Fool's Journey: The Story of the Minor Arcana
by Michelle Grooms
The Fool, the unmolded potential, has gotten his tools from the Magician. Now he must explore the lessons that each of them has to teach.
With the Aces, we have the first glimpse of the potential: the first stirrings of emotion and intuition of the Cups, the first foundations of the material world with the Coins, the first wispy tendrils of ideas with the Swords, and the first spark of creativity with the Wands. The Fool recognizes that this is only potential; there is still serious work to be done to turn this potential into a reality. Making the conscious decision to begin, The Fool sets in to work. During his study and practice with the potential presented to him, he discovers the duality of the potential. Depending on the work he puts in and the choices that he makes along the way, the potential could grow into something positive or something negative; only time will tell if The Fool will learn the lessons and make the choices necessary to succeed.
The next lesson The Fool must learn is balance, which is presented to him by the Twos. Relationships, partnerships, ideas, groups; all of them must have balance in order to survive. The creative force of the Wands maintains a balance under its own direction as it sends it energy to the task assigned by The Fool. Thinking this lesson is easy; he turns his attention to the Swords. Conflicting ideas and states of mind are harder to work through, especially when neither side wants to back down. The situation is at a stalemate, and careful discussion is necessary to maintain the balance of power. Understanding the depths of emotion that can run alongside and underneath these ideas leads The Fool next to the Cups. The realm of emotions are even harder to balance; learning how to compromise, give, and take without hurting or being hurt leads him to discover his Soul Mate, the one heart that can match his own. Balancing his creativity, thoughts, the study he is undergoing, the work that he must do, and this new relationship leaves him feeling much like a juggler. This feeling leads him to the Coins, which teaches him that maintaining the balance may mean letting go of one of the balls he has in the air. After all, it is better to let one fall and keep juggling than to lose them all and have to stop.
The third lesson facing The Fool has two sides: teamwork and the spirit of community on the one hand, leadership and the control of that community on the other. With the first stirrings of community spirit, The Fool discovers the lesson of the Cups: togetherness can heighten our enjoyment of happy times and lighten the burdens of dark times. With this new feeling, The Fool begins to crave a closer connection with his family and friends. With their support on his side, he discovers that work can be both financially and emotionally fulfilling. Working toward a goal, seeing that goal come into focus, and realizing all that he has accomplished thus far leads him to the lesson of the Coins: hard work and service are rewards unto themselves. The satisfaction that The Fool feels as he sees how far he has come can never be taken away. With this knowledge, he can now face the necessary teamwork of creatively finishing a project with a team of his peers and learn the dynamics of the group with the power of the Wands. This rush of creative energy empowers The Fool and, with his ideas flowing, he takes charge of the group to give them direction so that the creative energy will not be wasted and scattered. However, in managing the group, The Fool runs face to face with the lesson of the Swords: careless, cold, merely logical words can so easily wound the hearts of those under his charge. The Fool has had to learn to temper his words with kindness, getting the ideas across without cutting emotions to the core with the sword's double-edged blade. It is a humbling lesson, but The Fool learns quickly.
After the hard lessons he has learned, things have reached a point of stasis with the fours. His creative energy exhausted for now, The Fool can take a well-deserved rest as the power of the Wands manifests in the first stage of completion in the project he has been building. The satisfaction that he feels at the progress he has made leads him to want to settle into marriage with his newly found love. The struggles and competition are over for the moment and the Swords' energy tells him that a truce has been declared. He can rest for a while before beginning the fight again. Maintaining a home with his wife, he settles quickly into a routine and, just as quickly, begins to notice that both he and his wife are becoming bored. The lesson of the Cups is all too clear; the relationship, in this routine, has lapsed into stagnation. Unsure of how to fix this problem without hurting his wife or himself, The Fool plunges himself into work. He struggles to maintain all that he has built, turning down new opportunities that seem too risky. The Fool is terrified of losing all that he has already built. The feelings of dissatisfaction at home lead him to see that nothing in his life is changing or growing at the moment; he has been so afraid of losing what he has already that he has neglected to try for something new in the hopes of expanding his business. With the lesson of the Coins, The Fool suddenly realizes that maintaining in order to keep from losing also means that he can never gain. Surprisingly enough, this lesson leads him to the same conclusion with his marriage; the relationship with his wife has to grow and change if it is to survive. With this new revelation, The Fool begins making subtle changes to this time of stasis, renewing his heart, his ideas, his courage and convictions. The Fool has a new lease on all areas of his life.
