Aug 17, 2010

Tarot Tuesday-The Fool And The Court Jester

"Jesters do oft prove prophets." (V, iii, l. 73) King Lear

Designated as card 0, the Fool lies at the beginning of the Major Arcana, but also somewhat apart from the other cards. The Fool is the card of infinite possibilities. He has all he needs to do, or be anything he wants. He is
on his way to a brand new beginning. But the card carries a little sting of warning as well. Stop daydreaming and fantasizing and watch your step, lest you fall and end up looking the fool.

In ancients times, medieval courts often employed fools or court jesters and by the Middle Ages the fool and jester were familiar figures. In Renaissance times, aristocratic households in Britain employed licensed fools and jesters, who sometimes dressed as other servants were dressed, but generally wore a party colored hat, coat, hood with donkey ears or a red-flannel coxcomb and bells. Regarded as pets or mascots, they served not simply to amuse but to criticise their master or mistress and their guests. Queen Elizabeth (reign 1558-1603) is said to have rebuked one of her fools for being insufficiently severe with her. Excessive behaviour, however, could lead to a fool being whipped.

Since the jester did outrageous things all the time, he could speak the grave truth and get away with it as something said in "jest". The jester could dispense advice to a king that no one else dare. Undoubtedly, many who wished to influence the king did so through the jester.

The fine line between entertainer and advisor did not give the fool/jester immunity, however. Advice that was too critical could lead to the same fate as any other who opposed the king. Many fools/jesters lost their jobs and lives by overstepping their verbal license. They did have other skills as well, which consisted ofjuggling, acrobatics, storytelling, puppetry, magic, contortion, tightrope walking, fire eating, working with animals.

However, around 1642, there came a somber period in the fool/jester history. The Puritans closed the English theaters. When the theaters reopened in 1660, fools and jesters were not welcome in the sedate drama of the Restoration. Undaunted, English clowns continued to perform on improvised stages and in the street..

1 comment:

Soraya said...

I have to say, I love the picture, as it's the Tarot Deck that I have. :-p
I'm thinking the next time I need help on a reading, I'm going to refer to your blog.