The Fool’s Journey and the New Year

This blog was originally posted on January 1, 2013.

The beginning of the calendar is a time when we often start on a new path. It could be one of self-improvement, self-discovery or enlightenment. It may last a day, a week or a life-time but it is very common for people to pledge major change on January 1. It is also usually preceded by a planned night of unrestrained behaviour and planned excess. This beginning of the calendar makes me think of the Fool’s Journey.

The Fool

I found it somewhat coincidental that, just a few short days ago, while reading Alain de Botton’s “Religion for Atheists” that I came across a passage describing the festum fatuorum, or the ‘Feast of Fools’.  De Botton describes this as a medieval Church custom in which clergy acted in ways that were in opposition to their regular behaviour. Some of the behaviour he describes involved farting to hymns, speaking nonsensical sermons, attaching phallic symbols to cloaks and gambling on the altar. It allowed a letting go or cleaning of the slate. It acknowledged the playful, chaotic side of human behaviour. It made chaos and debauchery sacrosanct. (I think I’ve had a New Years’ party or two like that!) 🙂

The Fool is about beginnings but it is also about cleaning the slate. It is about jumping off the cliff and letting the journey take us where it may. When we jump, we take very little, if anything, with us. When teaching tarot classes, I often use the term tabula rasa to describe the essence of The Fool. She is associated with Uranus, and is thus the card of liberation, awakening and independence, characteristics often necessary for a successful new beginning.

And, as my Tarot focus shifts and I move into year four of ‘A Magician’s Musings’, so begins a new year and a new Tarot adventure. On a time frame that suits my schedule (very Fool-like), I am going to spend my blog posts this year exploring the Fool’s Journey. I will highlight some common knowledge around this often explored theme of the Tarot but also (hopefully) some new learning as well. I hope you choose to join me on this journey.

2021: The year of the Hierophant

The act of selecting a Year Card is a relatively simple one. Each year is numerologically represented by one card from the Major Arcana. The year card highlights collective energies and patterns for the year in question. To calculate the year card, I use a technique I first discovered in Mary Greer’s book ‘Tarot for Your Self’ but have seen it repeated several times among Tarot practitioners. The process is simple: add up the digits of any year, reduce to a number between 1 and 22 if necessary (the Fool represented by 22 in this process), and find the card that corresponds to this sum. For the upcoming year, 2 + 0 + 2 + 1 = 5. 2021 is the year of The Hierophant. As other examples, the year card for 2020 (2 + 0 + 2 + 0 = 4) is The Emperor; the year card for 2030 (2 + 0 + 3 + 0 = 5) will again be The Hierophant.

Continue reading → 2021: The year of the Hierophant

Preparing for the New Year with the Tarot… again

I always chuckle a little when I look at my blog stats and see that the post entitled “Preparing for the New Year” is amongst the most popular on my site. It is short on substance and strong on promotion! So, if it’s popularity is due to the amazing offer present, and readers are disappointed to see that it has expired, let me re-iterate that the two-hour ‘New Years’ Spread’ deal is again available and runs until January 31st, 2001. That’s a two-hour 20-card focus on 2011 for $CAD 75!  For more info, visit the ever-popular “Preparing for the New Year with the Tarot” and contact me at whitesagetarot@gmail.com to book your reading in person, via the phone or via Skype.

If you’re looking to work solo and you find working with 20 cards a little daunting , this four-card spread is an excellent way to begin planning your New Years’ resolutions. I call it the ZPD spread, for reasons that will soon become apparent. It’s simple and can be done several times, each time providing specific dialogue and insight into a particular area of new learning for the New Year.

Prepare yourself as you would for any work you do with the Tarot (or, if you’d prefer to work with someone, call or email and book a consultation session, and we can work on it together). Lay the cards from one to four so that the layout in your workspace copies the following structure:

Card Position #1           Card Position #3          Card  Position #4

Card  Position #2

Position #1 – Lesson learned from previous year 

Position #3 – New learning for the upcoming year

Position #4 – New lesson from new learning

Position #2 – Lesson left behind

 Position 1 highlights old learning. This card will help you focus on what you’ve learned in 2010 and are bringing with you into 2011. Position 2 highlights learning left behind. This could be a lesson not yet learned, a missed opportunity or a lesson that you are not yet prepared to begin. Position 3 highlights an area of new learning to watch for in the upcoming year. Position 4 highlights the potential new lesson you might derive from this new learning. Position 4 lends itself well to multiple cards, thus allowing us to explore several options for our new learning. It should also relate back to position 3, since the lesson and the learning are fundamentally linked.  If we are to review the previous year and prepare for the upcoming one, then we need to carefully examine lessons learned, lessons discarded and potential new learning and lessons. 

As a school principal as well as a Tarotist, I found myself thinking about how we learn, deconstructing and reconstructing new knowledge. I relate the use of this spread to Vygotsky’s ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (a quick ‘Google search of the term or its acronym (ZPD) will provide you with many potential resources), giving me a name for this spread.

ZPD is an educational theory first introduced over seventy years ago  by Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist.  Lately, it has seen a resurgence as educators embrace the idea that learning is as much a social construct as it is an intellectual exercise.  To paraphrase Vygotsky’s theory, there is a zone of potential learning between our cognitive ‘starting point’ and the point at which we become independent problem solvers in a particular area.  We reach the upper limit of this zone when we receive assistance and guidance from a competent ‘other’.  Again we move to the point of independence with the new skill where we can grow even further with skilled assistance.  In this case, we can use the Tarot as both coach and guide and use the ZPD spread as tool and use our own zone of proximal development while we explore the coming lessons of the New Year.

I am also reminded that at times,  as adults, the ZPD is an area where we are uncomfortable. It is a zone where we don’t like to be because we have yet to assimilate the required knowledge and skill to be self-sufficient.  It is in this zone where the phrases ‘I can’t’ and ‘I won’t’ reside. It is a zone where we would rather be saved than left to fend for ourselves. It is a zone in which we require support. And, it is the zone in which new learning takes place.

New learning is awkward. It can put us ill at ease. The ZPD spread helps us shape the landscape that we must travel to go from new learning to new understanding. This journey is crucial to the alteration of old knowledge.  In the end, the new learning leaves us better prepared for what lies ahead. What better way to get ready for the New Year. Vygotsky states that this zone is best traveled with a guide or coach. In our case, the Tarot takes on that role.

Feel free to share your experiences with the ZPD spread. I’d love to hear how you’re doing in your own zone.