THE HOLY FOOL:
The Third member of the Triad
-some musings by: the Bard
"Remember, the Moon is only half as big as the Earth, but it's twice as
After some time musing on the concept of Goddess/God that is
common in Wiccan (and most Neo-Pagan groups) and seeing the common theme
of "things come in threes" in these belief systems, I fell to wondering
"Why only the God and Goddess? If all things come in threes, where is
the Third Aspect that should be there?"
So what is this Third Aspect? I feel it is the Holy Fool; the
Prometheus who is the Trickster, the God (neuter) that rolls the dice.
This also fills in certain holes in neo-Pagan Theology that have bothered
me for some time, too.
First, we need to have a quick look at the Holy Fool in religious
and/or cultural beliefs, both primitive and modern:
Hopi: Mudhead Kachina, Clown Kachina
Nez Perce: Coyote
Omaha: Coyote, Rabbit, Iktinike, Orphan
African: Spider, Tortoise, Rabbit, Jackal
Graeco/Roman: Pan, Dionysis
Celtic: Phooka and the like (see Irish: Fear Dearg, and a host of
others. The Fool must love Ireland very much...He made so
many of Itself there!)
Norse: Loki...-and- Balder
Banks Island: Clat
England: Puck, Black Jack Davy
Christianity: "Doubting" Thomas, and The Christ Himself, in many
ways....and Judas, too.
20th Cent. North American: Bugs Bunny, The Joker, Mr. Mxyzpltk,
Murphy, ("And Pooh is a -good- example,
too!" said Eeyore)
18th thru 20th Cent. Appalachian: Jack (from British Isles)
18th and 19th Cent. N.A. Black: Br'er Rabbit, Long John, &c.
German: Tyl Eulenspiegel
Italy: Harlequin (check out Agatha Christie's stories about
"Harley Quinn." VERY interesting!)
Islamic: Juha, Abu Nawwas, Mullah Nasruddin, Nasreddin Khoja,
Japanese: Fox, Hotei, and the whole concept of Zen......
And the many, many instances of the Hero figure and his Friend in
most people's mythology....Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Robin Hood and Little
John, the Mythic Hollywood Western Hero and his ridiculous sidekick, Don
Quixote and Sancho Panza.....and many times you see the recurrent theme of
the Great Betrayal of the Hero, which leads to His death...and to His
One immediately sees that the Fool is a universal constant in
folk belief, just as the Goddess and God are!
(NB: I have not gotten more specific for two reasons: one, for
limitations of space, and two, to encourage others to do a little reading
on their own!)
As most things, the Fool is Personified in three basic Aspects
that (of course) overlap with each other and with the God and Goddess.
The first is that of the Saviour God, the Prometheus, the Culture Hero, who
brings Knowledge (and -occasionally- Wisdom) to Mankind. This Aspect loves
Mankind with all His Being, and only wishes Good. His Good Intentions
sometimes fall short of His (or Mankind's) expectations, however.
Thesecond isthat ofthe Clown,the Nerd,the Jerk,that teaches
by his own mistakes (and who usually comes out ahead because of His own
Innocence.) This Aspect is mostly neutral, and is how He seems to mostly
Butletus notforget thethird,and darker,side oftheFool, best
exemplified by Jack Nicholson's portrayal of The Joker in the film version
of "Batman." Just as the Goddess has Her Dark side (the Crone, the
Morrigan, &c) and the God has His (Odin as Death-God) so does the Fool
have a terrifying Aspect (at least, from the human point of view): Chaos
This is not an Aspect to invoke, as It does not care. Period. It
is the ultimate psychopath, the ultimate Spoiled Brat, the quintessence
of Ego-centric self-love. In some circles, it could be quite nicely named
Ahriman, or Shaitan, or Satan, because it fits all concepts of that
Middle-Eastern deity....except one: It does not care if Man worships It or
not. It is not in -conflict- with the God and/or Goddess, It is -not- on
the kind of power-trip that the Judeo-Christian Satan is represented as
having, it just -is-. It should be considered as neither "good" nor
"evil," though it can personify both or either....or neither! This is
confusing, but with a little thought the concept will (hopefully) come
(And, just in passing, the film version of "Batman" is perhaps a very
good metaphor for the eternal struggle between the Fool-as-Prometheus
(Batman) and the Fool-as-Chaos (the Joker).
Areyou confused? If youare, GOOD! If you arenot, keep thinking by
Some of thebest examples ofthe three Personifications arefound in
the Navaho and Zuni tales of Coyote, or the Br'er Rabbit tales, or the
older Bugs Bunny cartoons, or even Walt Disney's Goofy. And, while speaking
of classic animation, if you can see any of the cartoons of the Cannibal
Boy and the Mynah Bird, do so! It shows not one, but TWO Aspects in
For a look at His more serious (?) side, try J.R.R. Tolkien's
wonderful evocation of Tom Bombadil.....who is described as "the oldest."
Prof. Tolkien came very close to the core of the truth with that one!
The Fool is your slightly daffy Uncle, that comes to visit at
Christmas and is such fun to be with, but who seems to have a sadness
about him too, that you found out later, when you were all grown up, was
his slide into alcoholism. The Fool is the American sit-com "Daddy" who
never seems to get anything right, but wins out in the end anyway. The
Fool is the classic scene of Bugs Bunny, floating in a washtub in the
middle of the Pacific Ocean, happily singing "As Time Goes By," blissfully
uncaring about his obvious predicament...one which would send a human into
sheer despair....knowing that something will turn up, some scam that he
can pull that will get him out of the washtub and into clover again. The
Fool is the Tarot's Fool, of course....but He is also the Hanged Man.
Do -not- invoke the Fool unless you are ready for literally ANYTHING
to happen! He just might turn you into a Large Green Frog just to observe
what happens......He is capricious. He is unpredictable. He is what He is,
and nothing you can do will turn Him from His Purpose, whatever that may
be at any given moment. He is "Murphy," and whatever can go wrong, WILL
go wrong...or right. Unless you have an uncommonly flexible mind, you
-might- not be able to handle it!
He has no Festival, unless it is the Lupercal, or perhaps April Fool's
Day, or even New Year's Eve, for every day is His, as He chooses. Some
have inquired about the seeming overlap of functions in the
Goddess/God/Fool triad, and this should be addressed here. The modern
Western mind tends to "pigeonhole" things, and rigidly excludes other
from these pigeonholes. This, I feel, is in some ways an error in thinking,
especially about the Triad.
One cannot and should not "compartmentalize" the God/Fool/Goddess
into three rigidly separate Beings, but rather think of them as three
separate sources of ripples in the same Pond: the ripples interact and
intersect, and act on each other, but move within the same Source,
That may be.
at Samhain, 1990 CE
I wish I could list all of my sources, but if I did, it would add several
pages to this text, and I am trying to keep it short. I -will- recommend
reading one book, however, that will give a great insight into the Holy
Zohra Greenhalgh, Ace (paperback) April 1989
(it has a sequel, but I can't remember the title offhand....)
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