The Fool or sacred clown is the energy that begins the tarot deck. His card is zero, a perfect oval, which can also be read as the seed or egg from which every ensuing card springs. The Fool depicts a jester-like figure. In the Rider-Waite deck, he trips along the edge of a cliff, accompanied by a little white dog at his heel. In one hand is a white rose; over his shoulder all of his belongings are carried in a bindle tied to his staff. The white rose symbolizes innocence; purity arising from the mulched compost of loss. His costume and demeanor evokes humor and flamboyance. The staff, which is the magician’s wand is disguise, represents his spirit of jest. And the baggage—which one can read as emotional baggage—is the source material he uses to keep himself safe. Although it seems as though he is balancing on the edge of danger, this clown has everything he needs to amuse the king.
It might seem like the Fool is only making fun with his juggling act, but in fact these entertainments are gestures of bravery and devotion. The dog at his foot symbolizes the divine message he is bringing from the spiritual world. When we are tempted to fall into the void of fear, anxiety, terror, and sadness, the Fool arrives at the edge of the cliff. He is the seed that springs into nothingness, the one who pulls us back from the verge of death with a laugh.
The truth is there is nothing to fear in the void’s nothingness. The void represents the cleanliness of forgetting. It is a pulsating womb—the beginning.
I imagine this womb like a dance floor at a really good party. There’s the pulse of the music and as we are dancing we are all a part of a collective body. We sway in time. When I feel the Fool, I am dancing with one hand on my soft belly. It is warm in the club, but I’m barely sweating because a cool spring rain is washing the pavement outside. I am dancing with my jacket tied around my waist and my t-shirt soft against my skin. Everyone is chanting but I don’t know the words to the song. I let it rock me, this egg of a feeling. If you asked me what I was growing, I wouldn’t know how to describe the embryo of a tree. For now, my joy is a tender seed.
This is the closest feeling to womb I can imagine. The lights over the dance floor move over my arms in waves. I am feeling myself and thinking of love and how nobody will ever know how much I feel for them. And how this is ok.
There are two possible formations this feeling of loving can manifest. If it is not tended to carefully, like a guiding light at the center of your lantern to nourish and feed, the love can morph into abstract pain and sadness, a sorrow without meaning.
The word for this feeling of grief is senselessness. It crops up in quiet moments you have to yourself. One evening you’ll be taking the dog out to walk after you get home. Maybe it’s the first day after a thaw, you’re not wearing a coat or gloves. You can feel the cool air on your hands as you think of the last thing your father said to you, a word that hurt a soft part of your heart. And suddenly you’re crying from the deepest wells of your sorrow. There is no thought behind this feeling. There is nothing deeper than this loss.
It’s good to cry, in a moment like this one. Your tears fall like a March rain opening up the earth. Your water drowns the seeds gone sour in healing droplets that dampen your clothes.
Everyone feels lost and loss sometimes. The Fool is in this experience of physical or emotional disorientation, too. Sometimes, lost is simply a feeling or a thought. You think you are lost but you don’t feel it, or you feel lost but you find that your car is right where you emerge from the depths of the forest. It is possible to become so far lost that you will never know how lost you actually were, and there are some times when you are the only one in the troop who knows that you are all lost at all.
It is possible to experience a loss but not feel it, and it is possible to sink so far down in the depths of your loss that you actually lose the light. No matter the outcome of each of these experiences, it is exactly what you need at the time. Even if you get so lost it kills you, believe that just like a long-eared rabbit bursting out of its burrow in spring, you will come back.
When you are lost, do you respond in terror or do you run toward the unknown with a childlike enthusiasm? Do you see the uncontrollable forest as something to be avoided, or as a vast wilderness opening its arms for you to return in sacred embrace?
Like sadness, there is laughter without meaning, too. The word for this feeling is also senselessness. Let’s go back to the evening you’re taking the dog out after work. He’s a toy poodle, he recently went to the groomers and you’re watching him prance across the street with long, feathered ankles, so proud he could be a Clydesdale horse if he wasn’t so small. You are watching him dance like a wild, dainty wolf-prince and suddenly you’re laughing -- not a clever laugh, there’s no word play, this isn’t some joke at a party you have to get. There’s only a sound bubbling up out of you, bursting out into the silent street like a chime.
Both sadness and joy have the same origin: the void at the edge of being. There is a place for each of them in the cosmos. Grief is felt after witnessing decreation; the loss of structure as it is torn down. The laugh is the seed that follows this disaster, that plants itself in the dark to grow into light again. Life persists even when confined in senseless places of ruthless terror: it endures despite borders and prisons, police barricades, blood and the threats of the state. As the Fool dances along the edge of the void waggling, he reminds us that in our hearts we are all children, a series of wanting mouths deserving of joy to keep us fed.
This is what it’s like when I am dancing in the center, pushing my arms out, making an opening for myself. In truth the void moves like jelly; it’s the middle of an egg or a dumpling you can eat. So scoop the center out with your tongue and laugh too loudly in the restaurant, slurp and giggle like butter melting on your tongue. Some things hurt because they are simply sparks releasing into sweetness.
The Fool reminds you that can forget everything that hurt you. Your pain lives in the past, which is imagined. In the present you can keep yourself fed by the hand of the king if you can make your pain a joke. Let yourself spring from one ending into the next moment flooded with joy. This is the point after loss from which everything is about to begin again.— by C. Luce Christensen
C. Luce Christensen is an Aquarius, writer, and professional Tarot card reader.
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Image from The Linestrider Tarot deck, by artist Siolo Thompson
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