The Fool, victorious over her enemies, is feeling arrogant, powerful, even vengeful. There are hot passions in her, ones she finds herself unable and unwilling to control.
It is in this state that she comes across a girl struggling with a demon. Running to help, she arrives in time to see the girl gently but firmly shut the demon’s mouth! In fact, the beast, which seemed so wild and fierce, is now completely at her command.
Amazed, the Fool asks her, “How did you do that?” Affectionately patting the demon’s back, she answers, “I asked the demon to do it, and he did it.”
“But-but-” the Fool stutters, confounded. “Why did he want to obey?” At that moment, the girl looks kindly the Fool’s eyes; The Fool sees in her warmth, gentleness, a heart so great that its generosity seems as infinite as its willingness to understand. And that is when the Fool understands exactly why the demon did her bidding.
The demon wanted to connect to that higher energy.
Yet there is still one thing that confuses the Fool. “But,” she says, much softer now, “Why would you, sweet girl, want to keep company with a beast?”
“Because he, too, is filled with wonderful energy,” the Girl says. “It is wild and fierce, but it can be banked, like a fire in a hearth. I knew if he would take direction from me, we could both be warmed.”
“So, too,” she adds, “are our passions. Let them run wild and they will do damage. But we can, with gentle fortitude, check and direct those passions. In doing so, we can get so much more out of them. And yet, still sate them.”
Her rage humbled, the enlightened Fool walks away knowing that it wasn’t only the demon that was tamed this day by a growing young girl’s pure and innocent strength.
After a long and busy lifetime, building, creating, loving, hating, fighting, compromising, failing, succeeding, the Fool feels a profound need to retreat. In a small, rustic home deep in the woods, she hides, reading, cleaning, organizing, resting, or just thinking. But every night at dusk she heads out, traveling across the bare, autumnal landscape. She carries only her healer’s bag and a lantern.
It is during these restless walks from dusk till dawn, peering at and examining whatever takes her fancy, that she sees things she’s missed during her lifetime. Her lantern illuminates animals and insects that only come out at night, flowers and plants that only bloom by moon or starlight.
As these secret corners of the world are illuminated and explored by her, she feels that she is also illuminating hidden areas of her mind. In a way, she has become the Fool again. As in the beginning, she goes wherever inspiration leads her. Back then, however, her staff rested on his shoulder, carrying unseen her pack. The Fool was like the pack: wrapped up, unknown. The healer’s bag leans out beside her now, not behind. And she carries a lantern, not a pack. The Hermit is like the lantern, illuminated from within by all she is, capable of healing and penetrating the darkness.
From out of hiding comes the Fool, into the sunlight, as if being pulled up from some low, dark point on a wheel. It is time for a change. She heads back to civilization, expecting nothing.
But, strangely, wonderful things seem to happen to her as the hours go by. Wandering by a carnival, a woman offers her a drink in a golden chalice, and then urges her to keep the cup; as she enjoys the refreshment she stops to watch a young apprentice swinging a sword; when she expresses her admiration of the weapon, the page presses it into her hand, insisting that she take it.
And finally, as she contemplates life and the Ferris Wheel taking its passengers up, down, up & back down again, a stranger joins her and hands her a bag of money. “I decided to give this to the tenth person I met today,” explains the Merchant, “You’re the tenth.” The Fool hardly thought she could still be surprised, but she is. It is as if everything good that she ever did in her life is being paid back to her, three-fold. All luck this day is hers.
The Fool is looking for a new path, a new aspiration and inspiration for her life. Sitting uncertain at a crossroads she notices a blind wise woman listening to two brothers argue over an inheritance. They have come to her for judgment. One brother has the whole inheritance, the other has nothing.
“I ask that all of it be given to me,” the poor brother demands, “Not only because I have a better right to it, but because I will not be wasteful with it, as he is!” But the rich brother protests, “It is rightfully mine and that’s all that should matter, not what I do with it!”
The woman listens, then awards half of the rich brother’s inheritance to the poor brother. The Fool thinks this only fair, but neither brother is happy. The rich one hates losing half his wealth, and the poor one feels he ought to have gotten all.
“You were fair,” the Fool remarks to the woman after the brothers have left. “Yes, I was,” she answers plainly. “With only half the inheritance, the rich one will stop being so wasteful. And the poor one will have as much as he needs. Even though they cannot see it, this decision was good for both.”
The Fool thinks on this and realizes that she has spent her life achieving worldly ambitions and physical goods while leaving her spiritual self to starve. She ought to have given half her time and energy to her spiritual self, but she didn’t. It’s no wonder that she feels unbalanced. Thanking the woman, she heads out to restore equilibrium to her inner scales.
