Tarot & the Fool's Journey

A Comparison between the Hero's & Fool's Journey

Tarot & Fool's Journey 6.19.22.png
June 19, 2022

The elements of a suitable story date back to the beginning of time. Think of ancient Egypt and the Book of Thoth. I'm talking about Tarot Cards and cartomancy. However, we're not venturing into fortune-telling. 

What is the book of Thoth? The Book of Thoth is a name given to many ancient Egyptian texts supposed to have been written by Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing and knowledge. They include many scripts that describe a master, the Egyptian God Thoth, and a student, "the one who loves knowledge," talking about life. Other ancient civilizations connect to the Tarot, but actual Tarot cards didn't surface until Italy in the 15th Century; the Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck has 15 or so Major Arcana cards. Tarot as we know it now has 22 cards. Does the Visconti deck lead to a better version of storytelling?

Tarot cards have "the Fool's Journey," while Joseph Campbell has "the Hero's Journey." Pay close attention to the beats for each journey. They overlap well:

Fool's Journey

  1. Fool

  2. Magician

  3. High Priestess

  4. Empress

  5. Emperor

  6. Hierophant

  7. Lovers

  8. Chariot

  9. Strength

  10. Hermit

  11. Wheel of Fortune

  12. Justice

  13. Hanged Man

  14. Death

  15. Temperance

  16. Devil

  17. Tower

  18. Star

  19. Moon

  20. Sun

  21. Judgment

  22. World

Campbell's Hero Journey

  1. Call to Adventure

  2. Refusal of the Call

  3. Supernatural Aid

  4. Crossing Threshold 1

  5. Belly of the Whale

  6. Road of Trials

  7. Meeting the Goddess

  8. Woman as the Temptress

  9. Atonement with the Father

  10. Apotheosis

  11. Ultimate Boon

  12. Refusal of the Return

  13. Magic Flight

  14. Rescue from Without

  15. Crossing the Return Threshold

  16. Master of Two Worlds

  17. Freedom to Live

Visconti/Sforza Tarot: Fool's Journey

  1. The Fool - lacks experience; eventually has to learn. Open/willing energy. Accept all without worry. STATUS QUO/CALL TO ADVENTURE.

  2. Juggler/Magician - learning inner skills; you have what you need to move forward. ASSISTANCE.

  3. The Popess - Awareness & Subconsciousness. Trust your instincts; your mind knows more than you. Feel the ethereal knowledge of the world around you and move forward. ASSISTANCE/DEPARTURE.

  4. The Empress - Compassion, beauty, & love; absorb the natural energy around you. DEPARTURE.

  5. The Pope - messenger from the heavens; spiritual lessons from heaven. The spiritual perspective. TRIALS.

  6. Love/Lovers - love life; values & decisions. The consequences of your actions. TRIALS/APPROACH.

  7. The Chariot - Natural drive and determination; upcoming victory. Mental knowledge combines with heart & spirit to become unstoppable. CRISIS.

  8. Fortitude/Strength - Strength of heart, level of courage, & ability to withstand life’s 400 blows. Endure, and you will have more power. CRISIS.

  9. Time/Hermit - yearn for solitude; answers come from within; be still and listen. TREASURE.

  10. Wheel of Fortune - constant motion; nothing is permanent. Good or bad, cherish the lessons of being on top or bottom. RESULT.

  11. Hangman - Limbo; sacrifice the small for the big picture. Let go of what you think you know and embrace a new perspective. RETURN.

  12. Death - Endings lead to beginnings. RETURN/NEW LIFE.

  13. Temperance - master moderation; peace & patience. Go with the flow; take things as they come. Change with the changes. NEW LIFE.

  14. The Sun - uplifting; happiness, joy, vitality, and optimism. A positive sign that things are working & moving in the right direction. RESOLUTION.

  15. The Last Judgement - past & future unite. Review both to know where you are going. It’s never too late to make a change. RESOLUTION/STATUS QUO.

The plot points match up well. However, I may have to read more about Joseph Campbell to study the comparison more. But the issue remains: we can combine steps as needed, trimming or expanding at will.​

Dare to go deeper and highlight what tarot cards are left out:  the moon, the star, the tower, the devil, the world, and the emperor. What made creators add these? Why were they needed?

All in all, this is just another tool to help with storytelling; the journey vs. character desires. Plot structure combines with a character's want, and you're on your way.

Daniel Micko, 770 Publishing