With the lesson of the fives, The Fool comes face to face with struggles, conflicts, and loss. His creative energy, fueled by the Wands, is helping him to expand his enterprises further into the world, but it is also breeding conflicts with his competitors. The struggles he is facing here, only aggravated by the inner turmoil he is feeling as his heart and mind battle one another over the correct choices for him to make, begin to take their toll on his courage. The Fool begins to second-guess himself. His competitors see this and take advantage of this opportunity to strike. The lesson of the Swords is now made; a wily, cunning opponent has taken advantage of his moment of weakness and cheated him out of a victory. As The Fool is humbled by this loss, he notices the arrogance and pride displayed by the victor and vows never to behave this way when he is on the other side of this situation. Why make a loss even worse by making the person involved feel they are worthless? It seems so cruel to him.
Unfortunately, this loss means major damage to his business as all that he has built now seems to crumble before his eyes. He feels that he has lost everything. In despair, he walks around the empty building looking at all the empty shelves that once held so many beautiful things. How will he tell his wife? He has to face her sooner or later, so The Fool returns home and explains what has happened. Feeling lost and helpless, he breaks down. His wife, in true loving fashion, teaches him the lesson of the Cups; he may have lost some of what he has built, but not all. He still has his home, his wife, his family, and he does still own the business. The Fool has been letting the pain of a loss blind him to what he still has in his life. Together, the two of them return to the empty building that once held a thriving business and begin to make plans. All is not lost; he simply has to find a new opportunity and begin again. With this revelation, The Fool learns the lesson of the Coins. After the dark period of the soul that these losses brought, he has found new hope and support. He has opened his eyes and found his way out of the mess. With renewed determination, The Fool sets in to work.
While trying to recover from this period of loss, The Fool understands that now is the time to rebalance his life again: the lesson of the sixes. He begins to think back on his past and remember all the happy times that he has experienced. He remembers the hard times as well, and all of the lessons that he has learned from each of them. He realizes that even out of struggles he has learned something that has made him stronger or made his life better. He begins to see all that he has already survived and all of the wonderful blessings that those struggles also brought along with them. This is the lesson of the Cups. Knowing what he is capable of doing and what he already endured, and realizing that the love and support of his family will always be there for him, leads him to a feeling of genuine concern for all of those people in the world who do not have the blessings or the opportunities that he has had. He senses a feeling of shame that he has forgotten to think of others, those still struggling and those who have been beaten down to the point that they have lost all hope. These feelings lead him to the lesson of the Coins: it is time to give back, to show generosity to others. After all, it was the generosity shown to him that allowed him to start his own business in the first place.
The stirring of an idea enters his mind. The power of the Swords tells him that a change of scene might be necessary to solve his problems. He decides to sell the empty building that he had originally housed his business in, a small, closed-in building in an upscale neighborhood, and reinvests this money in an old, but serviceable warehouse in the less prosperous part of town, what some people may call the slums. Where other people look at the area with distaste, The Fool sees an opportunity; one that will expand his business and help others at the same time. It is the poor and downtrodden of the world that is most in need of a new job, one that he could offer. The new warehouse, though old and rundown, is huge, its opportunities endless. The Fool and his wife make the rounds of the neighborhood, calling on the local families and describing their ideas. With the help of the villagers, The Fool now has a prospering new business that offers new jobs and help to the people who needed it the most. Being close to the docks, The Fool has expanded his business into shipping and brought even greater rewards to the business and the people it serves. With the power of the Wands, The Fool sees that this new venture has taken off on the right foot, everything is going well and he can enjoy a well-deserved victory. The pride he feels in what he has accomplished here only makes him want to try that much harder, to keep striving forever forward.
Now he comes to the lesson of the sevens: the difficulties of choices. With everything in his life going so well, The Fool has become a target of baser individuals that covet what he has. But unlike him, they don't want to work hard for it; they want to take it. The thief watches slyly and with greedy eyes as The Fool fills his warehouse to the brim in preparation for the next day's shipping, taking note of where everything is and what he will need to do to be able to take as much as possible. He carefully plans everything to the last detail. In the dark of night, the thief enters the warehouse unseen and helps himself to all that he can carry. He loads his packs, knowing that he can carry no more but looking around hungrily at all that has been left behind, and then slips away just as the moon disappears beneath the horizon.
In the morning, The Fool realizes that he has been a victim of the negative power of the Swords and someone who has chosen to use that power for ill. Taking stock of what has been taken, The Fool sees that the thief has stolen only the most expensive items; apparently he knew that he could only carry a certain amount and started from the most expensive and began working his way down until he could carry no more. What to do in this situation? The Fool's choices here are limited. He could do nothing, allowing the thief to profit by his endeavors, and try to go ahead from where he has found himself. If he goes to the authorities, he may never get his goods back. The heat of suspicion would only make the thief go into hiding and they would never find him. Or he could just not say anything to anyone about the theft and go underground himself.
