The Tao of Tarot: The Fool

By Christina Bjergo

The secret of the Fool card in tarot is his spiritual faith and the understanding that the mightiest secret that one can possess is realized by following the way of spirit.

The word tarot is derived from "tota" meaning "total" and "rota" meaning "revolving wheel." The tarot is a deck of cards that uses symbolic imagery to express universal truths. With each movement of the wheel, deeper understanding into the cycles of life and the seasons of the soul is accessible. Ultimately, the journey around the wheel takes each of us inward to the center of ourselves, to the totality of our being, the source of all healing. 

The Major Arcana are the original 22 cards of the tarot. Webster's Dictionary defines arcana as the great secret of nature which the alchemists sought. This mysterious elixir remedy is the formula for long life, well being and spiritual transcendence sought after by alchemists and spiritual seekers in almost every culture since the beginning of human culture. 

The mysterious origins of alchemy came from Egypt and China then spread through Greece, early Islam and medieval Europe. In China, the earliest practitioners appear to have been the Taoists. Less interested in transmuting metals to gold, like their western counterparts, Chinese alchemists focused primarily on inner cultivation techniques such as qigong to purify the physical body and become one with spirit. Qigong, translated as working with universal life force energy, is a means to physical vitality, emotional wellness and unity consciousness. 

Unknown to most people, alchemical wisdom set the foundation for contemporary traditional Chinese Medicine. The Asian secrets of health, longevity and spiritual illumination are likewise hidden in the symbols of the Universal Waite tarot deck. 

The Fool 

The foundations of Chinese Medicine teach that we have the potential to become immortal. The great teaching of the Chinese Taoist philosopher and alchemist Lao Tzu is equivalent to the archetypal meaning of the Fool. We each inherently have everything we need within us to live healthy, happy lives. We are already spiritually perfect. Returning to a state of innocence, through alchemical transformation, we remember who we truly are. By following the Tao we gain wisdom into the mysteries of reality, and experience a state of oneness with the transcendental.

Each of the 22 Major Arcana cards is represented by a number. Above the picture of the Fool, we see the number zero as a black circle. The Chinese character for the number zero means emptiness. Emptiness, also known as "wu" in Chinese philosophy, is the way back home to our authentic nature, the Tao. 

Cultivating emptiness is the most potent of spiritual practices. It is surrender and a letting go of the ego's control and limited vantage point. For when we can truly release attachments and fears, we create a space to receive the omnipotent power of pure consciousness. This timeless, eternal state of the absolute can then speak through our hearts and guide us. 

In Chinese Medicine theory, the heart is the heavenly abode of spirit and the center of our being. The heart as fire element is equivalent to the brilliance of the celestial sun. All the other organs and officials of the body take direction from this emperor of the body. Likewise, the purification of the heart through mindfulness leads to body-mind-spirit wellness, as all diseases are in a sense related to the heart. 

In qigong movement meditation, we quiet and empty our minds allowing the radiance of the universe, of omnipotent consciousness to channel through and harmonize our bodies and hearts. This practice of prayer in motion cleanses away limiting beliefs, dualistic thinking, emotional constraints and stored traumas believed to compromise the immune system. 

In The Records of the Historian, Confucius speaks of his visit with Lao Tzu saying, "Today I have seen Lao Tzu and I can say that I have seen the dragon." Dragons, a symbol of the Tao in Asia, possess a divine and angelic nature. Pictured in Chinese art, they coil among the clouds pursuing or surrounding the flaming pearl of spiritual illumination. A dragon or serpent in circular form creates the Ouroboros, an ancient revolving symbol of cyclical change leading to primordial unity in many cultures to inner wisdom seekers east and west. 

Dragons in China represent spiritual energy, the direction of the East and the time of dawn when the sun begins its ascent into the sky. They are further represented on Earth as the element of wood and the greenness of plants in the springtime when new growth sprouts upward towards the warmth of the sun to flourish once more. The energy of the east and the dragon is characterized by a rising upward movement of yang or masculine energy. 

We can observe this symbolism expressed in the imagery of Waite's the Fool card in a number of ways. First we find our youth is a young male (yang energy), lifting his countenance and heart upward toward the sky (upward movement is characteristic of the wood's energy). We also see the young man wears images of fruit and leaves (wood element) on his clothing to reinforce this concept. He further carries a single white rose as a symbol of transcendental energies and a wooden pole reflecting the spiral ascent of central qi in the body. That the Fool has experienced enlightened awareness of the Tao is shown with the red colored sack carried atop the wooden pole. The pole reflects the body and the red sack being filled a potent upper dan tian (red is the color associated with the elixir or cinnabar field). The gold tip at the apex of the pole also has spiritual significance. Unable to rust or tarnish gold reflects the development of the golden immortal body and liberation achieved. The red feather between the sun and youth reinforces this physical-spiritual and microcosm-macrocosm correspondence.  

All submissions remain the property of their respective authors. 

Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2010

Questions? Comments? Contact us at