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How shall I begin today?  A Psychiatrist, a Tarot Reader, and a Fool walk into a bar….  No?  

What do Carl Jung, A metaphysical giftshop, a deck of Tarot cards, a book titled Sacred Contracts, and the Fool archetype all have in common?  That’s better.  Have I piqued your curiosity?  Good. 

One of the things that I enjoy about being a Spiritualist during this so-called New Age is that there are so many fascinating topics to study.  And I love books!  My home has stacks of books-still-to-be-read.  I carry in my purse a list of books-to-buy.  And when I go into a bookstore looking for those books, I inevitably come out with lots of books that were not on the list.  

One of my interests is the Tarot.  Not surprising to you?  It’s a startling development in my life, really.  Until a few years ago - before I explored the topic on my own - I had a vague idea that they were kind of cultish, kind of taboo, and kind of scary.  That began to change in 2003, when I learned about archetypes. 

What is an archetype?  I’m so glad you asked.  Archetype. An original model of a person, ideal example, or a prototype after which others are copied, patterned, or emulated; a symbol universally recognized by all. 

You might think of an archetype as the epitome of a personality type, a universal prototype, a stereotype.  The idea of archetypes has been around since the time of Plato.  The use of archetypes to illuminate personality and literature was advanced in the 20th century by the psychiatrist Carl Jung, who suggested the existence of universal contentless forms that channel experiences and emotions, resulting in recognizable and typical patterns of behavior with certain probable outcomes. 

Let me give a few examples of archetypes from Arthurian Legend: 

  • Arthur: Orphan Child, King, Judge, Hero.
  • Merlin: Wizard/Alchemist, Hermit, Mentor, Guide, Visionary, Shapeshifter, Engineer, Storyteller.
  • Gwinevere: Queen, Damsel in Distress.
  • Lancelot: Knight, Champion, Lover, Rescuer, Athlete.
  • Other Knights: Companion, Seeker, Warrior.
  • Lady of the Lake: Priestess, Guide.
Back to my story….  In early 2003, I had heard of the term archetype, I had read a smidgen of Carl Jung, I knew a pinch more about Joseph Campbell (a mythologist and scholar of archetypes), and I was about to become very intimate with a book about archetypes by Caroline Myss titled Sacred Contracts.  Someone in my household had borrowed the book from my mother; it had been laying around the house for months, and I decided to return the book.  

So I retrieved the book.  And then I looked at the book.  And then I read the inside front cover.  And then I started reading the book.  Let me mention that it’s an interactive book containing journaling exercises the reader can do to learn about their most prominent archetypes.  I journaled my way all through the book – it took weeks to do this, and I have a two-inch binder full of handwritten pages answering question after question about each archetype. 

But it was a life-changing experience.  Not one of those life-changing-all-in-a-single-AHA!-moment kinds of experiences.  More like one of those slowly-integrating-new-information-and-eventually-coming-to-a-new-understanding-of-my-relationship-with-the-Universe kinds of experiences.  It was during my journaling exercises one Thursday morning, that I suddenly realized that I needed to go on a spiritual retreat.  Thirty-six hours later I was signing in to a weekend retreat at the institution from which I would eventually receive my ministerial ordination. 

A few years after that - after my ordination - I happened to be in a local metaphysical gift store, and not only had I spent hours perusing their bookshelves, I’d held crystals, looked at essential oils, sampled meditation CDs.  And next to the meditation CDs were shelves full of Tarot and Oracle cards.  On this particular evening, one of the boxes of cards caught my eye: on the box was a picture of Little Red Riding Hood, and the title on the box was Inner Child Cards: A Fairy Tale Tarot.

Well, that box “had me at hello.”  I’m so in touch with my Inner Child, you’d think I was brought up in the Sixties (oh, yeah, I was a child during the Sixties).  And Fairy Tales?  That was my favorite part about being a child.  Talking animals, enchanted forests, fairies, magical powers, a handsome prince to help you get out of a jam, the prospect of living happily ever after—what’s not to love about that?  My bedtime story of choice was a fairy tale; in fact, my mom said she got so tired of reading the same ones over and over to me.  And can you believe that during fourth grade I was the star of a video production of the Japanese version of a fairy tale – which one?  Little Red Riding Hood

And so I walked into the House of Tarot through a side door marked Fairy Tale.  I bought the cards.  I read the book that came with the cards.  I started pulling a Card A Day for myself.  There was nothing taboo about fairy tales, nothing cultish or scary about these cards.  You see, the Death card in this Tarot deck is the story of Snow White, the Tower card is the story of Rapunzel, and the Devil card is the story of the Big Bad Wolf.  What’s scary about that?  I’m not afraid of the Big Bad Wolf! 

That’s how it all started.  I eventually came to realize that the Universe and Spirit were leading me to study the Tarot more seriously too.  Not so much to use it as a divination tool, but to further my studies of archetypes, symbols, and the universal path of spiritual initiation, which were topics of continuing interest for me. 

And today - several books and decks and classes and years later - I’m still hooked!  I am still at that stage where everything is “so cool.”  All these synchronicities occur around the subject, lightbulbs are constantly turning on inside my head—you know what I mean?  I thought so. 

For some years now, I have been working with a more traditional deck of Tarot cards, called the Rider Waite deck.  And do you know what?  It’s just as fascinating to work with as the one with the fairy tales!  It’s not cultish, not taboo, not scary.  And it has so much depth and breadth. 

Studying the Tarot has brought greater meaning to my life.  The synchronicities (another term coined by Jung), or meaningful coincidences, are numerous and significant.  Do you know how, at certain points in your life, a particular area of your life takes on a life of its own, and you seem to be propelled forward with great momentum and not much effort on your part is required?  In contrast to other points when you seem to be striving and working for every little accomplishment—you go one step forward and two steps back?  Well, I’m experiencing one of those forward-momentum times in my life right now. 

