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The Fool: How to Read Tarot: A Journey of New Beginnings

Of all the 78 cards in a traditional tarot deck, few are as iconic and representative of the tarot’s mystical, yet adventurous essence as The Fool. Though on the surface it may seem whimsical and lighthearted, the deeper significance behind The Fool symbolism reveals why this card signifies new journeys filled with infinite possibilities.

Whether you’re just starting out learning how to read tarot and are looking for beginner card meanings and interpretations, or you’re a seasoned tarot veteran looking to reignite your love of a regular tarot practice, learning new ways of interpreting the major arcana cards is beneficial for everyone!

Tips for Tarot Reading: Understand the Symbolism:

On the classic Rider-Waite Fool card, a young man stands at the edge of a cliff, about to joyfully step out into the unknown. He seems to care little, trusting that his leap of faith will lead to brighter horizons. At his heels, a small white dog tries to get his attention—maybe to warn him of impending peril? Or maybe he just wants pets. Either way, the Fool remains blissfully unaware, following his heart without paying full attention to his surroundings and others’ opinions as he ventures forth on his own. 

Origins and Symbolism of The Fool:

The Fool is one of the oldest surviving tarot cards, with roots and symbols dating back centuries, with inspirations including: 

  • Unnumbered Early Decks - In early tarot decks, The Fool was unnumbered (or numbered as card 0), a permanent traveling companion to the other 21 numbered Major Arcana cards.

  • Jester Inspiration - The Fool character archetype was inspired by royal court jesters, who played the fool to voice wisdom others dared not share.

  • Mythical Tricksters - Fool characters exist in many cultural myths, from the clever trickster gods like Coyote, Prometheus, and Loki to the Holy Fool in Christianity.

Key symbols strengthen The Fool’s core meanings:

  • Cliffside Leap - Fools rush in, diving into life’s journey with adventurous spirit despite unknown risks ahead–Fool’s advocate taking “a leap of faith”

  • Knapsack - Carefree and unburdened by possessions, The Fool travels light. Joy comes from within, not material things.

  • White Rose - The purity of innocence. The Fool holds one as a reminder to open each moment with wonder.

  • White Dog - Loyal companions warns The Fool of possible impending danger, though he merrily continues on. Is he actually as ignorant and naive as he seems? Or is he seeing something that we can’t from our vantage point?

By embracing the open-hearted essence of The Fool, we find magic in each new day, setting out on our soul’s strange and beautiful voyage with wide-eyed wonder. Understanding tarot card symbolism is helpful even if you don’t read with the “classic” Rider-Waite-Smith decks, because then you’ll be able to identify the key symbols in other Fool cards and use them to aid your reading interpretation. 

For example, I’m currently working deeply with the Tarot of Owls, the Grateful Dead Tarot, and the Dark Goddess Tarot and in learning how to most effectively read cards from different tarot decks, I look to their symbols to help form a connection between the cards and my subconscious/intution as well as look for familiar pattern recognition. 

Three different major arcana tarot fool cards—from left, the fool from the owl tarot, the Grateful Dead tarot, and the dark goddess tarot

The Owl Tarot Fool is the most closely similar to the Rider-Waite-Smith Fool. However, instead of being about to step off a cliff, it’s about to step off of a branch. Will he fall? Or will he remember he can fly? Instead of a white dog companion, this Fool has a white mouse. If the mouse is warning the owl about falling off the branch, could it be because he can’t conceptualize being able to fly? Or is the mouse on this card the real Fool for trusting his owl friend not to eat him? I see the Fool on this card as being more about trusting your instincts, even if what you’re doing looks crazy to someone else—they’re not seeing through your eyes and haven’t lived your experience. 

The Grateful Dead Tarot Fool is named “the Storyteller” and embodies the energy of those early tarot fools heavily inspired by medieval court jesters. This Fool has a terrapin for his companion and instead of a knapsack of worldly possessions, this Fool carries a musical instrument suggested he’s going out in the world on a journey to make his own way, which adds an almost Sagittarian creative traveler element to the energy of the card. It also almost looks like he might be dropping some coins on the ground here—a result of not paying attention? Or an intentional attempt to shed materialistic greed and spread more abundance in the world? Who can say?

