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Fool Universal Waite Tarot
As part of a recent discussion in our local Tarot Circle we talked about the Fool and then he came up again in an online study group and each time I learned something new about the card. 

In Tarot Circle we offered a single word that summed up the meaning of the card for us.  My word was faith.  But today I came up with a new word.

Not that I've discarded the idea of faith altogether.  To me, that crazy idealist setting off on an obviously perilous journey has  to have faith because if he doesn't nothing in the card really makes sense.  

To me, the Fool tells a story of optimism and idealism and the courage to face the unknown. And while we can, and sometimes should, do all of things when we lack faith (or are frightened or in any way unsure) - the man poised on the edge of the cliff doesn't look like he's experiencing any kind of conflict to me.

Instead he looks open and trusting and completely unaware of the danger that may or may not lie ahead.  And this seems to be where many people tend to divide on their interpretation of the card.

I feel that the positivity of the Fool outweighs the negative.  I can see the Fool isn't paying attention but I suspect that he's going to land on his feet.  Others, as I learned in Tarot Circle, have a completely different perceptive. Where I say, just leap.  They say, watch out.

Obviously neither interpretation is wrong and the other cards in the spread (or reversals or dignities or whatever method applies) can help us decide how to read this card in a given place and time.  Still my overall association with the Fool remains positive.

I guess, on a level, I just plain like this card.  I like the sun and the yellow sky and I associate both with personal identity, making the Fool especially relevant for anyone trying to find themselves or their place in life. To me, the flowers on the Fool's tunic symbolize interpersonal or spiritual growth. And I feel that win or lose, fly or fall, there is something of meaning to be gained on the path he is about to take.

According to Benebell Wen's wonderful and very comprehensive book Holistic Tarot (which I'm studying in the online group) the idea of choice is present as well. 

While I have to admit I never really thought of the Fool as a card about choice, I do see how every step and risk and new beginning IS, of course, a choice.  And if the Fool standing on the edge of the cliff is making a choice - he's making a big one.

So now, if I'm asked for a single word to describe this card I don't say faith.  Instead I say choice and by choice I mean a big one.  The kind of choice that can transform our lives - or haunt us forever.   

And this reminded me of Clarisa Pinkola Estes and the practice of making desconsos which I think has relationship to the Fool and the choice that he does - or doesn't - make.

First begun in Latin America and now seen almost everywhere, desconsos (lit. resting places) are the small roadside shrines that mark where a fatal event occurred. Described by Estes in her transformational book Women Who Run with Wolves:
Descansos are symbols that mark a death. Right there, right on that spot, someone’s journey in life halted unexpectedly.There has been a car accident, or someone was walking along the road and died of heat exhaustion, or a fight took place there. Something happened there that altered that person’s life and the lives of other persons forever.
In the process of making descansos Dr. Estes (a Jungian psychoanalyst) encourages us to  make a timeline of their lives, then mark the paths not taken, the possibilities lost, the people we never got a chance to become. She advises us to:
Be gentle with yourself and make the descansos, the resting places for the aspects of yourself that were on their way to somewhere, but never arrived.  Descansos mark the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering.  They are transformative.  There is a lot to be said to pinning things to the ground so they don't follow us around.  There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest.
Perhaps because I have made descansos, I believe quite strongly that it is the paths we do not take that we mourn the hardest.  Mistakes are a given a life.  Risk is unavoidable.  But, to me, risk is also the key.

I feel that the Fool can speak to us on several different levels and that while one these can be a warning - the one I like best encourages us to make the leap.  Our next step may be a mistake or a revelation or roadside cross we will come back to one day and mourn.  But it is also a choice and that choice has meaning. 
The Fool or Wanderer from the Wildwood Tarot
 

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