Alligator/Croc in the Fool


What is the earliest occurrence of this symbol that we know Tarot, I mean. I haven't seen it specifically in the cards till Ozzie Wirth. Is there a version of a Marseilles related deck with an alligator/crocodile?


The first published design with the crocodile was Wirth (1889), but Edmond Billaudot's personal pack (published as Le Grand Tarot Belline) had it in the 1860s. The idea comes from Paul Christian, who actually called the card The Crocodile: "The crocodile is the emblem of implacable fate and inevitable expiation."


Thank you David. Elsewhere on Aeclectic, I saw a pic of his card, but there was no date, so I wasn't sure if it was before or after Wirth.


I've seen several tarot decks, old and modern, that have this symbolism. It shows the Fool walking off a cliff, or something similar, right into the mouth of an alligator. It makes sense in terms of what it might mean n a reading. The Fool is walking blindly, or at least distractedly, into danger. The alligator will eat him. But he just keeps walking along, not paying attention. I guess that's why he's called the Fool. :)


It appears on French esoteric packs of the 19th century -- and was interpreted by French occultists in part as a representation of the 'Dweller on the Threshold'.

According to Christian: "The 21st (0) is called the Crocodile, and symbolizes Atonement for errors or voluntary sins."


I designed the Wickwillow Tarot; and in it, the distracted Fool is walking into the mouth of a giant serpent.

The Alligator is also the "just desserts" in many versions of the old puppet show Punch & Judy (which i performed myself for many years, in earlier chapters of my life). Punch gets what's coming to him when he is swallowed up by an Alligator at the end of the show. (Who then burps, and walks out singing the little ditty that Punch himself sang throughout). That fits totally with what Paul Christian said about atonement.

I also think of Captain Hook's fear of the Crocodile with a ticking clock within. Time comes to swallow him up...his time has come.

Tarot placed many little breadcrumbs on the path of my early life that lead me right into it's gaping maw. I love that about it. It's like it came for me, and swallowed me up.


Crowley carried over this symbol from earlier decks, identifying the crocodile as a dual symbol of the Egyptian Sobek, who created the world when he rose out of the primordial waters, and Mako, a symbol of death and destruction (the Egyptians were mortally afraid of them, as they used to come near to places of habitation during the Inundation).


One good reference from ancient Egyptian mythology is Ammit (or Ammut), the Eater of the Dead. If the soul of a dead person was deemed impure, the punishment was being eaten by Ammit. This deity was a hybrid of several animals, but most notably, it had the head of an alligator.

So Christian had a point, and so did Punch and Judy. Maybe pop culture isn't as light as we think.

More here:


Well, and I sort of believe that the Tarot WAS pop culture...folk art, as it were...nobody invented it, it evolved, with regional influences and like a good folk song (or puppet show) it's going to have those things that reflect deeper things. But obviously the croc was added to the Tarot to indicate "danger" the later occultists. Probably the "cliff" replaced the croc as the "danger" element.


Perhaps he is 'The Divine Fool' ?

He walks off the cliff and into the abyss . If it is water, that is a symbol of the unconscious, the alligator is a 'monster of the deep'. An unresolved 'psychological complex'.

Most of us avoid dealing with them ... not the crazy fool ... who seems crazy to us as his focus is the 'divine' .... until we get into trouble with our unresolved stuff ... and it 'intrudes' into our conscious world.

In a way, it seems the 'reckless' approach of the shaman, who willingly offers himself up to the 'devouring' of ego consciousness and the emergence of 'the cultural man' (first cycle of initiations) into the 'magical man' (the secondary level of intitiations).