by Raven WolfenOne
“Who is the bigger fool? The one who sits and does nothing? Or the one that leaps without looking or questioning?” That is the lesson and duality of the Sacred Fool. When you hear the term “Fool” it draws synonyms like; foolish, naïve, and simpleton to mind. If someone was to ask you to imagine a “Fool” it would most likely evoke an image of a clown or court jester of kings long since past or something of that ilk. If that person asked you to describe the duties of said “Fool” it would go something along the lines of a caricature meant solely to entertaining the masses. While this is not an untrue description, the Fool played a bigger role in society both ancient and modern.
The Sacred Fool can be found in almost every time period, culture and religion. In medieval times the job of the “Fool” or Court Jester was – yes - to entertain the court by use of mocking members of court and even the king himself, behave rudely, and otherwise cavort to the shock and delight of onlookers in a comedic way. The Jester could get away with wry or piercing social commentary that would get other men hanged so long as it was done in a way that made others laugh. This “Fool” is one who understood that violating social rules is acceptable and even encourage to those who appear that have almost a childlike openness about them. Though not their only responsibility, their job was also to give hard to digest topics and potentially sensitive information up to the Monarch in a comedic or light-hearted way so as to not disappoint or enrage their king. For if they failed in this task, it was not only their head on the potential chopping block but in many cases other members of court or the leaders of various militaries as well. This was no easy task, to say the least. This is the duality of being foolish and funny, but also tasked with delivering messages that we find in The Sacred Fool today. We can also find this in even older form as the ancient archetype -- The Trickster.
It is in The Trickster; where we find the side of the “Fool” that is “the one who leaps without looking or questioning”. The Trickster archetype, more often than not, will rely on their wit and cunning to circumvent a situation or outcome they find themselves in, usually as a result directly created from their own actions. We see this prominently in Mythology and Folklore from around the world. From Indigenous first nations peoples of the Americas' stories of Coyote and Raven, as well as in Greco-Roman tails of their heroes much like Odysseus or Perseus. The Trickster teaches us not to take ourselves too seriously and that it is okay to cry if needed as well as to laugh at oneself. This can be found in stories of Yōkai of Japanese stories most infamous being the kitsune or in Nordic stories of Loki. Many Tricksters were tasked to deliver messages and often played the role of diplomat in many varying situations. This is where we start to see not only the parallels to the court jester but also the duality of the “Fool”. Most famous is Hermes and Lugh though it may be in different ways. That is the beauty of The Trickster Fool there is no one way to be, but all are valued and respected in their time and need. From Elegua (Yoruba) to Anansi, Eris to Laverna, Kokopelli to Wisakedjak and many more. As time and society changes so too does the Sacred Fool to meet the needs of the people, The Trickster turns to the Wise Fool.
It is in the Wise Fool this is most evident, where we see “The one who sits and does nothing”. This “Fool” is the one the sits and waits for an opportunity but also the one people come to for advice. One of the most famous Wise Fools can be found in Shakespeare's plays Hamlet, 12th Night and King Lear. This Fool finds their wisdom not from intellectualism but often found in blind faith, reckless desire, hopeless romance and wild abandon, but also blindly following tradition or folk wisdom without understanding. With this the Wise Fool is a cautionary tale to us that relying on blind faith or traditions without tempering it with new thoughts and new ideas can lead one to stagnation, trouble and hardship. The Wise Fool teaches us while planning is a good thing, we must also be careful what we give up for that safety or comfort. This is most often found in folklore or children’s stories like the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, Little Match Girl, or even Cinderella. In these we find the lesson of the gain and consequences of not planning accordingly and the risk of just blindly letting things go or not seizing the moment. Much like with the Trickster we find many relying on their cunning and wit to get by. This can be seen in Midsummers Nights Dream with Puck and in tales of Jack Frost.
The Sacred Fool is just as necessary in today’s modern world as they were in ancient times. From Japanese anime to Marvels blockbusters the Sacred Fool is ever present. Most often they wear a combination of different faces be it The Trickster, The Court Jester, The Clown or The Wise Fool. They are often the ones demanding change or sowing seeds of chaos and laughing all the way. They teach us both the “rolling stone gathers no moss”, as well as “all good things to those who wait”. They teach us that balance is in all things and must be sought out, and the way to find that balance is to find the extremes. The Sacred Fool is the grand teacher while also being the ultimate student ever learning, ever growing and ever changing. At the end of the day, whichever Fool graces your life is the one you from whom need to learn. May that be to leap without calculating the cost, to think before you act and even to find the humour in difficult or painful situations. So, I ask you again who is the bigger Fool?
Raven WolfenOne is a long time member of the Ever Green Hearth. They are honored to be the vessel of The Fool in our upcoming Imbolc Ritual; helping to guide us in each finding our own Inner Sacred Fool and prepare for our next Fool's Journey. Find how to join our Online Ritual through our facebook page or our Events page.