The Fool settles beneath a tree, intent on finding her spiritual self. There she stays for nine days, without eating, barely moving. People pass by her, animals, clouds, the wind, the rain, the stars, sun and moon. On the ninth day, with no conscious thought of why she climbs the tree and dangles from a branch upside down like a bat. For a moment, she surrenders all that she is, wants, knows or cares about. Coins fall from her pockets and as she gazes down on them – seeing them not as money but only as round bits of metal.
It seems to her that her perspective of the world has completely changed as if her inverted position has allowed her to dangle between the mundane world and the spiritual world, able to see both. It is a dazzling moment, dreamlike yet crystal clear.
Timeless as this moment of clarity seems she realizes that it will not last. Very soon, she must right herself, but when she does, things will be different. She will have to act on what she’s learned. For now, however, she just hangs, weightless as if underwater, observing, absorbing, seeing.
Having left the tree from where she hung, the Fool moves carefully through a fallow field, head still clearing from visions. The air is cold and wintry, the trees bare. She knows she has started on her spiritual journey in earnest but feels strangely empty and profoundly sad as if she has lost something.
Before long she sees, rising with the moon, a woman in a black cloak, an hourglass dangling from her belt and holding a skull in her hand. She recognizes her as Death. As Death stops before her, she humbly asks, “Have I died?” And Death answers, “Yes, in a way. You sacrificed your old world, your old self. Both are gone, dead.”
The Fool cannot keep from weeping. “Forgive me,” she says, embarrassed by her tears.
“There is nothing to forgive,” Death replies. “Mourning is natural and you must deal with your loss before you can accept anything new. Keep in mind, however, that old leaves must wither and fly away from a tree’s branches, leaving them bare, before new green leaves can appear.”
As Death continues unhindered, the Fool sees the truth in those words. Much like the skull Death carries, she as if all that she was is now stripped away. This, she understands, is how all great transformations start, by removing everything down to bare bone or soil so that something new has room to grow.
Recovering from feelings of loss at last, the Fool begins to wonder if she will finally find the new spirituality she’s after. It occurs to her that so far, she’s been dealing with opposites: the two opposing sides of the scales (Justice), the material and spiritual (which she hung between as the Hanged man), death and birth (the one leading into the other in the Death card). Does one always have to be surrendered to get the other? She wonders.
It is at this point that she comes upon a winged figure standing with one foot on the water, the other balanced on a flame. The radiant creature directs both the water and fire to move gracefully up and around her, dancing together in an unbroken ring. The two are being blended together into a completely different substance!
“How can you mix fire and water?” the Fool finally whispers. Never pausing the Angel answers, “You must cast the right spell and use the right intentions.”
The Fool watches with wonder. “Can this be done with all opposites?” she asks. “Indeed,” the Angel replies, “Any oppositions, fire and water, man and woman, thesis and anti-thesis, can be made into a unified third. It is only a lack of will and a disbelief in the possibility that keeps opposites, opposite.”
And that is when the Fool begins to understand that she is the one who is keeping her universe in twain, holding life/death, material world and spiritual world separate. In her, the two could merge. All it takes, the Fool realizes, is the right proportions; with the right spell and enough intention two can be unified.
The Fool comes to the foot of an enormous black mountain where reigns a creature half goat, half god.
A key dangles from the front of the Devil’s cloak.
Before him naked people, linked to the god’s throne by chains, engage in every indulgence imaginable: sex, drugs, food, drink. The closer the Fool gets, the more she feels her own earthly desires rising in her. Carnal desires, hunger for food and power, greed and selfishness.
“I have given up all such desires!” she roars at the Goat god, resisting the beast’s power with all her might. She is sure that this is a test of her new spirituality, one where she must prove that the temptations of the material world cannot sway her.
The creature responds to her defiance with a curious look. “All I am doing is bringing out what is already in you,” it responds mildly. “Such feelings are nothing to fear, nothing to be ashamed of, or even to avoid. They are even useful to help you in your quest for spirituality, though many try to pretend otherwise.”
The Fool gestures angrily at the chained men and women, “You say that – even though these are clearly enslaved! Why do you not use your key to unlock their chains?”
The Goat-god mimics the Fool’s gesture. “Take another look.” The Fool does so, and realizes that the chained collars the men and women wear are wide enough for them to easily slip off over their heads. “They can be free if they wish to be,” the Goat-god says, “They remain here because they want to be controlled by their base, bestial desires. There are, however, others…”
At this, the Goat-god gestures upward, toward the peak of a mountain. “…Others who have used my key to unchain their deepest impulses. They use the resulting power to fuel a climb to the highest heights. If they had denied their desires they’d never have gotten there.”
On hearing this, the Fool sees that she has mistaken the Goat-god. This is not a creature of evil as she thought, but of great power, the lowest and the highest, both of beast and god. Like all power, it is frightening, and dangerous…but he freely offers the key to freedom and transcendence to all brave enough to come near where he kneels.