The Fool in Tarot Readings

 

The Fool is numbered, “Zero,” and you can either consider it the beginning or the end of the Tarot deck.  In my book, “Just the Tarot,” I wrote this about The Fool:

“This is a card of pure, undifferentiated energy.  It is Spirit before it enters into the material world.  Christianity tends to refer to it as, “the Holy Spirit,” whereas Eastern religions may refer to it as, “Prana.”    It is the underlying force that energizes the universe and some would go so far as to say that it is Love.”

And that’s really the essence of The Fool.  It represents energy. Really, really good energy.  And it’s also freshness and innocence.

Have you ever stepped outside on one of the first days of Spring and it’s all so beautiful that you just feel high?  Like the world – and you – have been reborn and everything is fresh and shiny and full of possibilities. That’s the energy of The Fool.

fool

We are now beginning to evolve a philosophy (and religions) that hold that the Earth herself is sacred and holy.  For most of history, however, this wasn’t the case. The Earth plane was viewed as evil and dark or, at the least, neutral.  Light, inspiration, spirituality came from outside the Earth into the Earth.

Many of the definitions you’ll find on The Fool are based upon that model.  Spiritual energy is pouring into the Earth Plane from an outside source but it hasn’t really taken form yet.  It’s just that sheer joyous ZAP flowing through your life and your spirit and your body. Whether you think it’s flowing down from the astral plane or up from Mother Earth, it’s there.

The Fool is also about endless possibilities.  When The Fool appears in your reading you have all of power that you need to do anything that you want, but you may not have the slightest idea what it is that you want to do.  Pick a card. Any card. You’ve got the juice to make it happen.

The Fool is also irreverent and doesn’t care even a little bit about being socially proper.  To really get that you have to go back to medieval times and remember what The Fool was back then.  The Fool was the court jester, the only one who was allowed to make fun of the King and Queen and even point out that the Emperor had no clothes.  People with The Fool manifesting in their lives tend to laugh at conventions and norms and act silly when everyone else is being solemn and correct.

And people may laugh at The Fool, just as he laughs at them.  The village idiot was often chosen as the court jester. To some, The Fool may appear simple minded in his boundless optimism and joy.  Cynics and pessimists are very uncomfortable around The Fool’s energy.

When The Fool is reversed he shows another side of his nature which is fool-hardiness.  He’s so high on what he’s feeling that he may be sloppy about details and make mistakes.  “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” and The Fool is definitely no angel.

My best advice when you get The Fool in your reading is . . . enjoy!  You’ve got a wonderful force blowing through your life. Don’t worry. Be happy.

Pamela Colman Smith – The Real Genius Behind the Waite-Rider Tarot Deck

The most popular Tarot deck in the world is the Waite-Rider deck, authored by A.E. Waite and published by the Rider Company.  The illustrations in the deck were done by Pamela Colman Smith and it’s been within recent memory that people have started referring to it as the Waite-Smith deck.  The standard description of it is that the illustrations were prepared by Pamela Colman Smith, “under the directions of A.E. Waite.”

It might be more accurate to say that the illustrations were prepared by her DESPITE the instructions of A.E. Waite.

Pamela_Colman_Smith_

PAMELA COLMAN SMITH

She’s one of the more fascinating people in the history of modern occultism.  She had a wonderful smile and was so tiny that she was nicknamed, “Pixie.” As she was growing up her family shuttled between London, Jamaica, and New York and she spent several years living in Kingston and absorbed much of the Jamaican culture.  Her mother was an artist and she, too, developed artistic talents at an early age and began attending the Pratt Art Institute in New York at the age of 15.

By the age of 21 both of her parents had died and she moved by herself to London where she supported herself working as an illustrator, author, and set designer for theatrical productions.  It was there that she met the poet William Butler Yeats who introduced her A.E. Waite, one of the founding member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Shortly thereafter Waite commissioned her to illustrate his Tarot deck and the rest is history.

