Today, I’m going to show you some techniques for learning how read tarot cards. We’re going to focus on the “Fools Journey”.
Many people who are new to reading tarot cards are hesitant, put off, or even offended when they first receive The Fool card. The term “fool” is associated with ignorance, oblivion, and of course, foolishness. However, those dedicated to learning tarot will soon come to understand that the Fool card is actually a sign of optimism, unexpected surprises, and a welcome new beginning.
This is because the Fool is set to embark upon a new journey. And that journey is represented by the major arcana. The 22 cards of the major arcana are often referred to as “The Fool’s Journey,” with each card being a stage of the long and winding path to spiritual fulfillment.
As card zero, the Fool represents all of us at the beginning of our spiritual paths, with a sense of wonderment and uncertainty for what’s ahead. We are all the Fool, and throughout our lives we will always have more to learn and experience.
When first learning how to read tarot cards, it’s important to remember that The Fool is a reminder to us that we are each on a divine path towards enlightenment, and will never reach a set destination of being ultimately “enlightened.” At any point on our spiritual journeys, we will be put in situations where we are beginners again. In these situations, we must surrender our need to control or know what is next, and simply trust that we are being divinely guided.
Following the Fool, each archetype of the major arcana represents a person, experience, or phase of awakening that the Fool encounters as he searches for meaning. As you learn tarot magick, it will be helpful for you to consider adopting the characteristics of the major arcana cards in order to advance your journey as the Fool.
As you learn each card of the major arcana, think of them as a chapter of your spiritual growth, which you may be asked to revisit at any time. Ask yourself why the Fool needs to experience the energy of this card. What wisdom does this chapter teach the Fool?
If you are brand new to reading tarot cards for yourself, consider applying the “Fool’s Journey” to this New Beginning’s Tarot Spread…
Knowing the meaning of each major arcana card makes each stage of the Fool’s Journey more understandable. Below is an explanation of each stage of the Fool’s Journey as it relates to the Rider-Waite tarot, the most common deck, and it’s also a good starting place when learning tarot reading.
Note: The Rider-Waite tarot largely reflects a medieval Christian mindset, and it’s a great place to start learning how to read tarot cards. While many find this progression to be quite applicable across cultures, and tarot practitioners are not inherently limited to a particular religion, those who do not resonate with this telling of the Fool’s journey may wish to choose a tarot deck that carries different meanings of the major arcana. There are endless tarot decks to choose from, some with less biblical influence.
The Fool: The Fool is in a state of wonder, ignorance, and optimism. In this card, the Fool is often depicted on the edge of a cliff. This represents the moment before we are plunged deep into the unknown world of mysticism. This is a stage in which we develop our first inkling of spiritual awareness, or the understanding that we can choose to embark on a journey towards finding our purpose. Although he may not know why he is where he is or what he will do next, he develops full faith that the universe will reveal it to him at the perfect time. Thus, his journey begins!
The Magician: The Magician is the first person the Fool meets on his journey. When learning how to read tarot cards, it’s important to understand that The Magician teaches the Fool about manifestation, and manifests each of the four suits (cups, wands, swords and pentacles) into the Fool’s sack. In this stage, the Fool learns that he has the power to use each of the four elements to his advantage, must manage his resources wisely, and that he can manifest abundance as the Magician has.
The High Priestess: The High Priestess is the next person the Fool meets on his journey. The High Priestess reveals to the Fool the power of intuition. The Fool is in awe of her secret knowledge and is confronted with her mysterious allure. In this stage, the Fool is shown the characteristics of tact and taught to trust his intuition when faced with the unknown.
The Empress: The Fool next encounters the Empress, who embodies the feminine aspects of creation. She is often depicted as pregnant in a garden or field of wheat, representing the growth of ideas and planted seeds. From her, the Fool learns compassion, creativity, patience, and the abundance that comes from nurturing one’s ideas.
The Emperor: The Fool then meets the Emperor, who takes care of the practical elements of his abundance with the Empress. Organized and efficient, his Empire runs like a well-oiled machine. The Fool learns from him the importance of efficiency, practicality, delegation, and balancing creative passion with action in the physical realms.