The Dark Goddess Tarot Fool is a representation of the goddess Sheela Na Gig and while the card itself doesn’t incorporate the traditional symbols into the art, we can find it if we study the meaning of the card’s associated goddess. The accompanying message in the guidebook for this British goddess is “Dare to come back to where you began,” which is a perfect message for a Fool card. Sheela Na Gig helps us release shame and fear of judgment and be ourselves and chase our dreams unapologetically and fearlessly. 

Tarot Tip to Try: When you get a chance, study the imagery on Fool cards from a few of your favorite different tarot decks. How do they look the same or different? How do they make you feel? Are you intuitively inclined to read all your Fool cards in the same way or in slightly different ways? 

Developing tarot card intuition happens more organically and effectively if your subconscious is able to tap into symbolic meanings (you’ll be accessing the same part of your brain you use to create and interpret dreams). 

Fool Tarot Card Meanings

So you’ve pulled the Fool in a reading for yourself or someone else…what does it mean? Let’s explore The Fool archetype a little more deeply to see how it can provide guidance:

Upright Fool Meanings:

  • New beginnings - When The Fool appears in a tarot reading, it often signals a new chapter lies ahead. With childlike optimism, now is the time for fresh starts.

  • Spontaneity - The Fool encourages embracing life’s surprises and seizing opportunities rather than meticulously planning everything out.

  • Faith - This card illustrates the power of believing in yourself and the universe’s plan for your soul’s journey. Take the leap.

  • Adventure - Life is meant for living! The Fool inspires you to say yes to adventures big and small. Curiosity and wonder lie ahead.

  • Authenticity - Live your truth. The Fool reminds you to let your authentic, quirky self shine. March to the beat of your own drum.

  • Innocence - Approach the world with eyes unclouded by judgment or preconceived notions. An innocent perspective uplifts you.

Reversed Fool Meanings:

If The Fool appears reversed in a reading, its more cautionary connotations emerge:

  • Recklessness - Is your spontaneity verging on reckless? Look before you leap. Some risks are best avoided.

  • Thoughtlessness - Fools rush in. Are you acting on a whim versus considering what’s truly wise? Pause and reflect.

  • Naivete - The reversed Fool asks you to recognize when your optimism and innocence become blindness to real dangers or consequences.

  • Distraction - When upside down, this card suggests you may be following frivolous pursuits rather than focusing on priorities requiring seriousness. Stay grounded.

Disclaimer About Reading Reversals: I don’t personally read reversals. I read the cards compared to what other cards or energies come up around them. If the Fool appears in a positive position in a spread or with a lot of positive cards around it, I tend to read its more upright meanings. If a Fool card appears in a negative position in a reading or comes up with cautionary cards around it, I might read it with its “reversed” meaning even if the card itself isn’t reversed. My best advice is to always trust your intuition :)

Upright or reversed, The Fool reminds us to balance wonder with wisdom on our journeys. Blind faith without any caution leads to peril, while constant practicality leaves life feeling dull. By riding the edge between childlike awe and mindful presence, The Fool perfectly symbolizes how to live fully.

The Fool in Other Tarot Positions/Spreads

While The Fool most overtly speaks to new beginnings in the Major Arcana, this card also carries significance in any position:

  • As Past Influences - Life events that allowed fresh starts, times you followed your heart over logic, periods when you were immersed in adventurous living.

  • As Present Energy - What new journeys, creative pursuits, or passions excite you now? What call to adventure stirs your spirit today?

  • As Advice - Step into the unknown with an open heart, live authentically, be spontaneous, approach with innocent wisdom. Make sure you’re considering all angles to the situaion/heeding any warnings that present themselves so you aren’t caught off guard later. 

  • As Outcome - Embracing change leads to happier horizons. Childlike optimism manifests wondrous opportunities. An innocent perspective uplifts.

