Hate memorizing tarot card definitions? Well, read on…
Once upon a time.
Except that wouldn’t be a proper way to begin the story, because The Fool’s Journey is a never-ending story about the human experience. It is an allegorical narrative about the journey of life in which The Fool, the protagonist, traverses through the major arcana and encounters various archetypes in order to learn from them.
If you hate memorizing definitions, then The Fool’s Journey is a great framework for studying the major arcana cards. Incorporating elements of storytelling is a great way to strengthen your personal connections and understandings of the cards. Not only does it activate your imagination and engage your creativity, it also allows you to tap into and the wisdom you have already internalized through your experiences on an intuitive level.
And plus, telling a story is just super duper fun. Am I right? Am I right!??
To hear my version of The Fool’s Journey, check out my latest video on Youtube!
But if you have already done that and in fact have been sent here for the tarot exercises, read on!
Exercise #1: Create your own Fool’s Journey story.
This exercise is simple and straightforward. Pick up your favourite deck of cards, invite the major arcana archetypes (it’s an exclusive party–no “minors” allowed!) and huddle around a camp fire (which can really just be the floor if you want to–you don’t need anything fancy, but do make sure everybody’s comfortable!)
A note before you start: Don’t stress too much about story logic or the need to have everything fall perfectly into place. The idea of this exercise is for you to explore the archetypes and their relationships with each other through creative storytelling. Think of it as your “first draft”–and first drafts are rarely perfect. It’s more like fun word vomit and a discovery process.
Also, it is recommended that you tell this story in textual format, either through spoken or written words. Of course, there are many forms of storytelling–some are more visual and graphically representative than others. Telling a story with language, specifically, will be a good exercise for you to translate your intuitive and abstract understandings into concrete, linguistic forms, which will then help you reach a clearer mental understanding of the archetypal concepts. In addition, when you are doing a tarot reading (either for yourself or for another person), you will need to express your insight through language one way or another. In short, it will be good practice!!
Alright–let’s get on with it. Here are a few things to start you off, if you have no idea where to begin:
- Put on your storytelling hat and get in the zone. Pick out The Fool’s card. He is going to be moving around a lot since he has a long trip ahead of him, so I do hope your inner sense of wonder isn’t out of shape. If it is, meditate with The Fool and ask him to grow you a unicorn horn, give you a pair of winged boots, and a six-dimensional backpack.
- Start with “Once upon a time”. If you still don’t know how to start, you can always start with “Once upon a time”–even if you’re not particularly into fairy tales, this classic opener will automatically activate your story muscles. Fairy tales are another form of archetypal storytelling and most of us will be familiar with them on a subconsciously level.
- Focus on character development. Since this is a story of personal development and individuation, try to make your story character-centred–which means the story you tell will be mostly about what The Fool is thinking, how he is reacting and processing his experiences, and the kinds of decisions he makes as a character.
- Brainstorm and do some character concepting. Here are some questions for you to consider when you construct The Fool’s character:
- The Fool typically represents adventure, innocence, and beginnings. As you take a look at the key words associated with The Fool archetype, what is your personal interpretation or understanding of each word? For example, how would you define “adventure” and what does it mean to be “innocent”?
- How does The Fool remind you of yourself? If you were to tell your life story right now with you as the protagonist, how would you describe your “character” in 5 words or less? (The Fool’s Journey is the journey of life, and the story you tell will inevitably reflect your own journey and your life lessons. So if you don’t know how to begin, “you’ would be a good place to start.)
- What is The Fool’s intention as he embarks on this journey? Does he just want to go on an adventure? Does he want to learn more about life? What does The Fool want or what is his character motivation? Also, is he aware of his desire at the beginning?
- Set the scene. Another place to start is to describe what is visually happening on the card you are working with. For example, if you have the Rider-Waite or a deck based on the Rider-Waite–what is The Fool doing? Is he about to take a leap of faith? Is the dog barking at him to warn him of danger and recklessness?
- Think about how The Fool will interact and respond to each archetype. Here are a list of questions that will help you tell The Fool’s story as she encounters each archetype. You don’t have to answer them all, but feel free to use any of them as a starting point!
