The origin of the Tarot is lost in the mists of time. They have been linked to the Hebrew Qubalah, there being twenty two letters in the Hebrew alphabet to correspond with the twenty two trump cards of the Major Arcana. It is also believed that a system of communication was based on this after the fall of Alexandria. Some believe the Tarot were invented by the Egyptians, others by the Chinese, and others still believe that the gypsies hold the first set of Tarot cards and they alone hold its secrets.
Whatever their origin, wherever they came from, Tarot cards are perhaps the most popular form of divination. It could have something to do with the air of mystery surrounding them, or it might just be the phenomenal success rate they have.
There are seventy-eight cards in a deck of Tarot cards, consisting of twenty-two Major Arcana cards and fifty-six cards in the Minor Arcana. The Minor Arcana, being divided into four suits of fourteen cards each, most closely resemble a regular deck of playing cards. The Major Arcana, however, predates the Minor, and is sometimes believed to be the true Tarot. This series will describe the Major Arcana only.
We begin with The Fool. The Fool is one of the most controversial cards in the Tarot deck. Traditionally, the Major Arcana in the Tarot are numbered with Roman numerals. The Fool, however, is numbered with the zero, the only card with Arabic numerals. Without the zero our system of mathematics cannot work. Once the Arabic system included the zero (sometime between 400 and 600 AD), the sciences of algebra and geometry were invented and put into practical application - measuring, trading, and building all experienced a rapid advancement.
The origin of The Fool is somewhat of a mystery. Some translations of the card believe it should be more properly labeled "The Idiot", while other research shows its origin to be that of "The Troubadour," an entertainer traveling to play at the court of a king in a far off land.
The Fool is normally depicted walking or dancing along the edge of an abyss, seemingly unaware of his danger, with the sun high in the sky behind him. On his shoulder rests a stick, from which hangs a bag that holds the tools of life. In his hand he carries a white rose, denoting his pure intentions. Often he is accompanied by an animal companion who is jumping beside him, but is this companion warning him away from the edge, or attempting to push him over?
The Fool represents new beginnings, new experiences and new choices. But as with anything new there's always an element of risk, which is why the Fool is shown not paying attention to where he is walking. He is the spirit in search of experience.
He is neither a positive nor a negative card, but holds the potential for both. He doesn't care what others may think or say about him because he has total faith in himself, he does what's right for him. Because of this, his approach to life is unconventional and he has the innocence of a child. With this innocence comes trust, fearlessness, and the ability to see the world with new eyes.
In a Tarot spread, The Fool is at its most powerful when it appears in the present position. You can literally move mountains with your will alone at this moment in time. The Fool is both the beginning and the end. The message being given you is the old catch phrase, carpe diem (seize the day).