Book of Thoth Study Group #14: The Fool


The Fool

his card is attributed to the letter Aleph, which means an Ox, but by its shape the Hebrew letter (so it is said) represents a ploughshare; thus the significance is primarily Phallic. It is the first of the three Mother letters, Aleph, Mem, and Shin, which correspond in various interwoven fashions with all the triads that occur in these cards, notably Fire, Water, Air; Father, Mother, Son; Sulphur, Salt, Mercury; Rajas, Sattvas and Tamas.

The really important feature of this card is that its number should be 0. It represents therefore the Negative above the Tree of Life, the source of all things. It is the Qabalistic Zero. It is the equation of the Universe, the initial and final balance of the opposites; Air, in this card, therefore quintessentially means a vacuum.

In the medieval pack, the title of the card is Le Mat, adapted from the Italian Matto, madman or fool; the propriety of this title will be considered later. But there is another, or (one might say) a complementary, theory. If one assumes that the Tarot is of Egyptian origin, one may suppose that Mat (this card being the key card of the whole pack) really stands for Maut, the vulture goddess, who is an earlier and more sublime modification of the idea of Nuith than Isis.

There are two legends connected with the vulture. It is sup posed to have a spiral neck; this may possibly have reference to the theory (recently revived by Einstein, but mentioned by Zoroaster in his Oracles) that the shape of the Universe, the form of that energy which is called the Universe, is spiral.

The other legend is that the vulture was supposed to reproduce her species by the intervention of the wind; in other words, the element of air is considered as the father of all manifested existence. There is a parallel in Anaximenes’ school of Greek philosophy.

This card is therefore both the father and the mother, in the most abstract form of these ideas. This is not a confusion, but a deliberate identification of the male and the female, which is justified by biology. The fertilized ovum is sexually neutral. It is only some unknown determinant in the course of development which decides the issue.

It is necessary to acclimatise oneself to this at first sight strange, idea. As soon as one has made up one’s mind to consider the feminine aspect of things, the masculine element should immediately appear in the same flash of thought to counterbalance it. This identification is complete in itself) philosophically speaking; it is only later that one must consider the question of the result of formulating Zero as “plus I plus minus I”. The result of so doing is to formulate the idea of Tetragrammaton.

Note: Keep in mind that this is a study group of the text, not general interpretations of the cards.


Soooo.... I decided to skip a bit to the "good stuff" since all the theoretical passages weren't receiving many, or rather any, responses.

In the first paragraph Crowley reiterates much that we already know, that the Fool represents a Nothing that is rather than a Nothing that isn't, an actual vacuum. He then "assumes" that the Tarot is Egyptian in origin, although if I remember correctly he disproved that earlier on. But the simile is a nice one, equating the Fool with the Egyptian goddess of Maut, the vulture with the spiral neck. Egyptian vultures have no sexual dimorphism, hence the Egyptian believed that they were all females and reproduced asexually. On the one hand this lends to the theory of a perfect being, but in later religions the same was said of the angels. However, angels were said to lack human imagination and so although they were perfect, they could not develop anything. I don't know if this is relevant to the Egyptian vulture perfection, it just came to me. However, since the Fool is a vacuum, a Zero can only make more zeros. Or something.

Wikipedia said:
Much later new myths held that since Mut had no parents, but was created from nothing; consequently, she could not have children and so adopted one instead.


Later in ancient Egyptian mythology deities of the pantheon were identified as equal pairs, female and male counterparts, having the same functions. In the later Middle Kingdom, when Thebes grew in importance, its patron, Amun also became more significant, and so Amaunet, who had been his female counterpart, was replaced with a more substantial mother-goddess, namely Mut, who became his wife. In that phase, Mut and Amun had a son, Khonsu, another moon deity.


However, since the Fool is a vacuum, a Zero can only make more zeros. Or something.

Just looked up Anaximenes and found this bit of info (via

"Anaximenes seems to have held that at one time everything was air. Air can be thought of as a kind of neutral stuff that is found everywhere, and is available to participate in physical processes. Natural forces constantly act on the air and transform it into other materials, which came together to form the organized world. In early Greek literature, air is associated with the soul (the breath of life) and Anaximenes may have thought of air as capable of directing its own development, as the soul controls the body (DK13B2 in the Diels-Kranz collection of Presocratic sources). Accordingly, he ascribed to air divine attributes."

So although Anaximene believed that Air made up everything, it does need something else ("natural forces") to transform it into other materials. Does the same apply to the Fool perhaps?


I think the parallel Liber Legis discussion here, w/r/t Had/Nuit has relevance here.

It's the tension between vibration and particle, the transition from 0 to 1.

Of course, the more science learns, the more these concepts become reinforced by observation, i.e., to a great degree all "matter" is just a vibration, at varying frequencies, down to the atomic structure itself. Perhaps the fool is the motion itself, that which gives varying matter its character, yet not matter. This would fit with the broader traditional dialectic between Fool and Magus, with the former the spirit of imagination and possibility, possibly continuing to walk on air over the cliff, with the magus the spirit of definition and control over the elements.


This thread prompted some toughts..

The first paragraph, when AC connects the form of the letter Aleph to the plough, thus giving it phallic nature, take me abak.
To me The Fool never had sex so this reference to a phallic nature puzzled me.
But I managed (somehow) to make my mind around it with the next examples.

When I read Shin/Aeon/Fire and Mem/Hanged Man/Water, then I get Aleph /Fool/Air; Air being a "composed element" as Earth, and Earth being feminine, putting them on the Tetragrammaton, I see how the Fool can be seen as masculine.
With the next triad we apply the Tetragrammaton again and we have the Fool as the Son, so the "phallic" makes sense here too.
I can see (from behind the fog of my ignorance in alchemy) that Mercury (i take its Mercury associated to the Fool) is active and thus "masculine".
Raja, Sattvas and Tamo I don't know.. and I would be happy to get pointed to where I can learn about them.

Overall, following these examples, I must say that I have discovered aspects of the Fool I never looked at, probably cause I was looking at him as asexual, while now I think he is more bisexual.

The quabalistic association of the number 0 with the Veils of existence is a very important one in my understanding of the Fool.
The veils represent All that is possible, but yet it is not; because if this All was to be anything, it would be because one of the infinite possibilities has manifested, thus making impossible a number of alternative possibilities.
When this happens we have left the Veils and we are in the realm of Kether.

As DerNarr was pointing out, the idea of Nuit is also associated with the Veils and the infinity of All that may be, and for me it sheds more light on this aspect of the Fool.

The legends of the vulture brings back the idea or the Fool as ermaphrodite (yes, there definitely is sexual drive, only yet undefined). The archetype of the Fool expresses a level of reality where duality is not yet manifested.

In the last paragraph of the quote AC explains this very well: the tought of the masculine should always counterbalance the tought of the feminine, and vice-versa.
When we look at the Fool as the unnumbered card that enters, when needed, between any two cards, we see how he moves through the planes.
The energy expressed on the planes is masculine or feminine depending on what the Fool is dealing with: it is masculine when he activates the other card; feminine when he is on the receiving hand of the exchange of energy.

Indeed it takes a bit of time to acclimatize to this notion, but then it becomes reasonable enough. :)