O – Aleph – Air – Ox
New Beginnings, Innocence, Faith, and Curiosity
The Fool is the first of the Major Arcana, and also some would argue the end. It corresponds to the Hebrew letter Aleph, one of the three mother letters. The letter Aleph is made up of two of the letter Yud, both separated and joined by a single Vav set diagonally. The two Yuds represent high (wet) water and low (cold) water, which in turn represent higher realms (Heaven) and lower realms (Earth). The Vav between them represents the place between the two realms, both dividing them and connecting them. This letter, then, represents the joining of higher and lower realms; the ascension of the lower and the descending of the higher. The Fool corresponds to this letter because he also represents this union of two worlds. He dwells in the lower world, and seeks to reach the higher world through gaining knowledge and experience. The Fool is on a quest; he has started a journey and is attempting to reach a higher level of understanding, thereby crossing the bridge between worlds, travelling from one Yud to the other through Vav. He seeks to become whole and complete, the union of Man and God.
The letter Aleph – and then, by extension, the card of the Fool – is also associated with the element of Air. He lives in a world of fantasy, sometimes heedless of the dangers before him on his quest (as can be seen in the Rider-Waite art, where he appears to be about to step off of a cliff, and ignores the yapping dog at his heels). He has grand dreams before him (see the flower in the Rider-Waite art) and idealized notions of what the world will be like; he starts out on his journey as being quite the actual fool, naive, easily led, and dreamy. He doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into. But, like the element of Air represents, he is a very thoughtful person, to whom reality has little concern, and who is instead concerned with fulfilling an abstract ideal, and discovering who he is himself.
Despite these airy connections, however, the letter Aleph also, in its original pictographic form represented an Ox; a very Earthy animal. So, this way, the Fool is both the beginning and the end, as the element of Earth represents new beginnings, which in turn imply old endings. The Ox is also a stubborn and strong animal; the Fool’s naivete will allow him to blissfully and stubbornly push onwards against all odds. He charts uncharted territory, and like the Ox, serves as a leader, opening the way for others to follow.
The Fool represents, in its simplest forms, new beginnings. He can represent the beginning of a journey, a quest for discovery, or of creation. The Thoth Fool better illustrates the Fool’s special connection with God, as pointed out by Aleph’s association as the Father letter, the first and most humble of the Hebrew alphabet, and the closest to God. In the Thoth art, the fool stands at the center of an outward spiraling of energy, indicating the infinite. He appears simultaneously as a man and as a divinity, from which energy emanates to fill the world. His creation is not the intentional and well-planned creation associated with the Magician, but rather creation done almost mindlessly and unintentionally, creating wondrous new beginnings without thinking much about its implications. He is innocent and has complete faith in the world; he does not even try to protect himself from it, as he cannot imagine that it will harm him. The Thoth art also shows a beast worrying at the leg of the fool, but he is so wrapped up on creating a new beginning for himself that he seems not to notice. He is surrounded by symbols of innocence, such as flowers, butterflies, and a dove, and the world forms itself only in the areas already touched by the energy emanating from him.
The Fool is also curious, willing to set out and explore everything around him on a quest for knowledge. He may appear mad to some, but he himself knows what he is doing. He is a wanderer seeking to find himself, and has the potential to become someone great, and actively seeks to realize said potential. In this way, he is divinely inspired; he is the childlike god, possessing much power and not realizing it (think Haruhi Suzumiya here). He is the Man-God, incorporating elements of realms both divine and mortal.
In the tree of life, the Fool corresponds to the path between Kether (spiritual perfection and emanation) and Chokmah (first manifestation and pure harmony). He stands on the first path of the Sefirot, fitting his position as the first trump. He comes out of the creation of Kether and immediately takes action – such as is represented by Chokmah – to learn all he can. He is a student, and represents the energy of the suits as they pass through the Sefirot, and he himself experiences the effect of every card. He also can be seen as representing the querent or the human condition.
This card, then, symbolizes journeys of all kinds, innocence, new beginnings, potential, naivete, air-headedness, curiosity, faith in fate and the world – it will take care of you and itself – and a sort of mystical madness; the sort that comes from a man unwilling to admit defeat in his quest to reach a higher plane of understanding. In a reading, this card asks you to examine the roles that folly, naivete, and curiosity play in your life, and may advise you to look for a new start in your life, go on a journey or travel somewhere, and to just close your eyes and take the plunge, trusting that you’ll be okay. Reversed, this card’s energies are blocked or twisted somehow; perhaps your journey or new beginning will have to wait a while. It is very difficult to read this card as negative; the folly that this card represents is not ignorance (that’s the realm of the Devil), but rather that of choosing to ignore the troubles of the world, which in itself is a positive thing; this card is extremely optimistic.