The Hierophant: The Hierophant is the next person to aid the Fool. He is a spiritual leader and a master of religious routine, knowledge, tradition, and history. In this stage, the Fool witnesses the power that comes with spiritual discipline and clear conviction.
The Lovers: As the Fool encounters a romantic interest, he also encounters a fork in the road in the Lovers card. Will he choose to integrate another into his path, or will he continue on his own? Aligning with another means allowing his values, routines, and goals to be influenced, and it is difficult to discern if this will be for better or worse. In this stage the Fool learns about reevaluation, consequence, integration, and values.
The Chariot: The Fool next encounters the Chariot, which is driven by the Magician who has now worked his way up to becoming a prince. The Magician’s manifestation has gained him fortune and stature in the material realms, and the horses pulling his chariot are racing rapidly toward further success. He is a welcomed reminder that success is possible, hard work pays off with determination, and that obstacles can be overcome. Here, the Fool learns dedication, commitment, confidence, and faith in his talents.
Strength: In the Strength card, the Fool encounters a woman being approached by a wild lion. As he thinks to save her, she simply places her hands on the lion’s jaw and closes it gently. The lion is tamed by her quiet power, and entranced by her calm nature. In this experience, the Fool learns that there is a time for brute force and a time to allow one’s inner strength to speak for itself. In this stage, the Fool learns that strength and confidence emanate from within.
The Hermit: Next on his journey, the Fool encounters the Hermit, dressed humbly in a worn robe. While he does not think much of the Hermit at first, the Hermit reveals immense wisdom and deeper understanding of the universe, acquired by a long period of soul-searching. Here, the Fool learns a valuable lesson in seeing each person he encounters as a teacher. He is also inspired to look deeper within himself, and finds the value of looking within to find true meaning as opposed to only seeking material wealth, public accolades, or external relationships that do not align with his core values.
The Wheel of Fortune: As he is shown by the Hermit how little he truly knows, the Fool is now re-evaluating his priorities, and once again feels that he is at the beginning of his journey. The Wheel of Fortune represents a period of time in which the Fool feels subjected to the whims of the universe and learns that while he does have free will, he does not have control as he once thought. This stage represents the cyclical nature of spiritual growth, a humbling period, and a need to surrender to change. It also represents a need to integrate this change knowing that it is for his highest good, and that the universe is working with him as opposed to against him.
Justice: Following this humbling, the Fool is now forced to see the truth of his whole being, acknowledging his potential, his ignorance, his capabilities, his faults, and his ambitions. Seeing this whole picture, he is now asked to accept the consequences of his past mistakes to move forward with clarity, balance, and accountability by facing a judge in the Justice card. While some truths may be harsh, the Fool learns what he needs to in order to move forward with realism.
The Hanged Man: In the Hanged Man, we see the Fool depicted hanging upside down, representing his changed perspective. His ability to look at things from a new angle leads him to spend time reflecting before taking his next action. In this stage the Fool integrates the lessons he learned from Justice and allows a pause in action in order to fully grasp the situation at hand.
Death: Counterintuitively, the Death card does not represent the Fool’s physical death. After the reflection he has done, the Fool is ready to shed his old habits and transform into a more realized and aware version of himself. He is able to put to death old ideas, roles, and identities which won’t serve him on the next leg of his journey. In this stage, the Fool learns about transformation, rebirth, pressure, adaptation, loss, and flexibility.
Temperance: The next stop on your journey for learning how to read tarot cards, is temperance. Following this transformation, the Fool is clear-minded about the purpose of the lessons he has learned and can continue his journey with faith in the divine support he’s receiving. Although this rebirth was difficult, enduring transformation for his highest good has renewed both his faith and his discipline in the material realms. In this card, we often see an angel (often regarded as archangel Michael) mixing two liquids together. This represents the Fool’s newfound power of blending spirituality and practicality, sacrifice with abundance, and faith during hardship. In this stage, the Fool also realizes that he can call on angelic support to help him cleanse his ego and stay committed to his new values.
