The Fool is the unnumbered Major Arcana in Tarot deck. Its numerical value is Zero. The numbers are important attributes of the cards because they hold hidden meanings about card qualities and values, similar to Hebrew letters which we can also see on the cards. Hidden meanings of the numbers are not literally hidden. They are just not so obvious as colors and card titles.
The number of every particular card is telling us something about their essence, influence and where they belong in the great cycle of creation. As the Fool's number is zero, The Fool is at the very beginning of this cycle. The Fool represents the stage of potential existence before the actual beginning of existence and development.
Zero isn't a natural number as it is the case with numerical values of the rest of the cards. It acts as a bridge between negative and positive. So The Fool stays at the crossroad between the potential and manifestation.
The Fool represents unmanifested potential while the other cards represent specific attributions and manifestations. Compared with the other cards, in that sense, The Fool is such an antithesis to any of them because it is not defined. It is just the principle of no principle. There is no established rule with the Fool, it is unpredictable.
Major Arcana The World, besides its basic meaning, is at the same time also the summa summarum of all previous Major Arcanas - principles/archetypes. That is because The World or The Universe includes everything which was, is and will be. The World includes the whole spectrum of existence. Contrary to The World, The Fool stays at the doorstep of manifested world's existence. Picturesque display of that is seen on Rider-Waite's Fool where it stays on the edge of the cliff. The doorstep is the cliff and the Fool is about to enter material world. Mountains heights represent the higher realms of all potential, yet not manifested existence.
In it's wider meaning, The Fool is the source from which anything eventually may emerge. In the narrow sense, The Fool itself is anything that just turns up.
The Fool is nothing, yet it could become anything because of its endless potential.
Fool's endless potential lays in its flexibility, emptiness, carelessness and lightness. It is like an empty piece of paper or empty vessel. Imagine what you can do with an empty piece of paper. You can write a song, start writing a book, make a draft... You can burn it or crumple it and throw it away. You can make a paper airplane. Or you can do nothing. The same way, The Fool can become The Magician or The Emperor. It may become the woman or the man. Yet The Fool may remain The Fool forever.
But let's look at it as a stage of development. In that sense, The Fool is at the very first stage. It is undeveloped. It doesn't have defined features yet. At this phase, we can't even make a projection what it is going to become. Because it may become anything possible or nothing, it may die or stay hibernated at that stage for a long time.
The Fool could be compared with the very young child or baby. A child doesn't have life experience. It doesn't think about its past nor makes projections of the future. There is no ego, no plans, no fears. Instead, it is in tune with temporal wishes and recognizes only its basic needs. The child is willful and open to meet the world and is not afraid of failure. Known world and environment is such a big playground. Little human is happy in its blissful ignorance. Curiosity is the main driving force. In this early stage of life, there is no need for playing social roles. Personality and identifications are not developed yet so there is no ego. Hypothetically, the child has an endless potential - possibility to become anyone, to adopt and develop any personality, to play any role. Which personality it will become and what roles it will play, depends on many factors.
Later, when it steps into the world, the child starts to wish this and that. Meeting others causes mirroring with them and then playing different roles comes to place. The ego emerges as the necessity of growing up. And with ego come all worries of the world. Yet, ego is not always to blame, as popular beliefs use to do. Ego is an important shield. It acts as a boundary between 'me' and 'the other'. Without a healthy developed ego, there wouldn't be consciousness and conscience. The healthy ego is necessary for one to discern right from wrong.
The Fool is free. Free from its ego and free from its own free will.
Conscience and consciousness are not strong attributes of The Fool. Many things that the fool does he does by accident because of the lack of knowledge. If The Fool does something good and generous it doesn't come from the place of empathy or altruism, nor as a calculation for the sake of personal benefit. Similarly, if The Fool acts in a negative way or hurts someone, it also happens without a reason and intention. Due to the lack of conscience, everything that comes from The Fool comes by an accident, as a coincidence and set of circumstances (happy or unhappy).
The term 'free will' is usually attributed to The Fool in many tarot materials and manuals. Actually, the free will is The Magician's domain, not The Fool's. Free will comes from the place of consciousness, awareness and knowledge. Everything that is done as an act of the free will is done for a particular reason and purpose. It might be positive or negative, but it is for a reason. The Fool acts for the sake of acting to feed curiosity. There is no a reason or particular agenda behind his actions. This could be the first and the main difference between the Fool and The Magician. Their similarity between The Magician and The Fool is that they both have great potential to make changes and create, but their perspectives are still different.
Divinatory meaning of The Fool
In readings, The Fool often represents something new, fresh, sudden and unexpected. Events, circumstances, influences and people could be represented by The Fool. Anything which appears in a reading as The Fool is usually not a long-term. Changes and chances come and go. The Fool informs you that something you don't expect a bit is about to happen. Nothing is impossible, everything is allowed.