- Based on your Fool’s personality and experience, how would she react to the specific archetypal figure?
- Does The Fool have any stereotypical understandings of the archetype before her? For example, before she meets the Hierophant, does she have preconceived notions of who the Hierophant is or what a teacher is supposed to look like?
- What is the lesson he needs to learn in order to move on to the next archetype?
- How have the lessons she accumulated from the previous archetypes contributed to her current understanding of the archetype before her?
- Reflect on The Fool’s original intention or motivation for the story. We all evolve as we live out our own stories in life, so The Fool is no exception. Throughout the story, how does The Fool change or evolve?
- Think about how you want to end your story.
- Has The Fool achieved what he has set out to achieve? Does the Fool get what he wants? How does he feel?
- What does The Fool learn at the end of his journey? What is his ultimate lesson? What is the most important thing for him to realize in this journey of life?
- Even though you are most likely telling this story for yourself, but pretend you have an audience. As the author or storyteller, what is the most important message that you want to share with your readers? What kinds of impressions or feelings do you want to leave your audience feeling after the story is over? Hopeful? Empowered? Or Bad-ass?
Exercise #2: Create an imaginary television series of The Fool’s Journey.
If you want to explore each archetype in greater detail, you can also create a more fragmented or episodic storyline in which The Fool encounters the archetypes and spends more time with them instead of just quickly moving on. This way, your Fool’s Journey story doesn’t have to be super linear, nor does it have to develop according to how the archetypes are lined up in sequences. You can take a freer approach as you spend some quality time with, say, The Star, and have multiple cups of tea plus dinner instead of just a fly-by.
When you are imagining each “archetypal episode”, here are some fun questions for you to consider:
Which TV genre would you assign the archetypes based on their attributes? For example, the Hierophant could be a documentary video, the Chariot could be a Gladiator series, and Justice could be a law or crime drama.
What are some of the common character tropes or “TV archetypes” that you can think of? For example, a lot of fantasy stories have an “initiator” figure which leads the hero or heroine across the threshold between the mundane world and the world of magic and wondrous potential. This figure can easily be represented by The Magician, which “initiates” The Fool into the world of magic and teaches him about his creative and personal potential + help uncovers a new layer or aspect of his identity.
As this exercise requires more time, you can start by associating each archetype with a TV genre and write a short story synopsis for each “episode”. Give the episode a title if you want! For example, You’re a Wizard, Harry can be the title of the episode in which The Fool meets The Magician, and the story synopsis could look like: In this episode, Hagrid initiates Harry into the world of magic by dropping in uninvited to Dursley’s slumber party and opens the door to his creative and magical potential. Okay, that was Harry Potter. But you get what I mean!
Exercise #3: Tell The Fool’s Story in reverse!
This is the perfect exercise if you are looking for a bit of “review”–if you have already defined the archetypes for yourself and know what they are and who they are like the back of your hand–this is a great exercise for you to revisit that narrative and perhaps discover new elements in your story.
The Fool sits in his rocking chair; the wrinkles on his forehead stack comfortably on top of each other. He wakes with a start by his own snort. He is greeted by the world atlas on the wall across from the room, secured by cheap poster stickies from the dollar store. He tried to peel off the darn paper one time, but the paint came right off. Non-stick and Non-mark my ass! He thought. But ah, he remembers that time he was in Europe for the grand Prix car race……
This will be an interesting story to tell because you are starting at the end–which means The Fool has already finished his journey and he is telling the story in hindsight. He will have access to the entire timeline, along with the knowledge and wisdom he has already gained from the journey. This gives you a lot of creative room when you want to introduce story elements that are not possible if you are simply following The Fool’s story as it unfolds.
Some fun things you can inject into your story:
Who are the most challenging archetypes that he has had to work with?
Who are his friends? His enemies? Why are they friends and why are they enemies? Do they represent the strength in The Fool’s character? Do they represent a recurring lesson?
Does The Fool have any regrets? What is something he wishes that he could have done differently?
Is there a part of the story that he is reluctant to tell? Why or why not?
What would he say to his younger, former self? What advice would he give him?