This seems like a viable solution. The Fool has many contacts among the pawnbrokers and traders who deal with stolen goods. He has never judged them for how they make a living, but now he feels that it is time to use this to his advantage. Making a careful list of what has been taken, he contacts a friend who also happens to be the Captain of the Guard and tells him what he is planning to do. Deciding to only use the rarest and most expensive item to bait the thief, they begin making the rounds of the pawnbrokers and traders in the area claiming that they are looking to buy such an item if anyone can find one. In short order, a pawnbroker gets him in touch with the very thief that had robbed him of his goods. With the prospect of being able to sell a great deal of his stolen loot, the thief begins to let down his guard and starts unwittingly showing off the items that he has stolen to the very man that he had stolen them from! Using the same guile that the thief used, The Fool has gotten the bulk of his property back and the thief has been arrested. Though this trick worked this time, the Captain of the Guard warns The Fool that stunts like this are not always the best of choices. The Fool takes the warning to heart.
With his goods returned and the shipping done, The Fool's business seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Opportunities are flying at him from every quarter; some of them legitimate business opportunities while others are merely get rich quick schemes. The Fool must now face the lesson of the Cups; so many choices to pick from, but some of them are only illusions. Careful thought will be needed to determine which choices are real and could become something positive. With so many choices, The Fool begins to worry about his business. Should he try one of these new opportunities, hoping to expand what he has and get more at the risk of losing what he has already, or should he just forget them all and keep what he has as it is? This is the lesson of the Coins. Perhaps he should take some time to consider these new possibilities slowly and carefully and then decide what he wants to do.
The Fool researches his options, plans out what he wants to be the results of each one, and finally narrows his choices down to only two that seem like they might go somewhere. But still, he is afraid of losing all that he has built. What would happen to the people who work here if he loses his business? He decides to take the matter to his employees. Discussing it with them, The Fool learns the lesson of the Wands. They understand that he is afraid, but he'll never know if it will be a good thing for his business unless he has courage and gives it a try. With their support behind him, The Fool uses the fear that he feels as a warning system to move ahead cautiously, working slowly and steadily on this new opportunity. Having the courage to try, using the fear to check his enthusiasm against over-reaching, the steady work he has put in has turned an opportunity into a reality.
After so many choices, so many changes, it is again time to rebalance with the eights; this time the lesson is about self-discovery, balancing himself. The Fool first begins to notice this when his wife begins to complain that he is spending too much time and energy at work and not enough with her. She feels neglected, as though she is in a one-sided relationship that is going nowhere, and she is the only one giving anything. She is hurt by his neglect, but is begging him to change it in the hope that the relationship can be saved. Confronted with the emotional stagnation that is the lesson of the Cups, The Fool decides it is time to rediscover that part of himself and return the balance to his marriage. He owes this not only to her, but also to himself; he needs the emotional fulfillment of the relationship just as much as she does. He realizes that he has focused all of his energy on one thing and neglected everything else, and his own heart is just as damaged by this. He misses the close connection that he once had with his wife, and begins to make the changes necessary to be able to spend as much time with her as he does on his work.
These changes require him to knuckle down and become dedicated to improving his work, his relationship, and himself all at the same time. The hard work and commitment required for this is the lesson of the Coins. The Fool plans things to the last detail, restricting some areas to free up others. In such a hurry is he that he doesn't take into full consideration exactly what he is restricting and what the results of that may be in the future. This self-imposed restriction is the lesson of the Swords; The Fool has now become trapped by his own ideas and ways of thinking. In his haste it seems that everything is about to fall apart just as he is trying to fix it. He takes a deep breath, centers himself, and thinks clearly. He now sees exactly what has caused the imbalances in his life and what he needs to do to fix them. Suddenly, with the power of the Wands, it is as if he has a burst of creative energy: the lines of communication have been opened between himself and his wife, all the obstacles in his path seem to just fall away, and, so long as he thinks clearly and doesn't act rashly, the changes needed seem to be happening rapidly under their own volition. Everything suddenly falls into place.
Still amazed by the hard work required even though things seem to be going so well, The Fool begins to learn the lesson of the nines: the inner self. There are times when it seems that no matter what he tries, nothing is going the way he wants. He rearranges his plans, tries something else, and still it doesn't seem to work out the way he intended. At the brink of exhaustion The Fool finds his inner strength and stamina, the lesson of the Wands, digs deep and tries one more time. This time, the last hurdle is crossed and the end is finally in sight. But, he wonders, what if things should still fall apart? What will happen to him, his wife, his employees, and everyone that he cares about should his plans fail? His worries breed nothing but nightmares as he tries to sleep, leaving him no peace. He comes to realize that he is blowing his fears way out of proportion, only dealing with his own inner demons. This is the lesson of the Swords. The Fool understands that the worry is pointless and lets go of these fears and phantoms that haunt him in the dark of the night.
