Taking the Leap

How does the Tarot teach us to take a leap? Whether it is into a new year, a new life, a new job, life is full of change, and Tarot holds the keys to make the most of that change. It is the Fool who shows us how to take this leap, and in this article I’d like to share with you different Fools and their ways of leaping, so you can choose the leap most appropriate for your life – this New Year, adopt a Fool and take his journey into 2012.

All of these Fools have been following me in my own research for the forthcoming Tarosophy Tarot Deck; the Tarot of Everlasting Day™. I have been working through a large library of Tarot encyclopaedias, academic treatises and online repositories of Tarot images to inform Marcus Katz and Janine Hall in the tradition of Tarot. I’ve been lucky to see lots of private collections and archives, with decks too numerous to name, and I’m now attempting to make sense of all that the Fool encounters on his journey.

Flornoy Fool

Flornoy Fool

In the earliest depictions of the Fool, in the Marseilles decks of Jean Noblet, Jean Dodal, and Nicolas Conver, there really is no cliff – the Fool is a vagabond simply trying to get down the road, whilst a dog nips at his buttocks. In fact, in the Noblet version, we get a hint of more of the Fool’s, er, “equipment”, and that is fairly wince-inducing.
This situation for our hapless life, full of trials and setbacks – or perhaps they are “opportunities not problems” – is seen even more in exaggeration in ‘Le Fol’ from Le Taro Sacerdotal, 1951. I found this one in The Encyclopaedia of Tarot Vol. I, (Stuart. R. Kaplan, p. 218).

Here the card depicts the trial and tribulation of the Fool as he journeys onwards. We see that a crocodile has munched off his leg and is holding the severed limb in his jaws. The Fool appears very blithe about this trauma, and we see him stride on as if all is well and he has not a care in the world. One interesting aspect of this hand-drawn deck is that the fonts used in the verses on each card reflects the nature of the card, rather than being standardised across all the cards. It is these design choices that I am researching most thoroughly – the decisions made when creating a deck.

In the meantime, spare a thought for the single-legged Fool, although I get the idea that Crocodile will follow him, bearing his leg, for when he might need it. It may even be that the creature is bringing the Fool his leg back, for the Fool has not yet realised he is incomplete.

The Fool also has to encounter all the other cards before he makes his leap into the void. In ‘The Devil’, in The Painted Caravan, (Basil Ivan Rakoczi, The Hague: L.J.C Boucher, 1954) we see a rather strange encounter. In this unusual and rare book depicting the nature of Tarot as a “gypsy” device, there are very garish and striking Tarot images throughout the text. It was the Devil card which attracted me here, as he is depicted as getting rather up close and personal to the hapless Fool, who appears on the card and gives the impression of being reconciled to being a mere plaything.

Painted Caravan Devil and Fool

Some other decks do tend to go for the Fool as a puppet, with strings held by a divine hand – perhaps this is our first question, and the eternal quest of the Fool – what is freedom?

The text barely touches on this relationship of the Fool and the Devil, however goes on to speak in guarded tones about the mysteries of the Templars, the gypsies, the witches Sabbath and Freudian concepts of neuroses. Heady stuff! I do feel for the Fool though, on his journey he has had his leg chewed off and now is supping with the Devil.

On the other hand, it reminds me of the scene in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Gilliam, 2009), where the Fool leaps off the cliff and is caught by a fishing hook, as the Devil himself is fishing just underneath the cliff edge. As the fishing hook is a literal meaning of the Hebrew letter/word Tzaddi, and is a symbol of faith, who knows what mysteries are described by the Fool and the Devil dynamic …

So, how do you approach the edge of anything – a change in your life, a threshold, an initiation? The Fool tells us all the ways we have of making that leap into the new life.

We can ascend and master the void, as a Shaman, or we can simply give in, as in the macabre and terrifying Giger “Necronomicon” Fool, or perhaps it is best just to take the leap!

Whatever Foolishness you choose to adopt into the New Year, I wish you all the brightest blessings of a full deck, in which every moment is a new card.


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