I can describe it as very active spiritual growth.  I am sure that it is associated with my life's work, whatever it may turn out to be - I have no idea where I'm going; I only know that I'm on the right path.  I know that, in this moment, exactly where I am supposed to be. 

Let me share with you a picture of where I am right now. 

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See where I am?  I’m about to step off the edge of a cliff.  I’m about to step off the edge of a cliff, and I’m okay with that.  Which archetype am I?  I am The Fool!  Oh, and incidentally, The Fool card in the Inner Child Fairy Tale Tarot deck is the story of Little Red Riding Hood.  Like I often say, "We can't make this stuff up...."

And I’m not making this up about The Fool archetype being prominent in my life right now.  Every day, at the end of my meditation time, I ask my higher self and all my spirit helpers, “What’s important for me to know or do at this time?”  Oftentimes I intuitively receive an answer: it may be a symbol, a picture, a feeling, a word, an insight.  Occasionally I pull a Tarot card when I ask this question, and I happened to do so last week, and guess which card I pulled?  The Fool!  Not only that, the week before, during the bi-weekly mediumship development circle that I lead, at the end of our meditation time, I prompted everyone to receive a message for him- or herself in the form of a scene from a movie or book.  And what came up for me?  The Fool card from the Tarot deck!  And I responded to Spirit, “Come on!  That’s not a movie or a book!”  And the Fool immediately became Dorothy and the little white dog became Toto…but I got the message!

Let’s talk some more about The Fool archetype.  Because this is really an archetype to which every one of us can relate, especially if we’re in a Spiritualist church on a Sunday morning – I would say that anyone who is sitting here today is very interested in the active expression of his or her spiritual growth!  And each of us knows what it feels like to begin a new journey.  And one of the primary meanings of the Fool card is the start of a journey.  So, beginnings, a new path, new direction, the beginning of a journey or adventure.  The Fool him or herself is a novice, an ingénue, naïve, a “newbie.” 

The number on this card is 0; in other Tarot decks it is 22.  Zero represents the God force, an ancient symbol for the number 22.  Numerologically, 22 is a master number that reduces to 4, which is manifestation on the earth plane - so we may think of the Fool card as God linking with humanity.

The focus of the Fool card is trust, faith, and hope.  The focus is on high ideals and the possibility of a brighter tomorrow.  The focus is, according to one Tarot resource I consulted, “on choice, personal effort, and the cosmic play of the Universe in your life and affairs.”  The best course of action, according to another source, is to “release wants, cares, or worries and ‘let go, let God.’”  That’s trust.  As I mentioned, the Fool appears to be stepping off of a cliff into the great beyond, denoting both an attitude of trust and life’s infinite possibilities. 

The Fool is wearing the Feather of Maat, the Egyptian Goddess of Truth, and a Laurel Wreath about the head, signifying Divine Consciousness, or the superconscious mind.  The Dog follows the Fool, attempting to attract the Fool’s attention.  This suggests that the ordinary mind may sometimes try to stop the superconscious from its journey of adventurousness and growth.  

The Fool is a symbol for the soul just prior to its next cycle of manifestation, stepping off the cliff into the physical world below.  It often symbolizes a period of great inner change.

As an archetype outside of the Tarot - say, in literature and the arts - the Fool is typically very wise, and says things that others cannot say without impunity.  The Fool may even be an informal advisor to a king or leader.  The Fool entertains yet speaks the truth.  According to Caroline Myss, the Fool is “the carrier of hidden wisdom.” 

In everyday parlance, the Fool archetype also has negative connotations, especially to those who do not understand what the Fool is doing.  The Fool appears foolish.  For goodness’ sake, the Fool is stepping off of a cliff into the unknown—what folly!  Yet the apparently foolish behavior may very well be an act of supreme faith based on an inner knowing, a deep-seated wisdom that may be inexplicable and unapparent to others.  It may even be firmly rooted in the Divine Consciousness. 

So, what is the lesson of the Fool?  Let’s see what others have to say.  “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”  William Shakespeare, quoting Socrates.  “He dares to be a fool, and that is the first step in the direction of wisdom.”  James Gibbons Huneker.  “If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.”  William Blake. These remind me of the time that I was in Seminary: one day a friend asked me if I was going to follow in my mother’s footsteps and hang a shingle on my door.  And my answer was “Heck, no!”  Actually, it was a little more strongly worded than that. 

Now I meant no offense to my mother; the point was that at the time I simply knew that being a medium wasn’t my life’s work.  Neither was being a healer.  As a matter of fact neither was being a minister.  This was somewhat problematic, as I was in seminary at the time, studying to be all of these things.  But none of those things was going to be my life’s work.  And frankly, although I knew some of the things that my life’s work would not specifically be, I had no idea what my life’s work would specifically be.  I didn’t know what I was going to do once I got out of seminary, I only knew that at that precise moment, I was supposed to be in seminary. 

It’s the same today.  I have no idea what, if anything, I’m going to actually do with the Tarot, or archetypes, or all these esoteric symbols I’m learning.  What I do know is that I’m in a period of spiritual growth that is associated with my life’s work.  I may very well be stepping off a cliff, and I have no idea what will happen when I reach the earth plane below.  I only know that I’m on the right path.  And right now, I have no choice but to depend on Divine Consciousness. 

And so I will finish my talk with a quote that is attributed to various wise fools:“When you come to the edge of all the light you have known, and are about to step out into darkness, faith is knowing one of two things will happen; there will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught to fly.”  

Copyright © 2017 by Joanne Franchina

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