The Fool in the Tarot: Upright & Reversed Meanings

Shelby Bundy

Listen to article
Audio is generated by DropInBlog's AI and may have slight pronunciation nuances. Learn more

** Quick disclaimer: Tarot is a spiritual art form and not a science. While the cards were created with intended meanings, each reader will interpret and develop their own feeling or vibe of the cards. While it is great to learn the common interpretations, never feel tied down to a meaning that does not resonate with you. Your deck and your intuition are what is guiding your readings, and that is the only truth in the Tarot. As you work with the Tarot, always be open to impressions and feelings that jump out with each card; regardless if they are widely accepted or not. The Tarot originated in the 15th century. This means that many of the concepts and situations we are presented with today were not even in the realm of reality during that time.

Below are interpretations that I tend to see often during my readings. Bear in mind the true meaning will always depend on the question, the spread and the placement of the card within that spread.

Card zero in traditional tarot is always The Fool. The typical depiction is a person and an animal companion joyfully walking toward the edge of a cliff. The person is carrying all of their earthly belongings with them and is off to start a new adventure. It’s beautiful and exciting, fresh and new. The Fool is so engrossed in their new idea, venture or exploration that they are not closely watching their steps. They are not aware that if they don’t watch their steps, they are about to walk off the edge of a mountain.

In Tarot, The Fool is always the beginning of something new. It’s stage one of the life events that unfold in the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana is a cycle and is not linear. We are The Fool multiple times in our lifetime, and we are The World an equal amount of times. We work through each card, 0-22, along the way.

When The Fool appears in a reading, it is a warning to look before you leap. It does not mean to stop your walk or to turn around; but to take a beat and look ahead down your path. Do you see all the obstacles? Are you aware of the potential cliff? Plainly, have you done your homework and prepared properly? Be excited, venture out into the unknown; but do it wisely.

The Fool energy is stifled and turned on its head. In most readings I read this as a “not quite ready.” Upright, The Fool comes with warnings but is an encouraging card that is a green light to go forth and explore. Reversed, the brakes are on and there is still work to be done. Possibly you are not completely ready and that’s ok. You have the idea but something is holding you back. What is holding you back will usually be determined by the cards surrounding The Fool in the spread. It could be self inflicted insecurities or it could be circumstances out of your control. The Fool Reversed is an invitation to dig deeper into “why” this new venture/idea/life event is not moving forward. Is it time to take the next step or abandon ship? Is this a message that you need to re-evaluate and go back to the drawing board; or is it screaming to get moving already? These are the questions The Fool Reversed asks us.

The Fool Card Renaissance TarotFool Card Harmonious TarotThe Fool Card Modern Witch Tarot

The above three Fool cards come from three of my favorite decks to work with. Left to right: The Renaissance Tarot, Harmonious Tarot & Modern Witch Tarot.

In The Renaissance Tarot we do not see the cliff as we do in the other two. We do see in the distance, a home and village that he is walking away from. He is leaving the comfort of all he knows and is going out into the world on his own. I love this deck as it’s art is depictions of mythology and classical gods & demi-gods.

In the Harmonious Tarot we see a feminine figure who appears to be dancing up to the edge of the cliff. This gives the impression of a joyful, youthful figure that is happily unaware. The moon is a waxing crescent, showing things are "growing" and becoming larger & brighter. I love this deck for its ethereal yet detailed art that feels timeless.

In the Modern Witch Tarot we see a more relatable approach to The Fool in a young girl. She is holding her cell phone while listening to music or possibly a podcast; so engrossed she does not see the cliff. I love the dog in this one as it’s almost like he is trying to warn her. I appreciate this deck for its bold and easily readable art as well as it’s inclusivity and feministic approach to the depictions.

Regardless of the deck you use, The Fool remains the same. You are at the beginning of something new and exciting. The 2nd card in the Tarot, The Magician, will show you the way.

« Back to Blog