As part of a Tarot course I took when I got started with seriously learning to read the cards, we were asked to apply the Fool’s Journey through the Major Arcana of the deck to some story or movie or whatever that we were familiar with. Turned out one of my classmates and I, unknown to each other, chose Star Wars as our story arcs. I think finding a literary or cinematic example of the Fool/Hero’s Journey has helped me tremendously in understanding the archetypal power of these 22 cards.
I think of the Journey as a set of three spirals that the soul takes to accumulate wisdom and deepen compassion. Here’s how I pulled Luke Skywalker’s story (from episodes IV, V, and VI—first three films) into the Fool’s Journey.
The Overview (for non-Star Wars folks)
Iconic hero’s journey of mythology, this one. Leaving the father and returning to/integrating the father. Not everyone is a Star Wars fan, so here’s a very short synopsis of the three original movie storylines: Hero (Luke) finds inner telepathic gifts and with the help of two elder mentors (Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda), conquers fears, encounters his father and his shadow at the same time, and saves the galaxy from an evil empire.
Luke begins as an innocent boy with the power of the universe (the Force) inside of him (0 Fool), but he’s not aware of this. He’s briefly nurtured by mother (3 Empress), but has a distant and unknown father (4 Emperor). He misses out on getting his tools (1 Magician) and his initiation into the telepathic mysteries of the Jedi (2 High Priestess) because his mother dies when he’s born and his father goes to the Dark Side and is lost for a long time in evil uses of the Force.
Spiral the First
Luke is adopted by his practical and “boring” uncle who becomes father substitute and representative of the conventional way of doing things, the wisdom of the farm he lives on (5 Hierophant); he teaches good commonsense wisdom, but Luke as a teen is not listening. As Luke’s world is invaded by the evil imperial forces, he has to make a first commitment to relating to his new androids and stepping out into adventure with the approval of his newly found mentor, Obi Wan Kenobi (6 Lovers). Luke thinks he’s in control of things (his hovercraft chariot ) (7 Chariot), but finds he must rely on the gentle power (8 Strength and 9 Hermit) of his Jedi master, Obi Wan. Obi Wan provides important backup on Luke’s Jedi training by providing him the tool he’d missed out on (Jedi laser sword), along with an introduction to the mental power (1 Magician) to use it.
He also gets an initiation into how to use his new inner powers of telepathy and telekinesis (2 High Priestess), which, of course, he doesn’t fully take in at this level. He also returns to relationship and commitment when he meets Princess Leia and Han Solo (6 Lovers). This three-way relationship evolves as the storyline progresses.
By the end of this spiral, Luke has returned to an even cooler chariot (fighter spaceship) (7 Chariot), and proven that he can drive it with his Jedi mental powers and vanquish the enemy. But this is only the beginning. Obi Wan Kenobi has left the plane of the living and advises him from the Other side, while his nemesis, Darth Vader, is only temporarily defeated. The Wheel turns (10 Wheel of Fortune).
Spiral the Second
Luke, still in the Chariot driver’s ego mental space, heads off to meet his next mentor, Yoda (another 9 Hermit), who challenges him to focus is internal powers (1 Magician and 2 High Priestess) while staying in the womb of the jungle planet Yoda lives on. See how the Fool doesn’t just move through the different card symbols, but carries them with him and meets them again as he learns? That’s the way life works, too.
Luke remains withdrawn for a time (12 The Hanged Man) until he senses that his loved ones (Leia and Han) are in danger, and then he insists on going off to save them without finishing his training. He does get a taste of his deepest fear while he’s with Yoda during a vision in a cave (18 Moon), but he’s in for a deeper challenge shortly. Because he didn’t finish his training, he hasn’t passed the Temperance test (14). He’s still unbalanced. In going off to save his friends, he meets his nemesis, Darth Vader, and is faced with the trauma of finding out that this evil person is his father (16 Tower).
At the end of this spiral, he treats his wounds, physical and emotional, finally releases his ego (13 Death), and accepts who his father really is, and therefore, where he himself might go if he doesn’t learn balance (15 Devil). He’s at the bottom of the Wheel (10).
Spiral the Third
A much matured, centered, and powerful Luke appears. He has gone back to Yoda and finished his training, and it shows. Looks like he’s integrated his Jedi self (14 Temperance) and is master of his power (1 Magician) but with the wisdom of experience (9 Hermit).
In his adventure in vanquishing the evil Jabba the Hut creature in order to save his loved ones, he shines like the sun (19 Sun). He finally integrates relationship at this point by understanding the connection he has with Princess Leia (his twin sister). She teaches him how the Force can flow with the assistance of love (17 Star). No sexuality in his journey, so this is as close to the consummation of The Lovers as we get.
And now for the final challenge of this spiral, Luke must face not only his father again, but the more distantly evil emperor (4 Emperor, 15 Devil) and the temptation to embrace the Dark Side of the Force. Luke’s ultimate love for his father and desire to pull him from the Dark Side causes him to eventually stop fighting and surrender (12 Hanged Man) to the flow of the Force, which puts him in danger of being destroyed by the emperor. This gives his father the chance to be reborn (20 Judgement) onto the Light Side of the Force and achieve redemption by sacrificing his life (12 Hanged Man) for his son. He destroys the evil emperor but dies in the process. The father and son are reconciled (21 World) and full integration is achieved through love and forgiveness.
Coda for the Galactic Society
Well, that was interesting. Weaving in and out among the different Major Arcana archetypes, but then my course tutor then reminded me that I’d forgotten 11 Justice in my story (duh!), so here’s my take on that card’s role:
On a larger scale, balance needed to be returned to the Force from its tilt to the Dark Side with the Emperor and Darth Vader running the show. All the “good guys” as a whole were out to restore a just and representative structure to the galaxy’s inhabitants, which balancing the Force ultimately allowed for (the Galactic Republic restored).
Luke’s personal story intersects with that, although his primary purpose was more personal and universal at the same time. Justice is ultimately served when Luke refuses to turn to the Dark Side, thereby giving his father the opportunity to shift and rebalance the Force. Which, by the way, was what all the seers said about little Anakin Skywalker (who became Darth Vader) in the beginning (Episode I); that his destiny was to balance the Force. He just did it in a way that the Jedi masters did not expect.
And the dance of opposites in our relative universe continues everywhere . . .
There you go. It’s a twisty path oftentimes, as I can attest from my own life’s multiple spirals. Let me know in the comments how your Fool’s journey has gone, if you are so inclined, or what fictional narratives you might call on to tell the Fool’s Journey yourself.