But that’s where it really gets interesting.

There have been many, many people who have claimed that they were channeling some sort of a higher power that guided their creativity and, “co-created,” with them.  Painters, sculptors, writers who felt the presence of a greater power than themselves literally telling them what to paint, carve, or write. Some of them talk about spirit guides, others describe the guides as angels, a few might even think that god was talking to them.

It is my strong belief that this is exactly what happened to Pamela Smith when she created the Waite deck.

Consider this:  Smith created ALL 78 cards between April and October of 1909.  That means that for that 6 month period she was pumping out an average of 13 highly complex illustrations a month.  As an artist I can tell you that’s nearly impossible.

There is also strong evidence that Waite may have had fairly precise instructions about the Major Arcana but Smith pretty much invented the illustrations for the Minor Arcana herself, even using some of her close friends as models.  With the sheer volume of illustrations she produced and her admittedly short exposure to occultism, you have to think that those pictures were almost painting themselves.

And, finally, there is the evidence of the nature of A.E. Waite himself.  He was, to put it mildly, one incredibly boring old fart. Shortly after Smith produced the cards Waite published a book called, “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.”  Here’s just a bit of his definition for the card The Magician:

“With further reference to what I have called the sign of life and its’ connexion with the number 8, it may be remembered that Christian Gnosticism speaks of rebirth in Christ as a change, ‘unto the Ogdoad.’ “

And it gets a lot worse.  Can you imagine having a drink with that guy?

The Waite-Smith tarot deck is truly magical.  Every card is beautiful and tells its’ own unique story.  That magic definitely didn’t flow out of A.E. Waite. It flowed out of the eyes and soul of Pixie.  She was in the groove and some higher force was using her mind and her hands to bring those cards into being.  Aren’t we lucky that happened?

Doing Your First Tarot Reading – Start Small

One of the things that I’d really recommend for your first reading is to start small.  If you look through the sites on the internet you’ll find some monstrous huge patterns for laying out the cards.  Lots and lots of details and sometimes dozens of cards. A beginner using one of those is sort of like deciding you’re going to write a computer program right after you figured out how to put a ringtone on your smartphone.  Start off with some smaller layouts and get a feel for the cards before you get too complex.

I actually prefer smaller reading layouts and I do at least one a week just to check in and get a little perspective on where I’m at and where I’m going.  Here’s a simple layout that takes just a little time to do but touches most of the important bases.

1 2 3 4

1 – Current conditions

2 – What needs to be done

3 – Factors working against the questioner

4 – The probable outcome

Now here’s an actual reading using this layout.  This was done for a woman who was in her fifties, professed to be deeply religious, but was not a very happy camper.

ace 7wands queenofcups 4cups

1 – Current conditions – Ace of Cups Reversed

2 – What needs to be done – 7 of Wands Reversed

3 – Factors working against the questioner – Queen of Cups Reversed

4 – The probable outcome – 4 of Cups Reversed

Now, if you read my previous post – A Few Tips Before You Start Reading Tarot Cards – you’ll recognize a couple of factors immediately.  First, all of the cards are reversed. This means that the questioner is in a very subjective state of mind and is probably not dealing realistically with what’s going on.  Second, 3 out of 4 of the cards are cups, meaning that this reading is primarily about emotions.

If you’re using the definitions from my book, “Just the Tarot, by Dan Adair” (available on Amazon.com as an ebook for less than the cost of a can of beer – just saying)  here’s what you find:

1 – Current conditions – Ace of Cups Reversed – It’s possible that the questioner thinks he or she is love but the other person views it as just a friendship.  Another possibility is that there has been true love but it’s fading away.

2 – What needs to be done – 7 of Wands Reversed – There are just too many opponents or problems for the time being.  Disengage from conflict and deal with what you can or you must.

3 – Factors working against the questioner – Queen of Cups Reversed – This may be a person who has a sour attitude toward love and affection.  Perhaps a very materialistic person who prizes possessions over true affection.

