Long before Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, there was a much more humble path for an individual to embark on: The Fool’s Journey. The name might sound derogatory, but it is plain and honest, for don’t we all begin life without the necessary knowledge and experience it takes to succeed? The Fool’s Journey unfolds over the course of the tarot deck’s major arcana, beginning with The Fool (card “0”) and following them as they grow and change. Ultimately, they end at The World, and so, their place in it. Witches have long used the tarot to peer into the future, but they can also harness the power of this story to create a personal future of their design. Through working with the archetypes of the major arcana (the thoughtforms that have grown around them) in a similar fashion as The Fool, they can do more than simply glimpse, they can act.
Over the course of the coming year we’ll work with the major arcana in a quest for self-development and deeper understanding of the tarot, following the Fool along their journey even as we undertake our own. Remember not to be distracted by shiny baubles: this journey is about you, not about things you want to acquire or places you want to go. Rather than striving for things outside of yourself as an end goal, think about the person you are now, the person you want to become, and the steps you’ll take to become the sort of person who naturally has those things or goes to those places.
We begin at the beginning, with The Fool. The Fool is full of potential, naivety, and innocence about the challenges they’ll face. Were it not for The Guide (often depicted as a dog, mankind’s best friend) looking out for them, The Fool would surely meet their end rather quickly. In fact, most depictions of The Fool have them moments away from doing just that! The great peril of the Fool arises from a lack of self awareness, first and foremost. Luckily, most dangers can be avoided with a bit of thought and planning.
The temple of Apollo at Delphi urged you to “know thyself”, and it is this maxim that all Fools should take to heart. How else can you make plans and plot a course for study unless you first know where you are beginning and what is available? Let every Fool, then, begin the new year with these four tools:
- A self-assessment
- A mythic self
- A road map
- A journal
Let’s break down the use of each of these tools and get started.
- A Self-Assessment
The first part can be quite daunting. In order to progress, you first have to fully understand the point from which you’re starting. It’s time to sit down and get honest with yourself about all of your flaws, all of your skills, and where you’re at in life. Don’t feel like you have to show anyone else what you write, but do hold on to it. You’re going to want to look back later to see how much progress you’re making, especially during difficult times when you wonder if you’re achieving anything at all.
- A Mythic Self
Inside your head, you already have an idealized version of the person you want to be, but it’s probably nebulous and poorly defined. Now’s the time to really lay out the kind of person you want to be. What skills does this mythic self possess? What’s their “origin story”? What daily habits do they keep? When you stop to consider all of these things and break down the minutiae of this new persona, you’re ready to proceed to the next step.
- A Road Map
Simply deciding to be different seldom leads to actual change. Instead, it’s better to break your ideal self down into chunks, then further break those down into the steps you’ll need to take to achieve each goal. Break down each portion of this persona into the smallest step you can think of, take some time to reflect, then come back and try to break them down still further. For example, perhaps your ideal self knows several languages. This goal is admirable but will take a considerable amount of time, not just to choose the languages, but also to choose the methods for learning, how soon you wish to achieve this goal, how long each day you must practice, even methods for learning retention.
- A Journal
The importance of a journal cannot be overstated. Just as a roadmap shows you the path ahead, a journal is like a rearview mirror that allows you to see how far you’ve come. Inevitably, you will come to a “dark night of the soul” when you become convinced you’re not advancing at all and that you should just give up before you waste more of your time. At these moments, it is vital that you turn to your journal and take note of your progress. Your journal will also give you a good sense of what is and isn’t working, or what is taking longer than you supposed it would and whether the original deadline you may have set for a goal is reasonable or not.
Armed with these tools, we Fools are less likely to stumble off the edge of a precipse before we’ve truly begun. Even still, there is great need for a Guide. Just as The Fool has a trusted dog for their companion, so, too, do we have a need for someone to walk alongside us. As many witches and Pagans will tell you, once of the best methods of reaching out to spirits is to build a small shrine to them and make regular offerings. In this case we are not making an offering to The Fool themself (we are The Fool and The Fool is us), we are reaching out to The Guide. The goal here is to make regular offerings and petitions for a Guide of your own to aid you on your path to change.
Shrine to The Guide
Print the image at the top of this article to place on your shrine, or use a Fool card from a tarot deck that speaks to you. Lay out either a plain white or colorfully patterned cloth, something that evokes a sense of innocence, childhood, or whimsy. Make offerings of oranges, ginger, or handpicked flowers, sweet treats and small items or images representative of the person you hope to grow to become. You are driving home the fact that, like a child, you are beginning to make yourself as a person, and, like a child, you have need of supervision and guidance.
Each day as you make offerings and petition your Guide, play music in the background that you might describe as the “soundtrack” for this new person you’re becoming, or read passages from books which you feel are evocative of your mythic self.
Above all, be sure you place the shrine somewhere you will have regular access to. You’ll be making use of this shrine throughout the entirety of your Fool’s Journey. If space is at a premium in your home or you cannot practice openly, place it in a small, repurposed Altoid tin you keep in your pocket. Let this shrine be a sacred space and a talisman both.
[Written by Ashley Nicole Hunter.]