With a renewed sense of peace, his work takes on a sense of the spiritual. He has earned his wealth through hard work and the life that it has brought, not only to him but also to everyone in his care, is nothing but abundance. He can be justifiably proud of this, but instead The Fool feels humbled by it. He sees it as a gift from above, the Creator watching over him and rewarding his efforts. It is a deeply gratifying feeling, this lesson of the Coins, and it gives The Fool the sense that even though one must earn money to survive in this world one can also transfer the abundance to others and to the afterlife. The spiritual feeling also begins to trickle into his relationship with his wife. With the lesson of the Cups, The Fool sees that the work he has put into maintaining his marriage has led to an emotionally fulfilling abundance, a satisfaction on every level. The Fool wisely enjoys this feeling of security, happiness, love, and abundance, knowing that the winds may turn again.
Now The Fool comes to the lesson of the tens, cycles completed, lessons learned, and struggles ended. Through every struggle that he has encountered, his main concern has always been for someone else: his wife, his employees, his family, and friends. Now, with a sudden disaster from the sea, his entire business has been wiped out and there is no way for him to recover from the loss. The Fool has come face to face with the lesson of the Swords, the ultimate teacher. This is the final ordeal: what does he do to either recover from this or be able to move forward? At this point in his life, he is too old to begin again with a new venture. But what about his family, his employees, and their families? What will they do now? Suffering under the burden of these responsibilities, The Fool learns the lesson of the Wands. He has learned from his limitations and grown stronger over the years, learned that he had to take care of those in his charge until they could learn to take care of themselves, and learned when he had to ask for help under his own limitations when he simply wasn't able to do it on his own. Now the only thing the Wands still need to teach him is when to walk away. There is nothing more that The Fool can give, nothing more that he can do; he would only be wasting his energy if he tried. In despair, he simply locks the door and heads home.
Upon explaining the devastating news to his wife, he is presented with a solution. His wife reminds him that his son has now come of age, studied the business backwards and forwards, and is ready and willing to take over the reins. The Fool now learns the lesson of the Coins: passing on his wealth and knowledge as a legacy to the future generations to ensure their comfort and success. Gratefully and humbly, The Fool signs the business over to his son, remaining nearby during the transition to ease him into the full control of his own new venture. He proudly watches as his son takes command like a general, but with the calm words of a patient teacher and the caring hand of a protective father. He realizes that his son has also learned the burden of responsibilities over the years, and instinctively knows to care for all who work with him and for him. In a very short time, the business has recovered and again begins to grow under his son's charge, and now The Fool can retire and enjoy the simple pleasures of home and hearth. With a wife who loves him dearly, a stable marriage that has survived its share of hardships, and a happy, healthy family, The Fool feels the blessings of the divine all around him. This is the lesson of the Cups: the cycle is completed and a lasting peace and serenity rule, the eternal happiness of a life well lived among his fellow man.
As with most people in retirement, The Fool begins watching and learning about the people around him. In his grandchildren and the young children in the streets that laugh and play as soon as their chores are done, he gets a sense of the Pages. A small group of girls that huddle around the duck pond just beyond his backdoor has really captured his imagination. He and his wife watch their games and overhear snippets of their conversations. The differences in the personalities of the four friends astound him. One of them seems to be the natural leader of the group, fiery and creative. She is never still, a free spirit that is always thinking up new things to do with a great passion for life. She embodies the spirit of the Wands. Another is just as creative in coming up with new ideas, but is calmer and more balanced, a real thinker. She seems to be more fascinated with puzzles and riddles, and is forever bringing a new one to the group every day they are together. As studious as she is playful, she is never far from her books. This one embodies the spirit of the Swords.
The third is the mother hen of the group, always grounded and down to earth, taking responsibility for everyone. Her friends always know that she will be there to lend a hand, or lend a coin, when necessary. She embodies the spirit of the Coins. And the fourth, quiet and serene as the pond water itself, dreamy and imaginative, wears her heart on her sleeve. Her concern for the feelings of the others is nothing less than selfless, amazing at her young age. Every day that the girls get together, she brings them flowers or treats; little gifts that she makes, from shell jewelry to watercolor paintings, to show her appreciation of their friendship. This one is the very spirit of the Cups. The Fool marvels at what he learns just from watching them.
This pattern, he notices, is repeated just about everywhere. A group of young men, just out of school but not yet ready to begin work, who gather to talk at the corner near his front door all exhibit these same qualities, but their energy is always on the move. Young people are never content to stay in one place longer than they have to. Here he gets a sense of the Knights. The men that come each day to talk with him, each of them as different as the next, gives him a sense of the Kings, while his wife's circle of friends gives him a sense of the Queens. While the men plan and ponder, the women develop their ideas in a slow process of gestation, trial and error until the problem is solved. The Fool sees that these qualities abound in everyone to some degree, but there is always one who seems to embody them more than anyone else. He marvels that he never took the time to notice this before. In studying the people around him, The Fool is familiarizing himself with the very pieces of his own soul. What a revelation!
© Michelle Grooms