4 – The probable outcome – 4 of Cups Reversed – The individual is letting go of old relationships and is starting over.  Perhaps a new love interest or romance.

It doesn’t take long to conclude that this reading is about a romantic relationship and that something is rotten in a Scandinavian country.  The Ace of Cups upright shows that love is blossoming but when it’s reversed it shows that love is dying. The Queen of Cups reversed in the position of opposing factors shows us that one of the people in the relationship – perhaps the questioner or perhaps her partner – has got a pretty bad attitude happening about love and romance.  The 7 of Wands in the position of what needs to be done shows us that there are just too many problems in this relationship for it to have a good outcome. And the 4 of Cups reversed shows us that the questioner or her partner will probably come to that conclusion and just walk away and start over.

See how easy that was?  You lay out the cards, you look for a pattern, and you put the story together.  Now you try it . . .

 

A Few Tips Before You Start Reading Tarot Cards

Here are a few little tips you should know about reading Tarot Cards that I cover in my book, “Just the Tarot, by Dan Adair.”  (Available on Amazon.com for less than the price of a bagel at your favorite coffee shop. Just saying.)

LOOK FOR LARGE NUMBERS OF THE SAME SUIT.  The Tarot basically divides our world into four different elements that match the suits of the Minor Arcana.  Wands equal ideas. Cups equal emotions. Swords equal personal power. Pentacles equal money and possessions.

So, if you’re doing a reading and you see that the majority of the cards are pentacles, you can assume that money and possessions are a very dominant part of the questioners life right now.  A majority of wands might indicate someone who is an intellectual or is exploring a lot of new ideas. Cups would show that this is a very emotional time in the questioners life. Swords would show that a quest for power and position or power struggles are very present in the questioners life.


COMBINING THE SUITS – You can also find some clues in combinations of the suits.  Suppose the reading has a majority of swords and cups: you might reasonably assume that there are some power struggles going on in the person’s romantic or emotional life.
A combination of wands and cups might indicate a person who takes a sort of
intellectual approach to romance.  Pentacles and cups could show a person who pairs romance and materialism, like a trophy wife or husband.  Pentacles and swords can show power struggles in the workplace, and so on.

REVERSED VERSUS UPRIGHT CARDS – If a majority of the cards are reversed you can assume that there is a lot going on in the questioners life that she isn’t dealing with on a conscious level.  Look for denial, repression or factors that are hidden from the questioner. If the majority of the cards are upright you can assume that the questioner is fairly aware of what’s going on in his or her life and is dealing with it on a conscious level.

NUMBERS, NUMBERS, NUMBERS – There are schools of thought on the Tarot that assign meaning to the cards based on their numerological ranking.  I’m not personally a big fan of numerology so I’m not going to mess with it here. If you’re curious or numerology floats your boat you can look it up on the internet.

MAJOR VERSUS MINOR – As I’ve said in previous posts, ALWAYS pay close attention to any cards from the Major Arcana.  The Minor Arcana tend to show the little crap that we all put up with every day. The Major Arcana show life changing forces in the questioners reading.

The Major Arcana of the Tarot

 

The Major Arcana are composed of 22 cards and are the original heart of the Tarot deck.  They can be dated back to the 15th century where they emerged in Europe as the basis for card games.  The symbolism of the cards is so complex that it’s difficult to believe that they were conceived merely as a game but any further clues as to their origin have been lost in time.

Theories about the Major Arcana abound and the occultists of the late Victorian era, such as A.E. Waite and Aleister Crowley, spun some whoppers.  Based upon who you listen to the cards may have originated in ancient Egypt or perhaps Atlantis and Plato himself may or may not have been familiar with them.  

There are also those who claim that the Major Arcana conceal a secret doctrine, a path to higher realms and knowledge that only a few can decipher.  My personal experience with the cards is that those claims are nonsense. If there’s a path hidden in the Major Arcana it’s so overgrown that it would take a bulldozer to find it.  Emphasis on the, “bull.”

