In the Smith-Waite tarot deck, I see the Fool as a personification of: gaiety, optimism, potential and the pure joy of being alive.
But after a little too much of a good thing… well, this levity can skew into: carelessness, naivety and negligence. When one isn’t aware of their surroundings or the consequences of their actions.
If you’re trying to find and follow your true desire, you do need a little self absorption, if you’re going to listen and know yourself. So the folly of the Fool is not a one size fits all t-shirt.
Sometimes it’s easier to embrace your inner Fool by exaggerating the feeling and your expression. A fake it til your make it. But ☞ déjà vu ☞ too much exaggeration and you’ve turned yourself into a performance. Putting things on for a show. At the end of the day here, you’re only fooling yourself.
The Smith-Waite Fool sees potential in the horizon and basks in that silver lining. There is a clean, fresh simplicity to this hope and the self-belief generated from this positivity. A cynic might scoff at this simplistic optimism. But the Fool’s wide eyes are shameless and unapologetic. This bright outlook is a magnet and attracts others around him towards his vision. Onlookers wanting a piece of this sunshine.
In the Smith-Waite card, this theatricality – under bad lighting – can come off as an airhead. Depending on the role and narrative you’re playing to, an airhead could be advantageous, to shrug off other people’s baggage.
The CBD Tarot de Marseille weaves similar threads to the Smith-Waite, through it’s depiction of the Fool as a Court Jester. Although, this 18th century Le Mat (French for The Fool), appears more grounded then the 20th century Fool.
There is a sense that the body is disconnected from the head. The head looks to the horizon and the body, rather then prancing, looks to be compelled physically to set off on a journey. Neither optimistic nor pessimistic, simply obliging the unconscious impulse to follow his footsteps. Whether it be an inspired expedition, or, as Yoav Ben-Dov mentions in The Marseille Tarot Revealed, he may be walking in a circle, pivoting around his red staff.
A Pink Elephant
The pink elephant in the room is the little creature (a cat? a dog? a mythical mix?) fondling the Fool’s genitals. This might sound like some bestiality action, but I don’t see an aroused or erotic vibe in the card. Instead, the little creature just looks curious. I found scurrying after this white rabbit 🐇 was a freefall through a mixed bag of symbolism.
The creature’s curiosity as: Play
Here the Fool’s sexuality is coming from a place of amusement and light hearted interest. A neutral curiosity that may be more interested in the novelty and game of sex, then engaging an emotional investment into making babies. It’s not to say the Fool’s curiosity wont lead him to love and creating a family. But the attitude is of fun and games – an adventurer.
The Wands: Sexuality, Creativity, Spirituality
Where the head is the Swords, the heart is the Cups, and the feet are the Pentacles/Coins… the Wands are the pelvis – where this creature’s rapt attention is invested.
Symbolically, the Wands are a Venn diagram of Sexuality, Creativity and Spirituality. The creature’s curiosity in the Fool’s sex – represents our innate impulse to create. The burning desire and yearning in your spirit.
Sexuality is a symbol of creativity – in that a Fire (the Wands’ element) desires something more. To pro-create.
Of all the elements, Fire reaches upwards. An all-consuming passion that seeks to transcends. The ‘spirit’ you feed into life is your energy, your drive, your motivation. Your Spirituality is what inspires your spirit?
Your curiosity, your passion, what turns you on – all inspires your creativity.
My Self Portrait
Starting my Inktober, I didn’t have the 1970s frolicking sundress vibe of the Smith-Waite Fool. But I did feel compelled to jump on the band wagon of the Instgram inkers.
In my usual drawing-practice of graphite on black paper, I had got myself tangled in a mindset that I must only draw in this medium, for people to see, recognise and understand my art. I don’t recall the catalyst, but I recently realised that it was a load of bull. If a creative is afraid to be creative – what hope do we have?
I also realised I was judging my effectiveness as an artist to the coherency of my work. This self-judgment was not helping me grow and expand, but rather – I’d contract, reign in and restrict my work. Playing to a small and predictable tune. The antidote would be just trusting your creativity will take you somewhere creative. 😅.
I pondered what was really my core desire or motivator in creating art. I believe, it’s the sensation of being inspired. That uplifting giddiness, or that mind bending moment when the universe seems to pivot on it’s axis. It’s not really a one-thing I can describe, but it’s like an expression of realising there’s more to you and ‘this’ then what you thought. I guess it’s the realisation of potential.
Naturally this lead me to ask what other archetypes emulate and embody: Inspiration?
I had an idea that the Greco-Roman muses danced and frolicked like the Smith-Waite Fool, as personifications of inspiration, in their movements. Where the Marseille Fool isn’t particularly skipping a dainty prance – he does appear compelled to follow an insistent pull. As if a muse were beckoning him just outside the card.
For both Fools, they carry light luggage, and personally I find this is the quickest way to access the Fool’s energy. After a spring clean or a thorough culling through my possession – I feel so free and uninhibited. Of course the process of letting some things go can be challenging. In a sense, this would be an expression of the World card: letting go of what has served you and its purpose, so you can be free to explore new territory.
But baggage is not only the physical stuff.
It can be the emotional or the mental. These are self limiting beliefs, self doubts and fears. Some of this baggage might be be packed up tight, to protect you, where you might not be ready to bring some things into the light. Stepping into the Fool involves looking into your own baggage and deciding what you want to bring with you.
Walking with a light luggage, is walking (or frolicking) without anchors or excuses.
Admittedly, I had confused the 3 Graces with the idea of the Muse. There are actually 9 Muses in Greek and Roman mythology, with specific associations and areas of expertise. The focus in this drawing was a dancing-expression of inspiration.
Although I did reference my dress from a photo I’d modelled for a friend’s art project – ephemerally swimming in an inflatable kids pool, dressed in flowing pink and with dribbles of milk swirling like smoke in the water… The end drawing – really doesn’t resemble me, at all. But then, none of the following self portraits are recognisably me.
What did surprise me was an almost alchemic depiction. Her hands pulling the shadows from the left of the page, the subconscious… into the light, the right side, and consciousness. Like a dance in shadow work.
I’m still exploring what it means to embody an archetype of the Muse. I like the concept of dancing being less the mind thinking it knows, and more the body simply embodying energy. A thought train to be continued… xo