The Thoth Fool

In essence, there are not really twenty-two trumps, there is only one – the Fool. All the other trumps live inside (and issue from) the Fool. ~ Lon Milo DuQuette

God is characterized by a “nameless nothingness.” Nothingness lies at the heart of Divinity — and maybe all things. Notice we are to sink, not strive, not ladder-climb, not ascend by willpower and determination. ~ Matthew Fox

Looking at the Thoth Fool, we could also say that the entire Tree of Life exists within and issues from The Fool. On the top of his head is a bright crystal for Kether; at his left shoulder are a silver leaf and silver grapes, the colour of Chockmah; at his right shoulder is a dove, the symbol for the Shekinah, the Divine Feminine in Binah; at his heart is a heart for Da’ath; at his groin is the Sun for Tiphareth; between his calves is a half-moon for Yesod; and at the bottom is a crocodile with a golden eye of four rings like the four elements of Malkuth. I love the heart for Da’ath. The three rings that intertwine the Fool are the three veils beyond Kether which he is just now, in this instant, stepping through. One of those veils forms the heart – it’s of that other place, where the Creator resides.

The Fool’s path is the very first one on the Tree of Life, issuing from Kether toward Chockmah. The trump itself is unnumbered, but the Path is 11. When you research the number 11, you come up with a lot, but looking specifically at Gematria, we have:

Eleventh Hebrew Letter: Khaf, Numerical value of twenty. Pictograph meaning of an open hand or container. As a suffix, it shows possession or ownership. An open hand is one that receives, or in Hebrew kabbalah.[1]

That’s pretty neat, the Fool as a symbol of Kabbalah. And it makes sense, since we have established that he includes all of the other trumps and the entire Tree of Life. He embodies all of these things, as the spontaneous appearance of the Divine but also the physical birth that is characteristic of our world.

The Tibetan Guru Rinpoche, the ‘second Buddha’, depicted sitting on a lotus

In Vajrayana Buddhism, there are four kinds of birth. You can come from a womb, an egg, moisture (e.g. water), or you can appear instantaneously (e.g. Guru Rinpoche, who appeared in an instant inside a lotus on a sacred lake). We of course come into existence via a womb. If you look at the Thoth Fool, you see the three rings that represent the three veils of Divinity. At this particular moment, the Fool is still mostly behind the rings – he is still mostly in Kether. But his head is peeking through the smallest ring into our side. This looks to me like a physical birth.

But his posture, especially his feet, also suggests the instantaneous birth of a divine being – it’s like he’s in mid-air and about to land on us! He is human and divine, just like we are.

What about those eyes? They’re pretty intense and if you look again at the photo of Guru Rinpoche, you can see his eyes are depicted in a similar way. I’m not implying that this was an intention association (although who knows) but the message may be the same: as part of their divinity, Guru Rinpoche and The Fool are both ‘Sky Gazing’:

…a way to feel release from the narrow confines of the personality or ego. It connects a person to the vast, expansive, clear, open, space of awareness that is their authentic nature. It brings relaxation, peace, joy, and a fresh, crisp sense of connecting to reality, the natural state of things.*

And I’m intrigued by the small horns on his head, and his nose. I can’t quite figure out the nose, but it really does look like an animal nose. I’m sure it has something to do with our instinctive nature, our animal qualities at their most innocent and basic, but I came across this when I was looking up the number 11:

In Daniel 7, a “little horn” arises from the ten horns of the terrible fourth beast, making it the 11th horn. This horn was epitomized in evil Antiochus Epiphanes, which is a type of the beast and anti-Christ. According to Daniel, this man and the spirit of the anti-Christ seeks to CHANGE the times and law, that is the Torah and the Feast Days.[2]

Maybe this is too obscure. But knowing Crowley’s fondness for beasts and Thelema’s aim to change ‘the times and law’ – Book of the Law, anyone? – I wonder if he was bringing in that aspect of the Fool with his little horns. As the Fool, he would still be free from social conditioning, free to pursue his Divine Will in whatever manner he felt would be best.

The white rose of potential and rebirth

The Divine tiger (since it’s on the other side of the veils, and you can see its tail blending in with the outer ring) is giving him some encouragement. Do we have a cat vs dog thing going on here? Pamela Colman Smith[3] changed the Fool’s cat, which we have in Marseilles decks, to a little white dog, but Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris have not only brought the cat back … they brought it back big style. It’s moved from biting the Fool’s bits to biting his thigh. If you know your Arthurian legend, you know it’s really the same thing (ref. Fisher King).

The only other time we have a tiger in the Thoth deck is in the Princess of Wands.[4] She soars upwards holding her Sun wand, with a tiger’s tail wrapped gently around her neck. The tiger looks more like a sleeping kitten in this image, quite happy to be pulled along by the fiery Princess. The tiger as Fire is under control in Malkuth, but in the Fool, it’s Divine Fire giving us a chomp where it counts to get us moving – to encourage us to take the leap.

I’m intrigued by the white flowers between The Fool’s legs. There are five of them in total – the number of the microcosm, i.e. our world and us – with one at the top, one on the bottom right, and a cluster of three on the bottom left. The top flower looks like the white rose we see quite often in Tarot, including in the hand of the RWS Fool. The bottom right flower itself has five petals and the three flowers in the cluster on the left each have four.

The only thing I can think of here is that it might represent the flowering of the Tree of Life, from the fertility and virility of The Fool. They do look connected to the Sun at his groin, and they lead to the Divine twins. If we take the top rose as Kether, its stalk as the High Priestess’ path, it diverges into 5 and 3 x 4. The 5 would be Geburah, and the 4 would be Chesed coming from Binah (3). Looking at the symbols of the other Sephiroth laid out on the Fool – the crystal, the silver grapes, the dove, the sun, the moon, the crocodile’s eye – we don’t see Chesed and Geburah in the same way. Could this be them?

If so, they are in reverse. If Chockmah is on the Fool’s left and Binah on his right, then the 5-petalled flower should be on his right and the 3×4-petalled flower on his left. The Fool exists in the Supernal Triangle with Kether, Chockmah and Binah. Geburah and Chesed are not part of this Divine arrangement, so here they are still potential. Possibly. But that’s what The Fool is all about, anyway! Possibility.

We have so much unfolding from this moment: all the other trumps, the Tree of Life, and Kabbalah itself. It’s not a path that we normally have access to, even in those rare and amazing meditation sessions where you really feel like you’ve been someplace else. Having said that, this might be the one time our dual nature does us a favour. The Fool is two-sided, being halfway between heaven and earth, and in the process of being born – ‘crowning’, as he emerges from Kether (‘the Crown’) into Chockmah, where there is infinite potential. The part of him that touches Malkuth also touches us  and even if it’s only a concept, only a thought, it’s one that reminds and assures us that our Divine connection is always there.



*Sorry, I don’t seem to be able to insert a new footnote and make it look nice, so here is an asterisk with the relevant citation:

[2] Ibid.

[3] I say PCS here because AE Waite didn’t work with her on the illustrations of the RWS deck in the same way that Crowley worked with Lady Frieda Harris. My impression is that PCS was pretty much left to illustrate the cards as she wanted to.

[4] The Knight of Wands has his charger, the Queen of Wands has a leopard, and the Prince of Wands has a lion.