So what are the cards of the Major Arcana?  Modern psychologists, particularly Jungians, like to compare them to archetypal images, primordial representations buried in the unconscious of all humans.  And they may be right but that leaves unanswered the questions of who composed them and for what purpose.

There are a few things about them that we can say with certainty.  The Major Arcana represent . . . well, MAJOR forces in our lives. When we encounter the Major Arcana in a reading we know that some significant, life changing events are happening to the questioner.  We’re talking about births, deaths, disasters, major karma coming home to roost, and profound spiritual renewal.

In some cases the questioner herself may be causing the appearance of the major force.  In the card The Devil, for instance, we have a willful embrace of ignorance, cruelty, and mindless sexuality.  The Hanged Man may show up when we choose to take a break from life and reassess our spirituality.

In other cases, the cards may appear because of events which are external to the questioner and over which he has no control.  The Death card may appear frequently after the loss of a loved one. The Tower may pop up after a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a flood.

The best way that I can conceptualize the presence of a card from the Major Arcana in a reading is as a  powerful wind blowing through your life. You can’t stop the wind. You can fight against it, you can give into it and let it blow you where it will, or you can hunker down and wait for it to pass.  The one thing you can’t do is ignore it.  When you see a card from the Major Arcana PAY ATTENTION!

The Minor Arcana Tarot Cards

 

So if you followed up on the suggestions in my first post – Can You Learn to Read Tarot Cards?  – then you’ve looked at the various Tarot decks, picked a deck that resonates with you, and you’re looking through the cards thinking profound thoughts like, “What in the hell does THAT card mean?”

We’ll get to that.

In the meantime, when you look at the Tarot deck you’ll find that it’s divided into 5 different parts:  the 4 suits of cards, known as the Minor Arcana, and the 22  very, very, very symbolic cards known as the Major Arcana.

For today let’s just talk about the Minor Arcana.  You’ll see that the 4 suits are designated Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles.  That’s the way that the Tarot divides up and analyzes the things in our world.

Wands represent ideas, intellect, the thought process, what we like to conceive as the thinking mind.

Cups represent emotions, feelings, and relationships with emotional content like friendships, lovers, family.  And that means ALL of the emotions from love to hate and everything in between.

Swords represent aggression, physical force, and mental force like dominance issues and power struggles in the family or the workplace.

Pentacles represent physical possessions, money, our various toys, and both the material world and materialism.

They have other aspects, as I discuss in my ebook, “Just the Tarot.”  Wands are often associated with travel.  Swords, by way of their cutting edges, may be associated with needing surgery.  But for now let’s concentrate on the four basic characteristics of the Minor Arcana:  ideas, emotions,force,and possessions.

Of course, we know by now that the human world is far more holistic than a simple 4 point division.  Every idea has some sort of emotion tied to it and physical or mental force often hides fear or phobias.  And the spiritual flows into the physical world and the physical world often blossoms with great spirituality.  Still, it’s a useful way of looking at the world and the human predicament.

And that’s what the Minor Arcana are all about:  the human predicament. The Major Arcana are all about MAJOR forces in your life:  birth, death, transitions, good, evil. The Minor Arcana are about all of the crappy little things (and good little things) that we deal with in day to day life.  

Each card represents a particular human situation that we experience as we journey through life.  And each reading represents a snapshot of all of the things that the questioner is going through at that moment in time.

Think of it this way:  if you could step outside of yourself (your SELF) and sort of hover around the ceiling for a while and REALLY look at your life objectively, what would you see?  You might see your work-self who is dealing with a crappy, overbearing boss. Then there might be your home-self who loves to paint or write or knit or listen to music and pet the cat.  Then there might be your relationship-self who is deeply in love or maybe has been hurt in the past and is afraid of love or maybe is a hopeless romantic who is in love with love. And how about your physical-self who might be a weight lifter or might be chronically ill or might be a long distance runner or might be in a wheel chair?

