The Fool’s Journey Begins; Aquarius and Imbolc
If you have studied Tarot you have likely heard of “The Fool’s Journey” – a conceptual and metaphorical journey of The Fool – card 0 – through the other 21 Major Arcana Cards. The Fool departs on his journey, innocent and hopeful and naïve; and encounters each of the Major Arcana cards where he learns an important life lesson and then continues on his journey.
As I reflect on this Fool’s Journey I contemplate how it is a classical and traditional way to learn about the Major Arcana – but in reality there is no set order in which the Fool might encounter each of these lessons. Tarot is like a book in which the pages are constantly rearranged and placed in a different order; this is the nature of the lessons and the readings we give with the cards.
Then I asked myself – what if we look at The Fool’s Journey in terms of The Wheel of The Year; with an astrological “Order”. This combines our Tarot learning with any Astrological study we might be doing – and helps us engage with The Wheel of The Year in yet another level of intentionality…
SO… this blog series was born! Welcome to The Fool’s Journey Through The Wheel of The Year!
This journey is cyclical – a wheel that doesn’t have a beginning or an end; but stories need beginnings, so we are going to start with Aquarius season and Imbolc.
Aquarius season is approximately from January 19 through February 19 each year.
In the Northern Hemisphere, Imbolc is the celebration of mid-winter – we are at the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Astrologically, Aquarius is the middle of the Winter Quadrant (Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces) and Imbolc is celebrated at the Middle of Aquarius Season – when the sun is at 15° Aquarius. With our modern Calendars, we celebrate this on or around February 1. (If you prefer astrological precision, you can always find out when the Sun will be at 15° Aquarius; in 2022 this falls on the night of February 3)
At this time of year, we collectively experience a feeling of starting over again – starting fresh. On New Year’s Day we set Resolutions, and for many people at Imbolc – it is a time of making wishes and setting our goals for the coming year. Spring is beginning in about 6 weeks – but any gardener knows that a successful garden begins before the seeds are even planted in the soil! There is some planning that happens; what kind of seeds do we want to get? How do we need to prepare the soil? Some plants need to be started indoors, and some need to be planted while it is still cold. But before all this comes one important thing – the decision to plant a garden or seed! The choice to try something new, or to have a goal is where we begin.
This is where we first meet The Fool – Major Arcana 0. Full of childlike exuberance, innocence, and even a bit naive – our fool has decided to try something new. Whether it is the garden that one is going to plant, or some other new adventure – the choice has been made and preparations begin. Traditionally, we see The Fool dancing joyfully along some mountain path – a knapsack of just a few of their necessities on their shoulder. The whole world lays out ahead of them waiting – which path will they choose? There is a sense of danger with the cliffside that the fool precariously walks upon; as with any journey if one is not careful things can quickly go awry. And this is the first time The Fool has walked this path – they do not know the way or what dangers lie ahead! But that does not stop our youthful and optimistic Hero – a soul who is determined to go out there and do the thing! Most cards also depict a companion animal like a small dog at the feet of the Fool – happily playing but also perhaps barking a warning for the Fool to look out and watch their step. The dog is the Fool’s instincts – which are the true guides at the beginning of any journey.
The Fool corresponds with the planet Uranus; “The Awakener”. Uranus brings change – and seeks out the path of change that will bring the greatest good to all. Uranus also serves as a planet of inspiration and enlightenment – though these things do not come easily or without cost. In the tarot, we can see the archetype of Uranus in The Fool; one who has been struck with inspiration to go on a journey to seek enlightenment. He does not know what this journey will hold, only that he must go. Much like us – at Imbolc each year. We know Spring is coming and a whole new year lies ahead of us. We don’t know what will happen, but we know that we must move forward. We usually have some inspiration and goals that we carry with us – what we hope to accomplish or learn on our journey. And Hope is another key to where this journey begins.
The Star – Major Arcana 17. The key words of this card are Hope, Inspiration, Vision, Insight, and Spiritual Enlightenment. This is The Fool’s Home – or the starting point of the journey. It begins with Hope. Without hope we do not dare dream or envision a different future or make plans for something new. From Hope we develop our dream, we breathe life into our vision, and we believe that there is something worth taking this journey for. The Fool has drunk deeply from the spring of Hope in this garden of The Star – as should we when we are making our wishes and goals for the journey ahead.
Astrologically, The Star corresponds to the Sign of Aquarius – which is ruled by Uranus in Modern Astrology. You can see why this could be considered the starting point of the Fool’s Journey. I doubt the Fool would have the same hopeful, adventurous, determined spirit if this place -The Star – were not their “home base”. The Fool even sometimes looks to be a bit drunk – which I imagine anyone would be if they had just drunk their fill from this spring of Hope and Inspiration.
However, this isn’t all that the Fool has brought on their journey. They do have some provisions packed in that sachet on their shoulder – indicating that they have somewhat thought ahead and planned for their trip. Of course, it is hard to plan for a journey when you don’t know exactly where you are going or what will happen next – but the fool has likely at least brough some food and money for the first leg of the adventure. There is obviously some faith that more provisions will be found along the way, but we can’t carry with us a whole year’s worth of food and still travel efficiently and with the carefree heart of The Fool!
Yet – something has been packed. Shoes are on, the faithful companion is by their side, and the weather looks fair. All of this indicates some practical planning – The Fool is no idiot. Traditionally, the astrological ruler of Aquarius is Saturn; planet of Responsibility, Boundaries, and Restrictions. This is why we also include The World – Major Arcana 21 at this part of the Journey. The World card key concepts are: Discipline, Structure, Accomplishments, World Travel, Journey, Isolation, and Success. As wild and carefree and unruly as The Fool might appear, they will only be successful in his journey if they heed the messages of Saturn and The World card. Discipline; one will not get far if they give up at the first struggle or hardship. There will be setbacks and it takes Discipline and Determination to keep going. Structure; sometimes it is best to break free and rebel – but sometimes you will actually make it farther if you comply with the rules or follow some kind of structure. Isolation; in some parts of your journey – you will be alone. You will meet others along the way and some of them might even help you for a time. But your dream belongs to you alone and you must sometimes be alone in your journey to achieve it.
Thus you have seen how The Fool’s Journey through the Wheel of The Year begins. As you celebrate Imbolc you can consider the lessons of The Fool, The Star, and The World cards to help you begin to plan for your own journey.