Mythic Study - The Fool


in vino veritas

And as the Fool may state the truth where other may not, so might acting the Fool allow one to find a true aspect of himself.


ivy or vine?

I think it is ivy. The "wine god" aspect of Dionysos is a very late reduction from what was a multi-faceted god (the reduction operated by association with the Roman Bacchus). In classical times and even late in Hellenistic times, Dionysos was better known as the god of tragic theatre, inspiration and ecstatic rites. His followers might have been drunk and drugged (probably both), but he is generally represented as a young god, sometimes mounting a leopard or a dolphin, and often wearing a crown of ivy leaves. He is carefree and full of inspiration, died and was reborn - he drank wine, loved girls, and inspired bards and dramatists: these are the aspects the Greeks wrote about the most and left us in their pottery and sculpture . Unfortunately, his late identification with the Roman god of wine, Bacchus (basically because the staid Romans had no idea what to do with such a free Greek spirit) has left its trace in popular imagination. But the wonderful Dionysos is much more than that!

A crown of ivy was given to winners of poetry and tragic theatre contests in classical times, so it is natural that Dionysos should be wearing one. Ivy is free and untamed, after all...


Isn't that Dionysus is the god of all wet things growing and grapes are just one of those things? Whereas someone else (I don't remember) is god of dry things growing?


Sorry - forgot to write - of course!! - that Dionysos is said to have invented wine on mount Nysa. So there is a wine link, and of course wine was essential in Greek domestic and religious life (because of libations).

But that was only one of his attributes - the association to tragic theatre and ecstatic rites is more prominent in literature and art. The Romans retained only the wine element.

So I should have said: it could be ivy or vine leaves!!

I think the word intoxication, in its widest meaning, resumes all his aspects - poetic inspiration, dance, theatre, his own tragic story, lust for life and love, drinking, drugs,.........


Just wanted to say how much I am enjoying the posts on this and looking forward to studying all the other cards.

I think I read somewhere that Dionysas was also considered a death god. I guess from the ladies, tearing each other apart? :) Not sure, any thoughts?

Also I know all the gods traveled from Olympus, but wasn't he known for always going off into the wilderness? What a great fool card.



One more 'quality' to include here, which may not be directly related to the myths or tarot traditions but is certainly relevant. Being *child-like*.

I read somewhere recently how children enjoy what life offers them: take simple delight in a spray of water on a hot day, a scary movie when you can hide behind the couch, playing 'catch', making sand-pies....all very very simple stuff that they just love.

Recent example: walking in the mountains, three children rushing down the path, one of them singing openly and happily. Few minutes later I see the concerned parents who start shouting 'wait! stop' etc etc. Say to me "have you just seen some children?" Me: "yes, they're fine!"


I haven't read (yet) that he was the death god, I got the impression the women tearing each other apart was more out of desire. He was very handsome and very sexual so I got the impression these women lost control of their senses, caught up in some kind of sensual, sexual frenzy....that was the effect he had on them....I could be wrong....


theredfox said:
One more 'quality' to include here, which may not be directly related to the myths or tarot traditions but is certainly relevant. Being *child-like*
You're right - and this Fool certainly looks child-like. Even to look at him is a holiday...

Not so far away from the myth: Dionysos is the youthful god. And not too far from the Fool new-style as inaugurated by Waite and Colman Smith.

I think the reference to death in his myth comes from the fact he died, went to the Underworld, and was reborn a second time. Hence one of his names was "the Twice-Born".

He was intimate with life - and with death: and belonged somewhere between the two.

Free Flight

To me, the Fool in the mythic deck is childlike and innocent and IMHO he appears more foolish than he appears is some other decks, It is a big cliff he is about to walk off..yet the view on his face is one of adoration, bliss and excitement. He is clothed in animal furs and has an ivy crown. It is like he has crowned himself the king of his own world in his own way. This suggests a sort of bravado and self-confidence, that to me brings the old adage to mind: "pride cometh before a fall."

The eagle suggests wisdom and the eagle seems to be watching him with an attitude that speaks volumnes.

The one thing I cannot see on this card is if the sun is setting or rising. In each reading, I change my mind here. Mostly I see it as a setting sun, but this doesn't gell with the fool's expression (he seems to be looking at the sun) which seems to suggest the sun is rising...Sometimes I see him as so foolish that he doesn't care one iota about where the sun is in the sky and would be setting out from his journey whether it is Sun Up or Sun Down.

The cave that the fool is emerging from also (to me) seems like the same cave used in the card Strength.

The other thing that that strikes me is that the fool here carries no bad, no wand to hold his bag. He is dressed lightly and has bare feet. To me this speaks that he is very ill-prepared for his journey.

I actually intepret this card as I would in some other decks for the reversal of the fool - ie more negative...which often leaves me stumped when this card comes up reversed...For mostly I think the fool is quite silly and ill-prepared in the upright in a reversal I often see him cartwheeling out of control so to me this indicates he has recently begun his journey and already lost his footing..

Just my 2 cents worth :) :)


I was going to suggest that the Emperor is maybe the best polar *opposite* to the Fool: rational, governing, controlling, concerned with power and dominion. Now I've had a quick look throught the pack I've discovered something else: I *think* the only two cards also containing the eagle are the Emperor and the Hanged Man. I doubt if Liz Greene was working at that kind of level; you can try and over-interpret and it becomes contrived and not very useful.

But there it is: 3 cards with the eagle, and IMO two of them are polar opposites.

(I like the Bacchus and Ariadne painting too. I enjoy seeing it when I'm in London and visit the National Gallery).