All of those separate, “selves,” make up the greater self which is you.  When you look at the Minor Arcana in a reading you’re looking at what’s going on with all of those different selves at that moment.  Home, work, romance, physical state of being, ideas,emotions,power,and possessions. And the magic happens when you see the reading come together as a story of the questioners life.  Yep, even day to day life is HIGHLY magical!

Can You Learn to Read Tarot Cards?

Over the 50 + years that I’ve been reading Tarot cards I’ve had many people ask me if they could learn how to read the cards.  The answer, of course, is, “No.”

Just kidding.

The answer is an unreserved, “Oh, hell, yes.”

Anyone can learn to read Tarot cards.  There are really only three things you need:  a deck of Tarot cards, a good set of definitions and layouts, and a little time.

The deck you choose will probably depend on what sings to your subconscious.  You have a very wide choice already and it seems like some enterprising artists and writers are coming up with new designs almost every month.

If you’re a purist at heart you may want to consider a nicely done reproduction of The Marseille Deck.  This most closely resembles the original decks that were used in the 15th and 16th centuries. A word of caution:  the, ‘pips,” – cards ace through ten of the four major suits, AKA the Minor Arcana – do not have the intricate illustrations of themes and situations that we associate with modern Tarot cards.

A nice alternative is The Aquarian Tarot Deck.  These are beautifully illustrated with knock-your-socks off Art Deco pictures.  Not the deck I use, but absolutely elegant cards.

The most popular deck by far – and the one that I personally favor – is The Rider Waite Tarot Deck, Rider being the company that manufactures them and Waite being A.E. Waite, the person who authored them.  Thanks mainly to the amazing artist who did the illustrations – Pamela Coleman Smith – it’s definitely the most magical deck out there. There have been several variations in colors and inks through the years so you can find them in hues that range from fairly muted to near neon.

You can find nearly all of the decks that are available on Amazon.com if you want to browse through them and most decent occult shops or larger book stores will have a few on hand.  Something to be aware of when selecting cards is to be sure that they actually ARE Tarot cards. There are a ton of card decks that are used for fortune telling or intuition work that have nothing to do with the Tarot.  The Inner Child Cards and Medicine Cards come to mind – both lovely decks but not the Tarot.

Finally, it is highly NOT recommended that you ever, ever purchase a used deck of Tarot cards.  They do tend to retain the vibrations of the original owner and you don’t want that popping up in your readings.

As far as finding a good set of definitions and card layouts, I personally recommend

STAND BY FOR SHAMELESS ACT OF SELF-PROMOTION 

my book, “Just the Tarot,”  by Dan Adair available as an Amazon Kindle ebook for only 3 bucks.

END OF SHAMELESS ACT OF SELF-PROMOTION

There are, of course, a lot of alternatives.  The most popular of the free online definitions at this writing are at biddytarot.com and tarot.com.  Both of them have excellent definitions but tend to be a little New-Agey so be prepared to be inspired, uplifted and filled with positive thoughts whether you want to be or not.

You can also, of course, browse through the books on amazon.com and compare the various reviews that the readers have left.   A strong caveat: if you’re thinking of buying, “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot,” by A.E. Waite, don’t bother. Ironically it’s one of the worst books on the subject that’s ever been written and it is MAJORLY boring to boot.

As far as the third element necessary for learning the Tarot – time – that’s up to you and your individual temperament.  Some people are really into taking classes and socializing and you can find online courses or, if you live in one of the hipper locations of the country, you can probably take personal classes.  If you’ve got a busy schedule like most of us do, try to do a reading or two a week. Write down the results and then go back to them at the end of the week and see how accurate the readings were.  As time passes you’ll start to get a personal feel for each card and begin to develop a talent for putting all of the cards in a layout into a story.

Have fun!