction he is going in. This may give rise to ambiguous feelings about a relationship you are in or are thinking about starting. Part of you wants to make the commitment; while another part likes the freedom and wants to hold the whole thing at arms length. Make sure that you are not sensing a controlling aspect to the relationship which is directed at you. At the end of the day, if the relationship works you will stick with it while if it doesn't, now is the time you will take the plunge and move on. Again, either way have confidence, you won't regret the decision. If you are considering taking up studying, the enterprise will be successful and rewarding.

Sun Wukong, the Chinese monkey god There is an obvious association between the Fool and the trickster god who appears in many religions. The Norse god Loki began as a prankster but his pranks became progressively more malicious. Hermes Trismegistus was the father of Alchemy while also from Greek mythology are Prmetheus, the god of fire, and Eris, a central figure in the Illuminatus trilogy by Robert Shea nd Robert Anton Wilson. French folklore has Reynard the fox while Celtic mythology there are the Faeries and Puck. The images are worldwide: The Azrtecs had Quetzlcoatl while the Chinese have Sun Wukong, the Monkey King (See photograph).

Expect the unexpected and this could be the start of a new chapter in your life. You may receive an unepected visitor or alternatively, maybe you are considering doing a "disappearing act". The focus is on faith, hope, trust and the possibility of a brighter tomorrow. However, negatively aspected this can indicate foolhardiness and "fools rushing in".

The Fool is Ain Soph Aur, the divine, primordal light which illuminates the Tarot and which the following cards, especially the Magus and the Priestess, tap into. He is the Green Man, the spirit of the greenwood. The energy of nature which enables a tiny, feeble plant to burst through a crack in concrete.

The Green Man appears in three forms. As "Jack o' the greenwood", he peers from amidst the foliage while on misericords he is usually depicted as having leaves spewing from his mouth in great bunches. I've chosen his third form as "the foliate head", with his skin turning into leaves. What makes him appropriate in this tree tarot is that he seems to descend directly from European tree worship.

English folklore also accommodates a Green Lady who haunts Thorpe Hall in Lincolnshire. It is believed that this legend arose as a spin-off from a protrait of "The Spanish Lady" which hangs in the hall. She wears a green dress. The legend of the Green Children (or "children of the corn") of Woolpit, a village in Suffolk near to Ipswich where I come from, appears to echo the Celtic idea of the "otherworld".

The arrival of Christianity often resulted in churches being built on the sites of sacred groves. Following from this, the green man often appears in churches, especially as gargolyes and misericords. In Devon. This is particularly common in villages whose names end in "nemeton" or "nympton" meaning "Grove".

I'm a great admirer of Crowley's Thoth pack (or as I prefer to call it, the Crowley / Harris pack; it seems that Lady Frieda Harris was much more involved with the original design than she is normally given credit for, and was not merely the artist working to Crowley's dictat) and I use it for all my readings. However, there is one point where I take issue with it. Each of the major arcana cards carries a Hebrew letter and I have continued this tradition in these cards. The Fool takes Alef, the magus takes Beit, and so on. There are 22 major arcana cards and 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, or to give it its proper name, "alefbet". However, this gives rise to several problems.

The first problem is that the Fool is the unnumbered card which can act like a joker in a conventional pack of playing cards and replace any other card including any of the cards of the major arcana. Since it is unnumbered, it hardly makes sense to give it the number one in Hebrew. At the same time, Crowley doesn't leave the Fool unnumbered but assigns the Arabic number 0, which is more confusing. The problem then gets worse when you move on to the other major arcana cards, because the Magus or Magician, number one in the major arcana, then has to take the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet (beit); the Priestess, 2 in the major arcana takes three in the Hebrew alphabet, and so on. None of this makes much sense. I'm not just being pedantic here; the letters of the alphabet are actually used to represent numbers in Hebrew. This means that complete words have a numeric value and there is an associated numerology. If you want to associate this numerology with the tarot it becomes very difficult if the Hebrew numbers don't agree with the Arabic.

Some packs avoid this problem by assigning the Fool the number 22 so that it becomes the last card in the major arcana but this seems to me to be artificial and arbitrary. In any case, the Fool is the divine, primaeval light which illuminates the tarot, not the end result.

Taking in all of these considerations, I have not assigned the Fool any Hebrew letter; unnumbered means unnumbered. I have then assigned Alef, the first Hebrew letter, to the Magician and not to the Fool as in the Crowley / Harris deck, and the rest follow from there. This means that the final letter of the Hebrew alefbet, Tav, is not used. I like that idea. It keeps the tarot open ended and if you are reading for someone who is having difficulties in their life, they can take heart from the fact that "its not all over until the fat lady sings". There is always something else around the corner.


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