  • As Yourself - You prioritize authenticity, curiosity, living joyfully. Faith over fear guides you, even on unknown paths, though others may sometimes view you as impulsive or naive. 

  • As Someone Else - They embrace life’s unpredictability. Their innocence and hope uplifts others. They start each day with renewed passion, but they may be also be impulsive or naive

  • In a Love Reading - In a love reading, the Fool tarot card typically has positive meanings related to new beginnings, spontaneity, and lighthearted energy:

  • New romance - The Fool can signify the start of a new relationship full of excitement, passion, and potential. This card brings a feeling of butterflies, joy, and discovery when getting to know a new partner.

  • Renewal - For an existing relationship, the Fool indicates a sense of renewal through embracing playfulness and adventure together. Trying new activities or traveling somewhere new can reinvigorate the spark.

  • Lighthearted energy - The playful, innocent Fool reminds couples not to take love too seriously. Laughter, fun flirtiness, and being present in the moment create romance.

  • Spontaneity - Boredom is banished when couples allow spontaneity and whimsy into the relationship. The Fool encourages seizing opportunities for romance on a whim.

  • Authenticity - Partners can let their true, unguarded selves shine, embracing quirks and uniqueness within the relationship.

  • Optimism - The Fool brings faith in love and an optimistic attitude toward the relationship, even during challenges.

Overall, the Fool card in a love reading indicates joy, vibrancy, and new beginnings through embracing spontaneity, authenticity, and childlike wonder in relationships.

  • In a Career Reading - In a career reading, the Fool tarot card typically signifies new beginnings, taking risks, and embracing unconventional paths:

  • Starting a new job - The Fool often shows up when beginning a new job, career, or training program full of potential. It encourages embracing the unknown with an open mind.

  • Career change - When dissatisfied in a career, the Fool can signal a need for change through pursuing a passion, even if the path is unclear. Trust your heart's desire.

  • Quitting/leaving - The Fool may validate decisions to leave an untenable job to create space for something better aligned with purpose.

  • Risk-taking - Does an exciting, but risky opportunity tempt you? The Fool says take the leap of faith and live adventurously.

  • Unconventional paths - Following your dreams may mean straying from the well-worn path. The Fool gives courage to creatively forge your own career trail.

  • Entrepreneurship - When starting a business, the Fool brings the spark of vision, passion, and daring needed to get it off the ground.

  • Learning - An eagerness for knowledge through training, mentorship, or learning new job skills may arise under the Fool's influence.

Overall, the Fool card in career readings encourages new beginnings, purposeful risk-taking, entrepreneurial spirit, and embracing the unpredictable nature of following your calling.

No matter where it falls in a spread, The Fool reminds us to greet life with an eager soul ready for the next adventure.

Fool Card Correspondences: 

Element: Air

Ruling Planet: Uranus (and therefore, the zodiac sign Aquarius)

Colors: White, Yellow, Multi/Rainbow

Symbols: A knapsack or satchel, representing the journey ahead; a white rose, symbolizing purity and divine guidance; a small dog or other animal, symbolizing loyalty, instinct, or the animalistic side of human nature

Direction: East (where the sun rises–symbolizes dawn of a new day/beginning of a new cycle)

The Fool and I:

I’ve been studying, learning about, practicing, and reading cards since 2009, when I acquired my first deck–the Spirit of the Wheel Oracle, which I followed up by getting one of those little pocket tarot kits near the checkout line at Borders. I’ve been reading professionally since 2018 and sometimes I find myself giving the same meaning for a card over and over again or “getting stuck” on a particular interpretation for awhile. The best way out of that seemed to be returning to the “basics” aka a daily tarot practice and pulling a card of the day every day again and recording what they turned out to mean in my journal like I did when I was first learning. I also want to “adopt” a different card each week to really sit in and experience its energy to revitalize my tarot practice that way. 

This Fool article is the beginning of that journey—so if this article resonated with you, feel free to give it a like and share your favorite Fool card meaning in the comments! I look forward to checking back in with any new Fool meanings that emerge for me this week!



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