Tarot, The Fool

So lately I’ve been captivated by Tarot. I don’t have a deck myself, but I don’t know which one I want, of the hundreds of available choices, and the huge variety of artistic styles. I feel like I need a deeper understanding of the system in order to make a good choice, so I decided to start drawing my own. Right now I’m just sketching, because honestly my art isn’t very good. It probably won’t ever be a deck that I will print and use.

Rider-Waite-Smith fool card, 1910

Nonetheless, I started researching the symbology used in the cards, and began at the beginning, with the Fool. The deck that is considered the standard traditional set is commonly called Rider-Waite, though it was designed by Pamela Colman Smith, in 1910. Most modern versions of the fool depict variations on Smith’s design, with a youth on a journey. He’s looking toward the sky and about to step off the edge of a cliff, while his faithful little dog jumps toward his feet.

But it turns out that there is a much older version, dated around 1650, by the engraver Noblet. This Fool bears some similarity to the modern Fool, with a notable exception: in this card, the dog is some kind of web-footed dog-cat hybrid, and instead of jumping at his feet, the animal is clearly reaching for the man’s exposed and dangling man-parts.

The Noblet Fool card, ca. 1650

I saw this card in an image search, and was puzzled by it all day, until finally I went to the page where it appeared and read Michael S. Howard’s lengthy treatise on alchemy and the early Tarot. The animal’s gesture is an attempt to take forbidden fruit, and also recalls mad Saturn, who ate his children rather than let them take over his rule. Eventually Jupiter managed to castrate his father, and replace him as the highest god.

What does any of this have to do with monster erotica? I have no idea. Maybe it’s nothing more than that I like to look at man-parts, to partake of the forbidden fruit; even though in this case they’re not particularly attractive. History and mythology are so rich, and human experience and consciousness so varied, there must be a story in here somewhere, if I can tease it out.

What strange ideas are captivating and inspiring you these days?

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