The Devil: Though renewed and empowered once more, the Fool encounters the Devil next – outside influences that attempt to disempower him. This stage is a reminder that there will always be temptation for the ego, and that bad habits may cause him to regress if uncontrolled. This card often depicts a devil who has enslaved two people, but if you look closely, you will notice that their chains are loose enough to be removed at will. This symbolizes the Fool’s need to love himself over his temptations.
The Tower: In addition to the temptation of self betrayal, the Tower card brings upon the Fool a series of tragic misfortunes. In this stage, the Fool feels as though his foundations are being uprooted, and all his stability is compromised. This card depicts a giant tower, representing the Fool’s ideas of security, being struck down by lightning. The Fool suffers from spiritual desolation as he experiences loss and turmoil, and cannot see a way forward. This period, which some mystics and Catholics refer to as a “dark night of the soul” tests the Fool’s faith in every way.
The Star: As the dust of the Tower’s destruction clears, the North Star emerges, instilling within the Fool a glimmer of hope. As he looks up at the stars, he is reminded that he is connected to something greater than his perceived experiences. He enters a period of calm and serenity in which he is able to heal from the pains he has experienced. Although some hits have been taken, the Fool’s faith is fortified and he will continue his journey with acceptance that he is divinely guided. From this point on, he will always be able to find resolution in his spirituality when life is difficult.
The Moon: As he processes all he has learned and experienced, the Fool spends a period of time meditating and reflecting. This brings to the surface many of the doubts and worries he has been carrying, and he is able to process them by releasing fear. As he learns more about himself through this introspection, he becomes aware of what his intuition feels like. His psychic abilities are awakened, and he learns to let go of the fear of the unknown.
The Sun: As this card often depicts a small child on a horse, the Fool feels childlike joy and momentum once more. The Sun uplifts and re-energizes the Fool, allowing him to feel optimistic and take action towards his new ideas. With his psychic abilities, strength, and faith enhanced, he is ready to go after his manifestations with newfound determination. In this stage, the Fool experiences gratitude, happiness, playfulness, celebration, and excitement.
Judgment: In the Judgment card, Spirit asks the Fool to consider his journey thus far, as he will be tested to see if his desires are in alignment with his soul’s needs. During this phase, the Fool asks himself where he really wants to spend his energy. He is aware that he has an opportunity to defy his past circumstances and is asked by his angels to consider carefully the direction in which he wants to grow.
The World: Having taken his angel’s advice with discernment, the Fool feels a sense of co-creation with the divine. He feels a sense of alignment, and he is sure that he is on a path that is fulfilling and worthwhile. In this phase, the Fool experiences completion, wholeness, oneness, and connection to pure love. He also becomes aware of the cyclical nature of the human experience and sees the bigger picture of the divine order of things.
Overall, understanding the story of the Fool’s Journey can help us remember the lessons of the tarot and see how the meaning of each tarot card relates to our experiences as we travel along our own spiritual paths.
As you create your own path by learning how to read tarot cards, you may wish to meditate on the major arcana. Pathworking, a form of meditation in which you visualize stepping into a particular setting such as one of the major arcana and explore the world within the card. In this video, I explain the concept of pathworking, how it can aid your spiritual journey, and how it is practiced.
Pathworking is a skill that relies heavily on visualization and imagination, so if you need some help with that before attempting pathworking, you can check out my visualization hack video here…
Remember that the Fool’s Journey isn’t linear. No matter how much we learn, there is always value and new insight to be gained by revisiting a phase of our spiritual path, either through reflection on the tarot, direct experience in the physical realms, or through pathworking meditation. Regardless of one’s experiences, we are all the Fool in one way or another, and relating the major arcana to your personal experiences can help you learn how to read tarot cards and gain an enriched understanding of the meaning of the cards and how they apply to your personal journey.
I’m wishing you all the best in your spiritual endeavors. May you use tarot magick to learn more about yourself, the tarot, and the divine!
With Love and Gratitude,