I found this story to be helpful for gaining insight into some of the imagery in the tarot and a greater appreciation of the system as a whole. This can be found in a lot of places but I have sourced this version from http://78nightsoftarot.tumblr.com
—- The Fool’s Journey —- With all his worldly possessions in one small pack, the Fool travels he knows not where. So filled with visions, questions, wonder and excitement is he, that he doesn’t see the cliff he is likely to fall over. At his heel a small dog harries him (or tries to warn him of a possible mis-step). Will the Fool learn to pay attention to where he’s going before it’s too late? Traveling on his way, the Fool first encounters a Magician. Skillful, self-confident, a powerful magus with the infinite as a halo floating above his head, the Magician mesmerizes the Fool. When asked, the Fool gives over his bundled pack and stick to the Magician. Raising his wand to heaven, pointing his finger to Earth, the Magician calls on all powers. Magically, the cloth of the pack unfolds upon the table, revealing its contents. To the Fool’s eyes, it is as if the Magician has created the future with a word. All the possibilities are laid out, all the directions he can take: The cool, airy Sword of intellect and communication, the fiery Wand of passions and ambition, the overflowing Chalice of love and emotions, the solid Pentacle of work, possessions and body. With these tools, the Fool can create anything, make anything of his life. But here’s the question, did the Magician create the tools, or were they already in the pack? Only the Magician knows - and on this mystery, our eloquent mage refuses to say a word. Continuing his journey, the Fool comes upon a beautiful and mysterious veiled lady enthroned between two pillars and illuminated by the moon. She is the opposite of the Magician, quiet where he was loquacious, still where he was in motion, sitting while he stood, shrouded in the night where he was out in the bright of day. Sensing that she is a great seer, the Fool lays out his sword, chalice, staff and pentacle before her. “The Magician showed me these, but now I’m in a quandary. There are so many things I could do with them. I can’t decide.” The High Priestess doesn’t speak. Instead she hands him a pair of ancient scrolls. Seating himself at her feet, the Fool puts his decision-making on hold and reads by the light of her crescent moon. “I did not know any of this,” says the Fool. The scrolls, like a secret manual, have given him insight into his new tools. “This information helps me to narrow things down, but I’m still afraid of making a wrong decision.” The words come to him then, not from without but from within: “What do your instincts tell you?” The Fool reflects on that, and that’s when he knows what he should do. Decision made, he rises to leave even though he suspects that the High Priestess has more secrets she could reveal to him—like what lies behind the pomegranate curtain. Right now, however, he is focused and ready to be on his way. Thanking the High Priestess, he heads off. But as he leaves he hears that inner voice, rising like the waters which spring and flow from beneath her throne: “We’ll meet again…when you’re ready to travel the most secret path of all.” Having decided what he will create with his tools, the Fool strides forward, impatient to make his future a full-grown reality. This is when he comes upon the Empress. Her hair gold as wheat, wearing a crown of stars, and a white gown dotted with pomegranates. She rests back on her throne surrounded by an abundance of grain and a lush garden. It is possible that she is pregnant. Kneeling, the Fool relates to her his story. And she, in turn, smiles a motherly smile and gently gives him this advice: “Like newly planted grain or a newborn babe, a new life, a new relationship, a new creation is fragile. It requires patience and nurturing. It needs love and attention. Only this will bring it to fruition.” Understanding at last that his creations will take time to develop, the Fool thanks the Empress and continues on his way. The Fool was given options by the Magician, and decided on one with help from the High Priestess. He learned how to develop it thanks to the Empress. Now it has reached as stage where he must find a way to manage it. How to do this? He approaches a great Emperor seated on a stone throne. The Fool is amazed by the way the Emperor is instantly, eagerly obeyed in every particular, at how well his Empire is run and organized. Respectfully, he asks the Emperor how it is he does this. And the Emperor answers: “Strong will and a solid foundation of laws and order. It’s all very well,” he explains to the Fool, “to be imaginative, creative, instinctual, patient; but to control one must be alert, brave and aggressive.” Ready now to lead and direct rather than be led, the Fool heads out with new purpose. Having created a solid foundation on which to build his future, the Fool is struck with a sudden fear. What if everything he’s worked for is taken away? Is stolen, or lost, or destroyed or vanishes? Or what if what he’s created isn’t good enough? In a panic, he heads into a temple where he finds the Hierophant, a wise and holy man. Acolytes kneel before the man ready to hear and pass on his teachings. The Fool tells the Hierophant his fears, and asks how he can be free of them. “There are two ways,” says the Hierophant sagely, “Either give up that which you fear to lose so it no longer holds any power over you, or consider what you will still have if your fear comes to pass. After all,” the Hierophant continues, “if you did lose all you’d built, you would still keep the experience and knowledge that you’ve gained up to this point, wouldn’t