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The Fool as The Sacred Clown

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

The Fool harbors an entropic energy which is necessary for manifestation in the physical world. When the Fool meets the Magician, this energy (which is the essence of the key word associated with The Fool, potential) is utilized through the four suits or tools within the Fool’s knapsack: Wands, Pentacles, Swords and Cups: the four elements of the Earth. Thus, The Fool exists in a quantum state, neither particle (physical) nor wave (immaterial). When this energy is channeled through any of the four elements, it begins to develop order or form: Physical manifestation.

Chaos is the mother of possibility.

Visualize yourself before three different paths. You can only choose one. All three paths, and all three journeys are possible. If you were not presented with the possible, the journey would never begin! YOU are the agent of change in this situation. YOU exercise free will to choose one of the three paths (or perhaps you prefer to disregard the paths, and wander off course into lush, mysterious forest ;)).

YOU are the agent of creation in your chosen journey.

YOU are a magician!

This concept is rife within literature, cinema and myth: “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

Only from a womb capable of gestation (The Empress, or Yin) can something enter (Yang) and perpetuate the process of creation or manifestation. Fixed structure represented by The Emperor results from birth of form which cannot be reversed except through death (the Death card). Newtonian physics, hypothetically, is a form of “science” or reality constructed from the observed and decided upon.

An analogy I like to use is creation with air dry clay. Clay exists in a state of possibility while it is being molded. Once we have decided upon the ultimate form of the sculpture, the clay dries. We can no longer alter its form except to pulverize it (The Tower), which reverts us not back through the molding process, but teleports us back to the beginning - before the chosen form existed.

The Empress and Emperor are important to touch upon because the energy of The Fool, as experienced in the incarnation of the Magician, splits into an illusory binary system of masculine and feminine. For each to truly achieve its purpose or function, both parts must work in unison - as is evident in biological procreation. Although creation is perceived to occur linearly, and it is perhaps easiest to understand the 22 major arcana in this fashion, no creative manifestation happens linearly.

This is the beauty of The Tarot as an artistic medium.

Growth and insight gained from the cards should not be reflected upon in a strictly linear manner. Although we learn the alphabet from A-Z, words are not comprised within its learned structure. Although we learn music theory through a succession of notes and chords, we do not comprise music linearly. How boring and limited our expressions would be if we created in this fashion!

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There are many symbolic interpretations and human incarnations of The Fool archetype, namely the Sacred Clown. Other terms for this in history, religion and myth are Divine Madness, trickster spirits (such as the coyote in indigenous American traditions) and crazy wisdom (specific to Buddhist traditions).

Trickster spirits, sacred clowns, street magicians, and charlatans all operate on the power of belief. These types of personas purposely attempt to break down physical and mental boundaries, defy current systems, including morality, and challenge concrete ideologies. They define their own reality.

For example, in old Christian tradition, fairies were believed to be souls trapped between Heaven and Hell. Distressed souls bound to Earth. Neither good nor bad and trapped between opposites realms, they were believed to exist “betwixt between” in a liminal state. In other traditions, they were considered elementals which assisted the growth of the natural world, thus acting as the energy necessary for biological growth. In other words, responsible for creation!

The spirit of the Fool or Sacred Clown is evident in notable figures of American culture.

At the end of Pink Flamingos, Divine eats feces (George Hansen, pg. 30, “Some ritual clowns and mystics eat feces and in so doing they invert the opposites of food and excrement.”). It is unlikely Divine was aware of the scatelogical history of ritual clowns, suggesting the intuitive embodiment of this archetype.

Alejandro Jodorowsky, a famous director, suffered an abusive upbringing (a state of chaos) and eventually became an actual clown early in life. He studied surrealism and absurdism, and ultimately included these concepts in his creative work. Influenced by Shamanism, he formulated a type of therapy called psychomagic. He once tried paying for his bus fare with a shell, subjectively altering the meaning and purpose of both the shell, and money - theatrically suggesting the meaninglessness of a monetary system.

David Bowie created an alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, with liminal characteristics: androgynous, bisexual, and alien. Sent to Earth to deliver a message of hope, Ziggy Stardust warned of an apocalyptic catastrophe. The character was fashioned after singer Vince Taylor who had a psychotic breakdown and thought himself to be a combination of an alien and a god, whom Bowie termed, a “leper messiah,” which in itself is a paradox.

Card Combination Discussion (reference to Instagram Post):

What can we learn from the The Fool and The Devil combination? Here is one possibility:

The Fool operates from a place of naivité, whereas the Devil represents a maladaptive system of unconscious guile working through external actions. The Devil warns against being a slave to temptation and desire which can manifest addictions and bad habits. By improving awareness of The Devil within (The Shadow), we can become conscious of The Fool and utilize the energy of the archetype to induce change in our lives and free ourselves from unhealthy actions that no longer serve us.

The Devil will be elaborated on when we reach the fifteenth card in the Major Arcana.


Image 1: Starman Tarot by David De Angelis

Image 2: Divine (performer)

Image 3: Ziggy Stardust




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