The Fool as the other person
If the Fool refers to the certain person in your reading, it suggests that this person may act unexpected and unusual, both in a positive or negative way, but those actions are not something you should take too seriously. Remember that The Fool does things for no particular reason, yet feels an urge to do them. Such actions probably lack any deeper meaning and reason, no matter if they seemed different at the first sight.
The Fool person is curious and might take actions just to see what is going to happen. Adventurer spirit may lead the person to anything - unknown, wild or simply stupid. They are hungry for something new, often for uncommon or even 'forbidden'. Anything extraordinary draws their attention. Their mission is to collect experiences. Actually, it is their deep need which grows into a mission and not so rare into a lifestyle. They go for what they think they want and need, but it doesn't really mean they really want and need that. To realize what they don't want, first, they have to get it. And you can guess what comes after - they leave.
So, you may assume that The Fool personality is unpredictable, fickle and kinda capricious but rarely opportunistic. You can't count on them unless it is about having fun or adventure. They are predictable only in their unpredictability.
Of course, if it's a person that The Fool refers to in your reading, it would be hasty to assume that this person really has The Fool personality and always act that way. It is more likely that he/she is going to play The Fool's role in that particular situation. But if the same person often appears as The Fool in your readings, then you might be dealing with the authentic The Fool personality. (Good luck with them!)
The Fool as an event
Anything that comes out of the blue! For that reason, it may be hard to predict what is actually about to happen. But you can be sure that it is something unexpectable, for good or for bad. Surrounding cards will define will it be in your favor or not, or will it be a pleasant surprise. What you can expect is actually surprise.
The Fool as circumstances
It is a strange set of coincidences which may totally turn you from your usual path. Those circumstances may lead you to act in an unusual manner for you - whatever is unusual for you, but you can't help yourself to avoid them. It may simply be changing your daily routine or something bigger such suddenly deciding to take a plane for Kyrgyzstan. What you can expect from that - new experience, adventure, feeling young and free at heart. The Fool circumstances put you in a position where you have least or no control over them. What you have is a drive to follow the unknown path.
The Fool as influence or inner process
As an influence, The Fool may announce you a change in your common perception. You may notice that for some reason the same old things are starting to appear in the different light. Such changes are usually positive because suddenly you start to feel more light, more fresh, having more trust and faith in the world and people. Worries are replaced with living in the present moment.
If The Fool represents you in the reading
You are probably in a situation which is completely new to you. Basically, you are a newbie and have yet to learn the rules of the game. But don't be afraid, this time your naivety and inexperience are your advantages. The whole new path is in front of you which may seem risky. In a wider sense, everything is a risk at some level. Even a known routine path may be even riskier than the new one. The key is here into looking at the bigger picture. Everything that comes to you or from within you should be observed in a wider sense.
If The Fool (you in this case) is surrounded by positive cards, these times are not meant for particularities, pettiness and trivialities. Nor for fear, defensive attitude and keeping guard. They are meant for creating and giving a chance to something new to emerge seemingly from nowhere. It is on you to allow the flow. Even if you feel you are not in charge and feel just like a channel, try to gain a wider perspective. It is a chance for you to have an experience of something you couldn't experience in the ordinary situation. Look at it like you are given a chance, that you are blessed because your experience will be enriched.
If surrounded by negative cards, well... It is still not that bad because you will get out from it smarter. The negative thing about this scenery is that you may really feel like being a fool, too naive and unprotected. Occasionally you may experience a shame or that you don't have what it takes - gut, knowledge or resources. You may feel unaccepted, like an outcast or misfit. Remember that The Fool is such a child. It needs to grow up and growing up is not all roses. But be sure that the luck is on your side and you will get on your feet.
In general, when The Fool represents you, it means that you are curious, spontaneous, optimistic and light-hearted regarding the situation. What is the most interesting, you are the 'wild card' this time!
The Fool as an advice for you
Don't feed expectations but have a faith. Relay on intuition. Gather experience because any experience is valuable even if you can't see its purpose yet. Don't be pretentious because this time you are a newbie. Help and good luck may come from different sources if you are open to accept them. Embrace the new and unknown.
Tarot and Astrology
Nowadays, planet Uranus is usually seen as the astrological counterpart of The Fool. In Astrology the Uranus is seen to represent all things wild, unpredictable, uncommon and extraordinary. Uranus orbit is equally weird which symbolically fits well the Fool's path. It all makes sense since we come to the point that Uranus is not such 'light' planet, moreover, many astrologers see Uranus as malefic. Beside liberation, originality, freedom etc. Uranus also governs revolutions, eruptive issues, mass madness, sudden ends, natural disasters, destructions and different kinds of violent and sudden changes which obviously more fits The Tower tarot card than The Fool.
The Fool is also seen as a representer of Air element in Tarot. The connection between The Fool and the element of Air is pretty obvious due that the Fool is free-minded, open, curious, extrovert, fickle, easily get bored and constantly seeks stimulants. Yet, The Fool is not the embodiment of intellect which is one of the main features of Air element. There is no a specific zodiac sign ascribed to The Fool.