Our Fool has completed the fist part of his journey. No longer is he the same naïve young man he was when he left home. Now, he is older and wiser, gifted with the advice and counsel of the many people he has met and who helped him along on his way. He begins the next cycle with the benefit of hindsight, with wisdom far beyond anything he could have imagined when first he set out.
Our lives move in cycles. Just like the changing of the tide, the seasons, even the inhale and exhale of our breath, the beating of our hearts—we are cyclical creatures, and we crave pattern and repetition. Our minds naturally seek patterns in everything we see. A phenomenon known as pareidolia describes the ability of the human brain to detect patterns such as faces and voices from otherwise random stimuli. This phenomenon can be extended to our predilection toward cycles. We fall into rhythms of day and night, summer and winter, grow and harvest.
The cycle of the Fool can be seen as a version of the Grow/Harvest cycle. In the first part of his journey, he is growing. Each encounter with someone new sows a new seed, providing him with new ideas, new crops to tend as he goes about his life. Soon, he will enter the Harvest cycle, and he will take those things that he has learned and hopefully put them to use, as a farmer uses his yield to nourish his family.
Similarly, patterns can be seen elsewhere in the Tarot. Hundreds and thousands of pages, both physical and digital, have been devoted to these various patterns and cycles, and still new ones continue to emerge as we dive deeper and deeper into the symbolism of the cards.
One of the most popular patterns or cycles in Tarot is the journey of the Fool, commonly divided into two parts: The Magician through The Hermit, and The Wheel of Fortune through The World. The first nine Majors all represent individuals, human beings who provide the Fool with advice and companionship throughout his travels. The next half of the Major Arcana represent higher states of being, virtues and philosophy. This can be seen as representative of the Life/Death cycle, or the duality of the physical and the spiritual. Learning the lessons of the world during our physical life provides us with the wisdom we need to complete our journey once our bodies have worn out and become obsolete. Some religions call this transition Enlightenment, or Nirvana, or Everlasting Life. If we take a Buddhist point of view, the first handful of Major Arcana could be seen as bodhisattva, being who have achieved Enlightenment but who choose to delay it in order to help others achieve it as well. In this way, then, the Arcana from X The Wheel of Fortune through XXI The World could be seen as various stages the mind passes through to achieve Enlightenment once one’s physical tasks and obligations are completed.
Another Tarot pattern, popularized by Philippe Camoin in 1999, divides the Major Arcana into three horizontal rows of seven cards, with I The Magician through VII The Chariot on the lowest row, VIII Justice through XIV Temperance in the middle row, and XV The Devil through XXI The World at the top. In this way, we are presented with seven columns, to which Camoin ascribes particular significance. Each column represents a specific ascension, from the figure at the bottom to the principle, virtue, or aspect in the top row. It is an interesting interpretation and, though the website does not seem to have been updated in a very long time, I found it worth a read.
Yet another pattern found in Tarot is that of cross-sums, an application of numerology. Cross-sums are found by adding and reducing the assigned numbers of the Major Arcana. Therefore, the Magician is related to both The Wheel of Fortune and The Sun; The Hermit is related to The Moon, and so on. Some of these associations make more sense than others, in my opinion, just as some of Camoin’s teachings make more sense to me than others, which at times seem like a little bit of a stretch (pareidolia, perhaps?).
Ultimately, the progression from The Fool to The Hermit seems particularly relevant to me right now. I’ve spent the last six months or so learning a lot about Tarot, interpreting its teachings and assimilating some of its lessons into my daily life. I’ve uncovered patterns in my own behavior that I hope have helped me become a better person. I’ve used it as a tool to explore my spirituality, another journey I embarked upon around the same time as my discovery of Tarot. I know that no matter how long I study, I can never learn all there is to know about Tarot, but I am also aware that I have learned quite a bit. I have reached the end of the growing season, and am ready to begin harvesting. Soon I plan to begin offering mini-readings to my Instagram and blog followers, which will help to further develop my skills and understanding of the cards. I am both hopeful and confident that I will be able to provide some degree of enlightenment to those seeking it, and thereby develop myself. We learn best by teaching (student/teacher—another cycle), and I hope to be able to both learn and teach as I, The Fool, continue on my journey.