The Fool

Keywords commonly associated with the Fool: New beginnings, fresh starts, innocence, freedom, originality, eccentricity, adventure, idealism, youth, enthusiasm, daring, bravery, spontaneous, initiative, invention.

“The Fool wishes to march to his own drum. Between the distractions and mad bumps he wonders how free he really is” LWB

Have you had cause to wonder how free you really are? How often during your lifetime have you sought a new beginning only to have it end in a sticky mess or feel that nothing has really changed?

After my husband’s prolonged battle with cancer and his death in 2007 I walked away from the life I had known in inner Melbourne. I rented a farm house in regional Victoria and set on a path to reinvent myself and to establish an identity quite apart from the one I had for so many years, only to discover that my primary mission had not changed.

In her book, ‘Mindful Tarot’, Lisa Freinkel Tishman describes how the Isle Jingu grand shrine in the Mie Prefecture of Japan, one of the holiest of all Japanese Shinto Temples, has for centuries been torn down and rebuilt every twenty years.

The Ise Grand Shrine is located in the heart of a sacred forest in the Mie Prefecture of Japan, is the most important Shinto shrine in the country and is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu with a separate shrine dedicated to Toyouke, the food goddess.

First built in 4 BCE, the present-day structures are based on the buildings erected in the 7th century CE. Uniquely, 16 of the 125 buildings at the sprawling complex, as well as the Uju bridge and torii gateway, are rebuilt exactly every 20 years, the last occasion being 2013. Ise Jingu is the ancestral shrine of the emperors of Japan.

Tishman also points out the our bodies are constantly regenerating and that no-one is exempt from life changing events that propel us to reinvent, or at the very least, adapt. One only has to look at the impact of the 2020 pandemic to appreciate how circumstances can change so dramatically, forcing us to review everything and set new courses for ourselves. Of course, as the lockdowns are eased many, who have yearned for the normal they have known, are quick to revert to living in the same way they did before the crisis started.

The Spitfire Sawfly is just one of the caterpillar family which completely transforms during its lifetime. The larvae vary from dark blue or black to yellow and brown depending on the species and up to 80 mm long. The body is sparsely covered with white bristly hairs and the tail, which is raised when disturbed, is yellow and can exude an odorous fluid. During the day the larvae congregate in clusters of 20 or 30 for protection and disperse at night to feed. The transformation is quite spectacular. The adult Bottlebrush Sawfly has an orange and black banded body, with a wingspan of about 2cm and males have feathery (pectinate) antennae.

Perhaps because we are in the midst of a macro Tower crisis I see this Fool as someone who is seeking to transform, to undergo a metamorphic change and dance to a new drum beat. But how free is he? How free can he ever be? Who is holding those strings? How much control does he really have?

If we place the card under the strings being pulled by God in William Blake’s ‘God Created the Universe’ our reading of this card must include some discussion of the outside forces at play. Is the Fool, like the hosts in the television series ‘West World’, trapped in some kind of loop where he repeatedly plays his drum and sets out, only to repeat what has been predestined?

In general the scene we view here is very different to the scene depicted in the Rider Waite Tarot where the Fool appears to take a spontaneous, rather fool hardy approach and is willing to launch himself over a precipice. For many this seems like utter madness so it is not surprising that in this scene, the cat, as compared to the traditional unquestioning dog, pushes the drummer away from the precipice. In this respect the cat seems to represent the thinking mind, which is more prone to be cautious.

Whoever is holding the strings is also moving the drummer away from the precipice and away from the discarded fortune cookie that has been left hanging in a tree. The piece of paper that is usually associated with a fortune cookie is nowhere to be seen so we are not provided with any clue about the cryptic prophecy that the cookie contained. Whatever, it is reasonable to suppose that having read the prophecy the drummer sets out on his new path into the Land of Sweet Twilight.

Meanwhile the Sun, which has the appearance of a crab, could be an astrological signature. Perhaps our drummer is a Cancer, in which case he has been influenced by yet another external force, discarding his innocent self (the clown toy that lies nearby).


  • What do we learn from this Fool? Is it possible to cast off the shackles of the preordained?
  • Will dwelling in the world of Sweet Twilight change him?
  • What impossible dreams does this Fool encourage us to realise?
  • If you could really dance to your own drum what would you choose to do?
  • If you could put a prophecy in a fortune cookie for yourself what would it say?
  • Who is your puppeteer? Have you broken free? Can you ever really break free?