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The earliest known appearance of the Fool is in the Visconti-Sforza deck of Tarot cards.
The Fool often portrayed as a young man on the outset of a journey, carrying a knapsack at the end of a wooden staff, and has a small dog barking at his heels. Sometimes he is shown as being bitten by a dog or cat instead (Marseille deck). He seems completely oblivious to his environment. The fool of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot card appears to be about to walk off of a cliff.
Meanings in Divination
The Fool is the spirit in search of experience. He represents the mystical cleverness bereft of reason within us, the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world. The sun shining behind him represents the divine nature of the Fool's wisdom and exuberance, holy madness or 'crazy wisdom'. On his back are all the possessions he might need. In his hand there is a flower, showing his appreciation of beauty. He is frequently accompanied by a dog, sometimes seen as his animal desires, sometimes as the call of the "real world", nipping at his heels and distracting him. He is seemingly unconcerned that he is standing on a precipice, apparently about to step off. One of the keys to the card is the paradigm of the precipice, Zero and the sometimes represented oblivious Fool's near-step into the oblivion (The Void) of the jaws of a crocodile, for example, are all mutually informing polysemy within evocations of the iconography of The Fool. The staff is the offset and complement to the void and this in many traditions represents wisdom and renunciation, e.g. 'danda' (Sanskrit) of a Sanyassin, 'danda' (Sanskrit) is also a punctuation mark with the function analogous to a 'full-stop' which is appropriately termed, a period in English grammar. The Fool is both the beginning and the end, neither and otherwise, betwixt and between, liminal.
The number 0 is a perfect significator for the Fool, as it can become anything when he reaches his destination as in the sense of 'joker's wild'. Zero plus anything equals the same thing. Zero times anything equals zero. Zero is nothing, a lack of hard substance, and as such it may reflect a non-issue or lack of cohesiveness for the subject at hand.
- The Fool at Wikipedia
A common misconception about the Fool is that it is the antecedant to the Joker in modern playing cards. However, the Joker in fact was introduced in the United States for the game Euchre.
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