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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Animal Tarot Time: The Fool

Hopefully this isn’t one of those things I begin with great enthusiasm, only to let it die before it gets very far along (a typical Sagittarius trait, by the way).

In any case, I am beginning a new series here at Tarot Notes called “Animal Tarot Time.” For this series, I will be exploring the choices of animals made by various deck creators to correspond to traditional Tarot cards. My initial goal is to get through the Major Arcana using cards from seven different decks:
  • Animal Tarot Cards by Doreen Virtue and Radleigh Valentine (Hay House)
  • The Animal Totem Tarot by Leeze Robertson; illustrated by Eugene Smith (Llewellyn Publications)
  • The Animal Wisdom Tarot by Dawn Brunke; illustrated by Ola Liola (CICO Books)
  • The Animal-Wise Tarot by Ted Andrews (Dragonhawk Publishing)
  • The Animals Divine Tarot by Lisa Hunt (Llewellyn Worldwide)
  • The Animism Tarot by Joanna Cheung (Self-Published)
  • Tarot of the Animal Lords with artwork by Angelo Giannini (Lo Scarabeo)

And…. big surprise! I’m starting with The Fool! Let’s see what “Foolish” animals we can find.

Animal Tarot Cards (Virtue, Valentine, Hay House)

Titled THE DREAMER rather than The Fool, Key Zero in this deck is represented by a “shepherd puppy.” I love how this could easily have been the little dog shown on The Fool card in the Rider-Waite-Smith and other traditional decks. Here, the dog is on his own, chasing butterflies. We do see a knapsack on the ground nearby, and an angel observing in the background.

Keywords from the Guidebook: “Excitement. Joy. Following your heart even though you may lack experience. Playful innocence and the belief that you can do anything.”

I also like that the shepherd breed was chosen for this card because this is one of the most intelligent dog breeds, very quick learners, with many natural abilities. So although this puppy may appear to be “throwing caution to the wind,” we can be sure that it is very much aware of its surroundings and ready to meet challenges that might arise. And the puppy does have an angel looking out for it.

The Animal Totem Tarot (Robertson, Smith, Llewellyn)

As I understand it, the American television show Kung Fu is the source for the use of the word “grasshopper” to designate a neophyte or trainee who is learning a skill or discipline. That usage seems quite appropriate for “The Fool,” whose lack of experience and training makes him an innocent at the beginning of a journey. Grasshoppers leap – and then, based on conditions they feel or smell, decide the next place they might want to land. Notice that they do not simply jump without any reason or purpose for doing so. It may not be evident on the surface, but The Fool, like the grasshopper, has inner instincts and intuition that play a part.

The Animal Wisdom Tarot (Brunke, Liola, CICO)
COYOTE: The Trickster

I normally think of The Magician as being “The Trickster” character in the Tarot, but the free-spirited, adventurous coyote isn’t a bad image for Key Zero. Coyotes are known for being adaptable, willing and able to adjust to conditions and circumstances in order to survive and even thrive in spite of obstacles they may face. The Fool, too, trusts in his ability to meet an overcome challenges that might arise when he ventures into unknown territory. Far from being a “blundering idiot,” the coyote (and The Fool) tend to be sharp, observant, and willing to take a chance.

Keynotes from the Guidebook: “Originality, Humor, Unconventional Wisdom, Freedom”

The Animal-Wise Tarot (Andrews, Dragonhawk)
COYOTE: Wisdom and Folly

The coyote was chosen to play “The Fool” in this deck because of its reputation as “an extremely gifted animal, embodying intelligence, playfulness, adaptability, and loyalty.” Once again, we see that The Fool is not expected to be a foolish, mindless character. The balance of wisdom and folly is at the core of this version of The Fool. There is a knack to being just foolish enough to take a chance and just wise enough to know why and how to do it. As Ted Andrews puts it, “Even if wrong decisions are made – you will quickly recognize them and have the instinct to correct them.” The Fool reversed brings in the ideas of being inflexible or taking oneself too seriously OR being reckless and careless.

The Animals Divine Tarot (Hunt, Llewellyn)
COYOTE: Native American

Surprise (or not)! It’s the coyote again. Hunt’s card shows us a coyote on a rocky path covered with entwined roots. He is not leaping into the air, but he still must navigate and negotiate the earthly protrusions in his path. As Hunt points out, in Native American traditions, the Coyote plays “the fool, the teacher, the traveler, the transformer, and the trickster.” Sometimes his brazen self-confidence leads to a positive result; other times, his impetuous behavior creates terrible trouble. But the coyote’s zest for life is unquestionable. He teaches and guides us to “adapt, change, and grow as new situations present themselves to us.” (Hunt)

Meaning from the Guidebook: setting upon a journey, adventurer, inexperience

The Animism Tarot (Cheung)

Joanna Cheung describes the llama on this card as “barreling along without a care in the world.” While we may worry that he is naïve and impulsive, we have to admit he is also confident, positive, and full of potential. Once more we see this balance between folly and wisdom mentioned by Ted Andrews. There is a sense that it is not in The Fool’s best interests to completely give up either of those qualities. I love the rendering of the llama on Cheung’s card – a nice departure from the coyote.

I did a bit of research and discovered that llamas can be divided in two groups according to the length of their fur: short coated called Ccara, and the medium coated called Curaca.

Keywords from the Guidebook: tenacity, curiosity, steadfastness, joy, fortitude, impulsiveness

Tarot of the Animal Lords (Giannini, Lo Scarabeo)

An interesting choice here for The Fool in this deck. Badgers have rather short, wide bodies, with short legs for digging. They shelter underground, living in burrows called setts. Their behavior doesn’t really seem to go along with the idea of The Fool, in my opinion, as badgers seem somewhat stodgy and definitely down-to-earth, unlikely to take a skipping leap off a cliff. (Ted Andrews place the badger on hit Four of Pentacles card in the Animal-Wise Tarot.) However, the badger-man on this card seems carefree and jaunty enough, carrying a puffin under one arm for reasons perhaps known only to Angelo Giannini and Lo Scarabeo.

Keywords from the Guidebook: “Spirit of initiative, desire to travel; Reversed: thoughtlessness, madness, slavery.”

(Interesting side note in light of the prominent coyote-Fool cards, Wikipedia tells us: “In North America, coyotes sometimes eat badgers and vice versa, but the majority of their interactions seem to be mutual or neutral. American badgers and coyotes have been seen hunting together in a cooperative fashion.”)

THE FOOL: Shepherd Puppy? Grasshopper? Coyote? Llama? Badger? 
What works best for you?


  1. Hi Zanna, I love the shepherd puppy, to me it represents the meaning and energy of the Fool card very well. Thanks for doing this comparison, It will be helpful to me as I am looking at getting an animal deck(to add to my ever growing collection:))

    1. I love the puppy also. Thanks for stopping by, Karen!


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~ Zanna