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Of Jokers, Fools and Margins


“A joker is a little fool who is different from everyone else. He’s not a club, diamond, heart, or spade. He’s not an eight or a nine, a king or a jack. He is an outsider. He is placed in the same pack as the other cards, but he doesn’t belong there. Therefore, he can be removed without anybody missing him.” ― Jostein Gaarder, The Solitaire Mystery

Jokers. Living in apparent harmony with the rest of the cards, yet utterly different, and always surrounded by mystery. I have collected them for years, and I probably always will.

Nobody knows for sure how jokers came to be, they are actually not that old -the first one registered is from around 1860 and it was used as the highest trump. They might come from the tarot Fool, sometimes depicted as a beggar, or a vagabond. Experts say he might also be a wild man, or Woodwose, due to his unruly beard and feathers.

There are many fascinating details about this little character. In the Rider-Waite Tarot deck (used for cartomancy), the Fool is shown as a young man walking unknowingly toward the brink of a precipice.  The tarot Fool is almost always unnumbered, and when it has a number, it’s a zero. He is believed to represent holy madness or ‘crazy wisdom’, a lover of beauty represented by the flower in his hand, and a free spirit, like the dog that sometimes accompanies him. 

The joker is both the beginning and the end, an insider and an outsider. He inhabits the margins, and winks at us holding a secret we always fail to grasp.


UX Designer and Anthropologist, hardcore gamer, obsessive reader and improvised artificer of crafts. I cheated on population genetics with graphic design and since that the three of us have been living happily ever after. I enjoy writing little pieces on practically anything that catches my eye, but I lean towards those occasions when art overlaps with science.

One comments on “Of Jokers, Fools and Margins
  1. bakabakadesign on said:

    The fool is also the beginning of the journey, the blank slate, the green and inexperienced, the naïve. Great minds think alike, I was thinking of a playing card/tarot themed post as well!


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