The Fool's Journey

The New Year and The Fool’s Journey

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.

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Storytelling with the Tarot

Thoth EmpressOn Wednesday, May 25th, to celebrate World Tarot Day, I led a workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at a natural food store in Erin called Treehaven.  The small turnout caused a ‘rethink’ of the structure of this workshop. So, three Tarot peeps… me, a woman who had been part of our bi-monthly Tarot study group and another who I had met through the Guelph Occult Meetup group proceeded to spend 2 hours just talking Tarot. I must say, despite my initial disappointment at the turn out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We began by simply talking, about our favourite decks, cards we see often in our Tarot work, our past experience with the Tarot and how we work with it. The three of us asked each other questions. We moved to an unstructured comparative look at cards from different decks, looking at the differing symbols and meanings in front of us.

We then moved to a storytelling activity. I can’t give direct credit as to where I got the idea from but I won’t claim it as my own. I know Rachel Pollack does a significant amount of story-based work in the Tarot. Maybe I read it in one of her works. I was also inspired by the teacher-librarian at my school who had shared a storytelling deck with me that she was using in one of our classrooms.  Regardless, I’m sure it’s an adaptation of someone else’s idea.

To prepare for this workshop, I had previously divided the decks I brought into 3 sections: the pips, the courts and the majors.  I suggested we use these 3 piles to tell a story. We selected the Thoth deck and randomly drew our cast of characters from the courts, our theme from the majors and began developing a plot with the pips. It was a great process. At first, we laughed a little at a suggestion that the story might become risqué. We then began the process. The deck shared our sense of humour and offered up the Empress, home of abundance, fertility, and sensuality,  as our theme.

Thoth Queen of CupsWe continued the exercise by drawing the Queen of Cups as our protagonist (a supportive, but at times overemotional and menopausal mother), the Queen of Swords as a secondary character (her sharp-tongued adult daughter – although, upon reflection, maybe her equally sharp-tongued neighbour would have better suited the Queen but, for our purposes, the daughter worked fine) and then began constructing our story. Our starting plot points were the 6 of disks (success) and the 2 of swords (peace).  I believe, had our time not expired, we would have created quite the story; we appeared to be in fine form 🙂

Try the activity. Divide your deck into three sections (pips, courts, majors). Shuffle them well. Begin by drawing a card from each. Remember that your major card will remain the overarching theme of your story. Draw just one. You drew ‘The Fool’? Your story could develop into an adventure story. ‘The Chariot’? A fast-paced story a la ‘Fast and the Furious’.  ‘The Moon’? Could be a little twisted and scary, don’t you think?

You might find that, once you’ve drawn your characters, beginning your story with ‘Once upon a time, there was a …’ and then proceed to describe the character using your knowledge of the Tarot or the image presented on the card. Then make them go somewhere or do something by drawing cards from the pips.  The 6 of swords might take them on a journey over water, the ace of wands might be the sign of a new song idea or the 5 of pentacles might indicate a struggle to make ends meet.

The three of us decided that at some point, we would take this concept further. If you decide to as well, please feel free to post about here.