Return of Arcana in Balance series: The Fool


Back in 2009, I started a series of posts about the cards of the major arcana and the way they point out places in life where balance is needed. All the cards have that aspect…no one card is all good or all bad. The card right side up isn’t one thing and reversed another…like life, all the cards have a balance of opposites contained all in one whole. I’ve always agreed with Diane Morgan “Magical Tarot, Mystical Tao” in this respect and others. There is an enormous amount of overlap between Taoist philosophy and Tarot insights as I see it. The idea of the dynamic balance of opposites – or more often a dynamic juggling act with a balance of many aspects – is the key place where Tarot and Taoism meet.

Initially, I’ll be re-posting the old commentary as we go through the major arcana as it most commonly appears. There may be some variation with some Tarot decks.

If you would like to read more Tao and Tarot overlap, please feel free to read the “Tao Tuesday” posts on my holistic health and writing blog at




From 2009:

It was an AH-HA moment.

My teacher, Joy Star, tweeted about The Lovers card speaking about male-female balance. Like a lightbulb over the head, it was suddenly obvious that all the major arcana had this kind of insight to offer.

As I see it, the traditional “meaning” of ANY tarot card is shaded, changed, “spin doctored” three things…the position within the spread, the purpose of message, and the personal associations of the person receiving the reading. This last is, in my opionion, the most important. Traditional card meanings and spread-position connotations are well known, so I’ll be talking over the next several weeks about the idea of “message purpose”. Cards can have a ‘flavor’ to the message. They can emphasize advice, cautions, validations, messages of encouragement …or in the case of the major arcana, show where life is out of balance. Balance, is a very important concept, especially in some eastern philosophies. It is also an integral part of modern holistic health, and stress management.

The Major Arcana is symbolic of the major life lessons and stages of life from birth to death. These cards have always been thought to have greater energy, depth and complexity than the minor arcana cards. They are the big deal stuff that “trumps” the “small stuff” Back when the tarot cards were used for playing games, the major arcana cards were literally ‘trump’ cards, just as exist in our card games today.

The first Major Arcana card is “The Fool”. Over time language changes. Now when we think of “fool” we think of “foolish” which has many negative connotations: impractical, oafish, ill-informed, even stupid, impulsive…not the kind of person you would want to hang around with…much less have them teach you a big life lesson.

That is part of the lesson to be sure…that innocence teaches and that we can learn from anyone or any situation, but that is another post.

A more contemporary way to think of “The Fool” is like a court jester…or a stand up comedian.

Think of some of the most popular comedians….on the level of a Robin Williams, Dennis Leary, or Whoopie Goldberg…people whose comedy is art, and have something large to say.

THAT is the feeling of this card.

The point of balance in question is one of work and play, humor vs seriousness.

I often associate a cliche or old proverb with the major arcana cards…for this one “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy” also “Laughter is the best medicine”

If the Fool comes to you, think where things are too serious…or you aren’t taking them seriously enough.

Where do you need to put effort, but equally important, where do you need to lighten up and feed your soul as well as mind and body. Stress is a killer. Laughter heals. There is a certain wisdom to the ‘work hard, play hard’ paradigm that Americans seem to love. By the same token, the “hard” needs to be off set at times with “chill”. Sometimes we need to work, but maybe not so hard, and play, but not so gung-ho.

I love the lessons we can find in kids cartoons. Here the best example I can think of is the Disney cartoon “Phineas and Ferb” (love it…would watch it even without kids around)…they put out effort, but love it, go with the flow of it utterly…and accomplish the impossible in a summer afternoon.

Yeah, its just a cartoon…pure fantasy. But so are a lot of the things we learn from and revere. Why not learn from a cartoon? To dismiss what you see there, is to dismiss the lesson of the Fool card. It’d be foolish.

May you find balance in work and play, effort and relaxation, humor and gravity.