you?” “That is true,” the Fool says. “But what about the community, society and friends I’ve discovered thanks to what I’ve created? More than knowledge or experience, I value them. If I lost all, I’d lose them too, wouldn’t I?” “Not necessarily,” the Hierophant answers with a warm glow in his compassionate eyes. “If your community has traditions that you all share, ethics and beliefs, then you will never lose that fellowship even if circumstances force you to part. You can even pass such onto your children giving them the same fellowship with each other and with past generations.” Hearing this, the Fool feels his heart ease, as if knots of fear have been loosened. A sense of peace blankets him, and he takes a moment to thank the good Hierophant most profoundly. Stepping out of the sanctuary he makes his way to a meeting with his friends. Tonight they will talk about how they can create lessons and traditions to preserve not only their experience and knowledge, but their community. The Fool comes to a cross-road, filled with energy, confidence and purpose, knowing exactly where he wants to go and what he wants to do. But he comes to a dead stop. A flowering tree marks the path he wants to take, the one he’s been planning on taking. But standing before a fruit tree marking the other path is a woman. The Fool has met and had relationships with women before, some far more beautiful and alluring. But she is different. Seeing her, he feels as though he’s just been shot in the heart with cupid’s arrow. That’s how shocking, how painful is his “recognition” of her. As he speaks with her, the feeling intensifies; like finding a missing part of himself. It is clear that she feels the same about him. They finish each other’s sentences, think the same thoughts. It is as if an Angel above had introduced their souls to each other. Though it was his plan to follow the path of the flowering tree, and though it will cause some trouble for him to bring this woman with him, the Fool knows he dare not leave her behind. Like the fruit tree, she will fulfill him. No matter how divergent from his original intent, she is his future. He chooses her, and together they head down a whole new road. The Fool is close to completing what he set out to create long ago, back when the Magician revealed those tools to him. But enemies are now standing in his way, devious human enemies, bad circumstances, even confusion in his own mind. There’s no more forward momentum; he feels he is fighting just to stay where he is. Walking along the shore, watching the waves come in, he puzzles over how to defeat these enemies and get things moving forward once again. It is here that he comes across a charioteer, standing in his gold and silver chariot, his black and white steeds at rest. “You seem a victorious warrior,” the Fool remarks. “I feel beset by my enemies, unable to move forward. What should I do? “First, you must armor yourself,” the Charioteer strikes the chariot and then his breastplate with a gauntleted fist, making both ring out. “Next, you must focus on your goal, where do you mean to go, what do you mean to do.” The warrior nods to his beasts. “Your steeds keep the wheels turning, but it is your control and direction of them that gets them to their destination. Dark and light, they must be made to draw in harmony, under your guidance.” The Fool nods. That makes sense. “What if an someone or something gets in your way?” The Charioteer coolly meets the Fool’s gaze. “You run them down. Your aim is victory, and to be victorious you must have unwavering confidence in your cause. Never question, never doubt what you’re trying to achieve. Never lose your focus or your motivation.” The Fool is impressed and inspired. He thinks he now knows how to get past all the distractions and setbacks that have been keeping him trapped in place, like a riptide in the ocean. He thanks the warrior, but before he leaves, the warrior stays the Fool. “One thing more you should keep in mind,” he says, “Victory is not the end, it is the beginning. Remember that before you decide to enter into any contest.” The Fool, victorious over his enemies, is feeling arrogant, powerful, even vengeful. There are hot passions in him, ones he finds himself unable and unwilling to control. It is in this state that he comes across a maiden struggling with a lion. Running to help, he arrives in time to see her gently but firmly shut the lion’s mouth! In fact, the beast, which seemed so wild and fierce, is now completely at her command. Amazed, the Fool asks her, “How did you do that?” One hand on the lion’s mane, she answers, “I asked the lion to do it, and it did it.” “But-but-” the Fool stutters, confounded. “Why did it want to obey?” At that moment, the Maiden meets the Fool’s eyes; he sees in her warmth, gentleness, a heart so great that its generosity seems as infinite as its willingness to understand. And that is when the Fool understands exactly why the lion did her bidding. It wanted to connect to that higher energy. Yet there is still one thing that confuses the Fool. “But,” he says, much softer now, “Why would you, fair maiden, want to keep company with a beast?” “Because he, too, is filled with a wonderful energy,” the Maiden says. “It is wild and fierce, but it can be banked, like a fire in a hearth. I knew if he would take direction from me, we could both be warmed.” “So, too,” she adds, “are our passions. Let them run wild and they will do damage. But we can, with gentle fortitude, check and direct those passions. In doing so, we can get so much more out of them. And yet, still sate them.” His rage quieted, the enlightened Fool walks away knowing that it wasn’t only the lion that was tamed this day by a Maiden’s pure and innocent strength.