Tarot cards have been used as a form of divination for centuries and a deck is traditionally made up of 78 cards.
The Fools Journey is symbolic of a souls journey through life and is interpreted through the first 22 cards of the Major Arcana.
The Fool is the first card in the tarot deck and is number 0. He is the querent/seeker of the reading. The Fool is an innocent soul at the very start of his journey. He has no life experience, has faced no difficult decisions, has no idea of the challenges that lie ahead. Fearless, he moves forward, not seeing that he is about to fall off a cliff.
Traditionally, he is pictured just as he is about to take his first step off the edge of the cliff, his few possessions slung over one shoulder, his little dog by his side. I like to think of the dog has having an “are you sure about this?” expression while the fool gazes in an almost dreamlike state, unaware of the journey before him.
We could call his innocence naivety but in equal measures he has the bravery of a soul who acts from the heart with no thought for the intended outcome, the simplicity and wisdom of a child. It can become a challenge to treat each situation as a new one and we often have some healing to do in order to re-claim our adventurous spirits and re-connect with our ability to trust and to follow our truth.
The Fools Journey take us through the major arcana – each archetype being a person he meets along the way
Number 1 – The Magician- a masculine action orientated energy who gives him the tools/skills/talents he needs to create, to manifest, to survive
Number 2 – The High Priestess – a feminine receptive energy who teaches him the wisdom of non-action through stillness and how to tap into his intuition and inner knowing
Number 3 – The Empress – The Mother – Teaches of femininity, nurturing, growth, nature based creativity, connection to Mother Earth
Number 4 – The Emperor – The Father – leads with his traits of authority, structure, discipline, decisive logical mind-based actions
Number 5 – The Hierophant – Introduces teachings, traditional values, organised religions, the tried and tested approach
Number 6 – The Lovers – here the Fool falls in love, the potential for love, the realisation of the importance of self-love and the choices to be made
Number 7 – The Chariot – teaches of the importance of balancing opposing forces within oneself – the shadow self and the enlightened self
Number 8- Strength – comes to illustrate that true strength is not aggression or brute force and how to cultivate a gentle strength and quiet inner confidence (the phrase ‘kill them with kindness’ comes to mind)
Number 9 – The Hermit – shines a light in the darkness with his lamp, lighting the spiritual path for the seeker, it is a card of meditation, of going within to find guidance, of needing time alone . The difference between unhealthy withdrawal and productive solitude. In a certain placement can also signify a ‘dark night of the soul’
Number 10 – The Wheel of Fortune – gives the Fool an understanding of the greater karmic forces at work and that life is constantly changing
Number 11- Justice – teaches the need for balance, truth and fairness and the possibilities of karmic justice
Number 12 – The Hanged Man – pausing to reflect, to surrender, sometimes a card of meditation or feeling ‘in limbo’
Number 13 – Death – teaches of transformation, gain disguised as loss, the wisdom to let go of fixed ideas in order to grow
Number 14 – -Temperance – Shows the Fool the art of remaining calm, emotional control
Number 15 – The Devil – here the Fool faces his shadow, his ego’s desires, his addictions, his cravings, the manipulations himself and others are capable of
Number 16 – The Tower – connected to Uranus in astrology – the planet of shock and surprise, sudden events, the collapse of old belief systems, we often have tower moments when we have become resistant to change and so we are sometimes forced into a new reality unprepared.
Number 17 – The Star – brings the Fool hope and healing and with that healing comes the ability to manifest and make dreams come true
Number 18 – The Moon – the Fool faces his unconscious, his fears and desires, the moon governs the night time, all that is hidden, secrets and dreams
Number 19 – The Sun – the sun follows after the night and sheds light on the unseen. it is all that is obvious and is the conscious awareness. Here the Fool connects with his inner child, with playfulness, fun, excitement and adventure. Reclaiming the youthful innocence he felt at the start of his journey.
At the end of the major arcana we have
Number 20 – Judgement – the summing up of the journey, the potential for understanding and forgiveness and
Number 21 – The World – the completion of the karmic cycle – the end of the journey.
Carl Jung 1875-1961, a psychiatrist and dream analyst who used 4 major archetypes in his own work, believed that tarot “provided a doorway into the unconscious” and acknowledged that the 22 archetypes of the major arcana could be used for the process of ‘individuation’ the process of understanding and becoming your authentic self. In the Fools Journey, the Fool learns to integrate these energies and abilities in order to make sense of the world around him and evolve as a soul.
When reading the tarot and laying out a spread, the meanings can vary widely in that the archetypes can become a number of things, elements of the querent as well as an external person or force. It could also be a helping or hindering influence depending on its placement in the spread. There are so many different decks available these days and their interpretations so different. Some of the minor arcanca have been entirely re-written by the author and each reader when tapping into their own intuition and receiving their own guidance will interpret the cards in different ways. Surrounding cards in a spread can also emphasise or change the meaning of a card.
I’d recommend the Rider-Waite deck to start with, if you are learning the tarot as these show the most common meanings and images/symbology which form a great knowledge base. After this you can move on to other decks and getting to know new ones can really take your readings to the next level and expand your own intuition.
I think of the major arcana during a reading as being the karmic forces of a higher power and the over-riding energies at play and the minor arcana as the free will of the querent and the decisions he/she can make along the way.
Included in the minor arcana we have the 4 suits of Wands, Pentacles, Swords and Cups – each numbered 1-10 which represent respectively, the elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water – the energies of Creation/Passion/Action (Wands) Money/Work/Family (Pentacles) Intellect/Communication/Head-over-Heart decisions (Swords) Emotions/Feelings/Heart-based decisions (Cups)
Also with each suit are the court cards – Kings, Queens and Pages (these can vary from deck to deck) which much like the major arcana can represent the energies of the querent, aspects of the querents personality, external people, messages coming in or actions that need to be taken. The court cards for me usually literally represent other people of that gender, age and astrological sign although they can represent the querent taking on a new energy as they evolve or an external person for example the Queen of Cups can be a mother figure and the King of Swords can be a judge.
Each numbered minor arcana follows its own journey – The Ace’s being the potential, the new opportunities and ideas, the Two’s being the expansion of this, the resulting action taken from the opportunity and so on.
Yes, the cards can tell the future but they should be used as a guide and not as if the future has been set in stone for we all have free will and can change things. For example, many people want to know when their wishes are going to come true, as if they are waiting for these to be delivered by an external force, not understanding that they need to work on themselves and that they are the person standing in the way, through fear, doubt, false beliefs, self-sabotage – I can show them the next opportunity they have coming in and can help them to recognise their shadow but whether they do the work or not is down to them and their actions determine the results.
A reading can help us to accept the trials and tribulations that we are going through and to steer ourselves onto a better path.
I absolutely love reading the tarot and have been playing with my cards for 25 years. In the early days I stuck faithfully to my beloved first deck, having built a connection to them, until they started to fall apart in my hands and I had to buy some more only to discover how much fun it is to get to know a new deck and how much you can grow as a reader.
I hope you find this article helpful in understanding the cards and that as the seeker or the reader you enjoy the tarot as much a I do 💚