IT'S IN THE FEATURED CARDS

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According to one popular postulate, the tarot symbolism was a remnant of the mystical societies in the City of Fez, Morocco, the cultural center of North Africa. After the city fell, the symbolism fell into the hands of the Romany, also known as gypsies, and was misunderstood and so the knowledge was lost until it was deciphered many centuries later. So goes the tale...

Roland Berrill (of MENSA fame) created his Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot "to end the speculation and to restore Tarot to historical accuracy". One thing wrong with his contention: the images, while well-done, illustrations are by Michael Hobnell, are straight out of Rider-Waite-Smith, with the fillip of the Moroccan marketplace added for that touch of "historical accuracy". He opted not to title, nor number, the cards: in keeping, so goes the theory, with the ancient cards. He presents several theories about the origins of the word 'tarot', a couple of them dealing with a Hebrew extrapolation of word-meanings filtered through French to create the world out of numbers... ...another bit of (mis) information Berrill misconstrued, Tarot is known as 'tarot' in Morocco, both the game of chance and the diviner's deck. Mamluk is played with either 52 or 44 cards. So much for a 160 IQ!

Theories about the origins of tarot abound: Albigensian theory, the Egyptian theory (of which I was recently told, "... the word "Tarot" is derived from a pure Egyptian word, "Tar" meaning path and "Ro" meaning royal. Therefore, the two words together mean, "The Royal Path of Life."), the Moroccan theory (AKA the gypsy theory): the genealogy of Jesus theory: Cynthia Giles' links Tarot to quantum physics, etc., etc. Every "expert" has another facet to show you. Frequently they either contradict or strangulate the other "experts." Once we have chosen a theory we then are bound to defend that theory.

With the coming of a New Year I posy we take a look at the Fool. With that thought fixed, now what deck...I thumbed through a few decks sitting on my desk and was not "satisfied" with any of the images presented: too busy, too RWS, too Golden Dawn (!). So I turned to the Visconti Tarots, an art deck of glorious proportions! AA Atanassov has refurbished and/or recreated the fifteenth century Visconti-Sforza cards with flair and finesse. As some of you know this is my all-time personal favorite deck and the only one for which I have a pristine copy 'put away'.

There are no surviving interpretations of this deck from Mediaeval Italy and the accompanying LWB, while informative, is couched in twenty-first century Jungian archetypal quintessence. Thus disregarding my own advise about first looking to the LWB to understand what the creator intended I will jump right in with my interpretation of the card following a brief description.

Card 0, IL MATTO, THE FOOL, DER NARR, LE FOU, EL LOCO

As are all the trumps, aside from The Tower and The Devil, the main feature is the individual represented. In this case it is a bearded youth, disheveled and raggedly dressed. His blond locks are awry and there are feathers and grain heads stuck in his curls. His tunic is tied with a bit of string and is ragged and in need of a good dusting. His codpiece is ill-fitting and drops upon his thighs. His hose are untidy and unattractively bunched about his knees. Over his right shoulder is a sturdy staff. His expression is rather forlorn or morose. The background is 90% gold foil that makes this reproduction deck (in) famous. The lower part of the card in backed by rolling hills depicted in Tuscany blues and greens.

I envision the Fool thusly: "The card of beginnings, where we encounter the ability to renew and reinvent self. The FOOL demonstrates the transpersonal aspects of whom we are, expressed outwardly. The FOOL hungers for experience and adventure. The FOOL has an insatiable lust for life, and greedily rushes to embrace every opportunity. The FOOL is a seeker of knowledge. The FOOL'S goal is to know self, then expand awareness to reach a gnosis. The FOOL begins his journey with tentative steps, but filled with the joy of discovery. Beginnings are times of fragility and vulnerability. The FOOL must pay close attention to determine where the soundest footings are; to learn discernment and to develop acumen. Within The FOOL'S bag-of-tricks are all the lessons to be learned. The FOOL radiates the confidence of youth, the determination of the ages, and courage. Courage, that indefinable 'something' that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution, and emerge with zeal and lust intact. Courage may however, be indicative of folly: will The FOOL'S folly be controlled or reckless? There is an adage that says every journey begins with a single step. Step out, now."

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