As I write this, it is April Fool’s Day heading into Easter weekend. Holidays, even those which seem secular, tend to speak to us in archetypes. Often, they color the seasons and cycles of the year with meaning, or rather give voice and meaning to our human experience of these natural cycles. They can offer us a tangible sense of our connection to this larger thing we are a part of, whatever it is. This is the purpose of myth, and of archetype.
Because these things tend to grow out of, and dramatize our natural, universal experiences, there tends to be both a congruence between them, and an inertia to them. Were April Fool’s Day a religious holiday, it would certainly be devoted to Mercury, the Logos and trickster God of the Roman pantheon, and The Magician of the Tarot, or card number 1. The first card of the Tarot is actually “The Fool”, which is card number 0. These first two Tarot cards are attributed to the very beginning of Spring, when the Fool seems to actually have “a day”, to elevate and encourage Mercurial behavior. How about that?
The Tarot, if nothing else, is a pictorial crystallization of Renaissance thinking, of how it viewed the self and the world, how these interacted with each other and reflected each other. The Tarot is like an amber which preserves this unique Hermetic point of view. It’s proverbial DNA. One could even look at Tarot as a prototypical 78 panel comic, which has been interpreted and reinterpreted for over six hundred years.
The Fool’s card number is 0, because the Fool represents infinite, unrealized potential. It is pregnant with potential life, potential isness. In this aspect we can think of 0 as feminine. It is receptive, a womb of potential, but it is also no-thing, a special no-thing in that contains the potential for every-thing. The Aristotelian Element of Air is associated with The Fool. This carries on the notion of space, expanse, potential.
The Fool is followed by The Magician, who is Mercury and card number 1. They are 0 & 1. Have you ever noticed how suggestive the first two numbers of our Arabic number system are? One does not need a dirty mind to see in them the yoni and the lingam. It is almost as if the Arabs, in designing the system, endowed these numbers with philosophical, as well as mathematical values. Their very shape suggests a doctrine, the binary code. I mean, before we consider anything else about these cards, or Spring, or Easter… we must acknowledge that the fucking numbers, are “fucking numbers”. With that, our stage has been set.
In passing, Aleister Crowley formed a whole religion based on the interplay of these two numbers/concepts. He united this notion of 0, as infinite and unrealized potential, with the Egyptian Goddess Nuit. While the number 1, representing any realization, or actualization of this potential, is personified by the Egyptian God Hadit. The Universe, and its ten trillion things are the result of this union, the passionate coitus between these two principals: the potential and the actual. I digress…
“The naked splendor of Nuit, she bends in ecstasy to kiss. The secret ardors of Hadit…”Aleister Crowley, The Book of The Law 1:15
The Fool, is that moment right before the buds are on the trees, before those Spring bulbs first break the soil. He meanders near a cliff ledge, holding a white rose, and seemingly lost to his senses and about to step off the cliff. Mother Nature has her cycles, and at the dawn of Spring, she is not a mother at all, but a maiden. The Crone died with the end Autumn, and now our Maiden emerges, ripened by Winter. On an ultimate, macro level, The Fool stepping off that cliff is the Universe about to step into existence. In the microcosm, it is the individual about to be born. On some level, The Fool was this blank page, and I am now The Magician actualizing an essay in the infinite potential of its emptiness. Somewhere in between these analogies is the maiden about to step back onto the stage, reclaiming her potential from the Death of Winter. Stepping back into isness. The Fool is that knife’s edge between the nothing of winter and the explosion of Spring. That is why The Fool, (and the beginning of the Major Arcana in general), are associated with this season. There is an absence, 0 and then there is a quickening, 1.
In contrast, The Magician seems quite deliberate. He stands with his wand in hand, raised mighty and erect, and with his other hand pointing downward. He is drawing from the power of that potential, and manifesting his will in the world. His red robes represent this will, this desire to manifest, and the white robes represent purity, or that which constrains and directs that will. The red roses and white lilies carry out this theme, which we see here manifested as the garden of the Magus. What he is planting is growing. The ouroboros, or snake swallowing its tail, is the belt around his waist and points to the cyclic, ongoing nature of this dynamic, as does the lemescate above his head.
Mercury is the Logos, who communicates the message of the gods to humanity. Mercury can almost be thought of as the personification of language itself. Why is he a trickster God? Anyone who has tried to communicate an experience to someone, who has not themselves had that experience, can understand this depiction. Language can no better communicate the actual, than a map can show you the terrain. Language is not true, it is always an abstract of the actual, an abstraction of truth. It is not to be trusted!
Through this lens, the cycle of Spring is turned into an ancient passion play. We have our Maiden, Earth, and we can feel the force of the Sun, who courts her, insisting himself upon our sensibilities. The maiden is roused by his touch, and suddenly, Eostre is there. The lilies, tulips, and daffodils paint her eyelids, cheeks and lips. Hyacinth and magnolia perfume the nape of her neck. The world comes alive with her great reproductive energy. Don’t think about it, feel it! This all gives story and context to what we all feel in Spring. We start looking in the mirror, dieting, exercising, spreading our magnificent plumage, (or whatever version of that we can pull off)… This dance is so much older than us, or the apes, or mammals. It goes back to, at least, the first heartbeats, the first rhythm: 01 01 01 01, on-off on-off on-off on-off, in-out in-out in-out in-out. Again, it is all a part of our fundamental binary code, and it is inherently labinal.
So again, Spring opens with April Fool’s Day, a Mercurial day, which is pregnant with potential for the trickster. A day devoted to playful pranks and deceptions has flirtation built directly into it. It offers a reason to give another some playful attention as an opening salvo to Spring’s Bacchanal. If you are celebrating April Fools by farting in your roommate’s open mouth as you pass, I assure you, you are missing the greater picture!
Most of us already know that Easter has little to do with the chastened Christ. Sure, the idea of resurrection has some poignancy right now, but Easter is the Spring Equinox fertility festival of Eostre herself, (they even kept the name of our Tuetonic fertility Goddess). Bunnies = coitus, eggs = 0 = potential for life. I assure you, This is not the desert of the crucified Christ, these are the forests, and glades of Pan. This is him perking his ears, (and whatever else!), up). April Fools, Easter and Spring in general are a celebration of courtship, and libido. Maidens dressed in white, dancing around the Maypole? There is nothing subtle about any of it, it all hits you over the head if you are paying attention.
Neil Gaiman once said, “Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated.” Myths, and systems of symbol and allegory like the Tarot, can deepen our experience of ourselves and the connection to the world around us. Not because they are true in an objective sense, but because they speak to our humanity, and humanize this larger thing we are a part of. The cards have never told me what will happen tomorrow, but they have helped me understand what is happening today.
About the Author: Fred Strong