Le Mat (The Fool)

Translated from Le Tarot De Marseille by Paul Marteau

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Draft of a translation of a chapter from Paul Marteau’s Le Tarot de Marseilles, 

by Kitos Digiovanni



     This card is not specified by any number, for it would be necessary to assign to it either 0 or 22. The Fool cannot be 0 without representing the indefinite universal, since he is mobile and symbolizes a process of evolution. Nor can he, on the other hand, be listed as 22, which is to say by two passivates which imply inaction—something which is absolutely contrary to the appearance of the figure represented on the card.

[Footnote: However, if put in the sequence, this card ought to be regarded as the number XXII.]

General and Abstract Meaning


Man, not yet having realized all the injunctions of Card XX, and, consequently, not yet having reached the apogee of his evolution, must nevertheless pass through successive lives as a vagabond, one with no thought of tomorrow and without knowledge of his or her destiny, since it is the experience of the improving quality of life which drives one go down the long road of incarnation.

This card is normally placed at the end of the deck. But if required to fit in, it would find a place after the other multiples of 7–that is to say, after the Chariot (1 x 7) and Temperance (2 x 7). This is in view of its evolutionary character.

Although found at the end of the deck, it is not a pessimistic conclusion to it, since it does not represent a person who, having seen the book of all human possibilities, everything that directed him, and every necessary path, must carry the weight of these experiences and end up discouraged.

On the contrary, it shows Man who returns with each birth, without the memory of what he had been and no knowledge of what is to come. It is this insouciance which allows him to go through the steps leading him to perfection. This card forms a conclusion for the preceding 21 cards, but it is not the conclusion of his destiny. When a person has reached his apogee, his destiny will be resolved and its conclusion will be be attained with card XXI.

The Fool also represents a liaison between the Major and Minor Arcana, the latter offering an interpretation of the person with respect to his actions.

Specific Analogies

    The stick on which he carries his bindle has rings fixed on it which prevent it from sliding down and falling on him. This signifies that the man is not able to settle down anywhere on the path which he is following. The bindle is the color of flesh to indicate that Man must always carry with him the history of his descent in the physical plane, since all that which has contact with the physical is a descent. On the other hand, it is also his experience, a kind of Pandora’s Box which he cannot open and on which he relies. It contains his illusions and his past. The stick is white—in other words, neutral—to show that this is not a burden he himself has created.

The yellow stick in his right hand, resting on the ground, puts him in contact with the physical world and shows that by his intelligence he draws strength from the same roots whose birth on earth he brought about.

The patch of exposed flesh at which the dog nips is the lowest part of him, the part of him that remains Animal. It is visible because, despite the clothing which he has created in the course of his evolution, it cannot be detached from him. The dog also represents the errors of the past which persist in troubling a person as he goes forward. This dog also symbolizes an inferior life plan which has a way of springing up and chasing after him. Just as the man has risen above the plane of animal existence, he must not forget that while he marches forward towards his evolution, his fall has brought him back to the level of the animal, and that on his journey he must bring about the evolution of inferior creatures surrounding him.

His yellow cap, ending in a red tassel, signifies the intelligence Man must cover himself with in order to follow the path through the material world. The red point indicates a material, and not a divine, intelligence.

His blue collar with the points ending in bells shows that the man on his journey is disoriented by the rumors of his past incarnations, and the noise which it creates for him on the ground prevents him from finding his divine memories and the strength to march forward. There are also bells attached to his belt, as there are to his blue collar, to indicate that he is as disoriented in the material world as he is in the spiritual one.

Coming out of the yellow sleeves are blue arms which mean that the person, has intelligent thoughts (the yellow cap) and thus the capacity for intelligent deeds, but they will only have efficacy if he knows how to ground them in spirituality.

Although Man travels in the material world in his successive incarnations, he only advances through spirituality, as indicated by his blue trousers and red slippers.

If Man proceeds like a vagabond through his lives, his march is nevertheless an intelligent one, not because of him, but because the path is being directed by the divine Intelligence, as represented by the yellow ground. The ground is rough to indicate the difficulties in his life. The tufts of grass signify active fertility; some are green to symbolize the act of fertilizing on the physical plane as relates to the vagabond’s passage through incarnation. Others are white and symbolize the fertilization which he is bringing about on the abstract plain during his disembodiment. They are, consequently, invisible on the physical plain.

Orientation of the Figure

     The Fool marches from the left to the right, but his head is turned around three-quarters, suggesting that he is studying his actions, reflecting before acting, and bringing about his evolution.

Specific and Concrete Meaning

     The denomination Le Mat which has been given to him has the meaning of mat in chess [échec de mat is French for “checkmate”]–in other words, confined. He is in effect afflicted with a burden he cannot put down, driven on by a dog, stimulated by the sound of his bells, besieged by his worries on the road, the obligation to go forward and the imposition of situations which he will encounter on his journey. He is, therefore, insouciant in the sense that he does not have an awareness of the obstacles of life and will not subsequently see them.

Meanings as They Relate to the Three Plains

     MENTAL. Indetermination due to the multiplicity of troubles which will present themselves and of which he only has partial awareness. Ideas in the process of changing. Uncertain plans.

SPIRITUAL. Feelings in transition, uncertainty in undertakings, base, indefinite sentiments.

PHYSICAL. Lack of awareness, lack of organization, insouciance about keeping promises, insecurity, departure or displacement. Willful forsaking of material goods. Slow business.

With respect to health: lymphatism/bloating, swelling, abscess.

INVERTED. The Fool, being a figure on the move, indicates that he has either fallen or has been halted in his movement. Forced to forsake material goods and a descent without the possibility of return or hope. Complications, messes, incoherence.

** ** ** **

In sum, in its elementary sense, LE MAT represents Man proceeding on his course of evolution with insouciance and without stopping, bearing the weight of the goods and evils he has acquired, stimulated by the ringing of his thoughts, his worries of the moment or his baser instincts, until the moment when he will have a realization of the equilibrium indicated by The World card.

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