Many early cultures, from Romans to Hindus, celebrated New Year’s Day on or around April 1, following the Vernal or Spring Equinox. It marks an important station on the ancient wheel of the year and is a time of new beginnings and of life renewed.
In 1582, Pope Gregory ordered the replacement of the Roman Julian calendar with the adaptation of the Gregorian calendar. The new assignment of time placed New Year’s Day on January 1. With this transition came many radical changes. Eleven days were lost completely. The Christian observance of the birth of Jesus was moved from January 6, the Epiphany, to December 25.
Protestant England and France refused to observe the new date and continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1 for another two hundred years. The traditionalists were the object of jokes and issued false New Year party invitations sending them on “fool’s runs.” This is how the observance of April Fool’s Day and the traditional pranks that accompany it came to be.
The Fool of the tarot is the first card of the Major Arcana. It stands alone from the deck for its number is zero. It represents innocence and the intuitive, wandering spirit of nature. According to Aleister Crowley, the Fool represents air, emptiness and potential purity. He holds the elemental weapons and around him is the rainbow issuing from and returning to his heart. He wears the horns of Bacchus and stands on Harpocates, the Egyptian symbol of adolescent fertility. He is unconscious of the tiger tearing at his side. He represents a moment of divine consciousness.
The Green Man or Jack of the Green is a personification of the mysterious influence that produces the wonder of spring. His face of leaves dates back to classical Rome and is found carved into the wood and stone of pagan temples and graves, medieval cathedrals and used as a Victorian architectural motif across Europe. Commonly perceived as an ancient Celtic symbol, its original meaning of mythic rebirth and regeneration was adopted and linked to the Christian iconography of resurrection.
The older religions held trees sacred; forests were believed to be home to gods, goddesses and nature spirits. In parts of England, the Jack pageant is still re-enacted each spring. The Jack in the Green is played by a man in a masked costume of leaves wearing a crown of flowers. He romps through town accompanied by men painted green, and a young girl bearing flowers dressed in black. Jack is chasing pretty girls, playing the “fool.” Dancers wield their wooden swords and ritually strike Jack dead. The slaying is associated with the resurrection of Jack in a more youthful form. Each person then takes a leaf from Jack for luck.
In spiritual matters, the Fool represents our ideas, thoughts and spiritual endeavors that wish to transcend earth. In material matters, he may portend folly, eccentricity, even mania. The Fool represents a sudden impulse coming from a strange and unexpected quarter.
All ways are lawful to innocence.
Pure Folly is the Key to Initiation.
Silence breaks into Rapture.
Be neither Man nor Woman, but both in one.
Be silent, Babe in the Egg of Blue, that thou
Mayest grow to bear the Lance and Graal!
Wander Alone, and Sing! In the King’s Palace
His Daughter Awaits Thee.
– Aleister Crowley