Card Meaning: X Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune
Element: Fire
Planet: Jupiter
Hebrew letter: Kaph, כ


   It is no secret that in life there are ups and downs. When we are old enough we can even see orderly cycles of our life, and if we are also wise enough we can even see a sense behind these changes. Even in daily life we are overrun by cycles, sleeping, eating, breathing... The Wheel of Fortune tells us about causes of change, why there is a need for change, and in the end, how to cope with that change. Generally tarot recognizes the fact that we are all weaver of our own destiny but also that our life is a part of cycles high above us, and that fact is subtly indicated by absense of the human figures on the card, in the center of attention is a wheel that spins and takes us on a breathtaking voyage. The Wheel of Fortune represents unexpected events and twists of fate. You can't predict surprises, but you can be ready when suprises come. The lesson is to always stay firm and calm in the midst of change. Changes are here for the spiritual develpoment of a human being.


In the earliest known list of the Trumps ( Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis), this card is called La Rotta (The Wheel). In the Tarot de Marseille, La Roue de Fortune (Wheel of Fortune) is showing bizarre animals dressed up in skirts and capes, and in some cases the wheel appears to float on waves.  There are no letters on the wheel. In Visconti-Sforza tarot, Fortuna is displayed as winged and blindfolded, turning the spokes of a large wheel clockwise. Around the wheel there are four figures in four stages of descending/ascending the wheel. On the top there is a ruler with the ears of a donkey to show his foolishness. Next to him the word Regno, "I rule" is written. On descending path a man with the tail is shown. He says "I reigned". On the bottom a third men, he is old and near him "I am without reign" is written. Last, fourth man on the asceding path is full of vigour and he says "I shall reign".


If you've been struggling, this card indicates that you will find the answer if you stand for a moment and view everything from a broader perspective. A turn of events is in front of you. Fate spins off in new directions so be prepared for new moments and maybe new actors in your story. Be brave and seize the opportunity. The card also represents the need to be careful, to realize and accept the fact that fate is the result of what we already did. Keep faith, this too shall pass. Maintain balance in the midst of change.

the wheel, four evangelists and four fixed sign of zodiac, the sphinx, the anubis, snake

   At the very centre of the card there is the wheel suspended in the space. The Roman letters around its circumference spells ROTA - "the wheel". We have already seen those letters on the scroll in the hands of The High Priestess. The wheel's purpose is to reminds us on importance of cycles and changes. It could also be spelled TORA, a body of spiritual knowledge and law found in the first five books of the Old Testament. ORAT is the oracle, a messenger of secrets and all hidden. TAO, "the way" in taoism, oriental philosophical system. Of course, the word TAROT is also encoded on the wheel. So, we could say that tarot is a oracle, messenger ready to communicate with us hidden knowledge and secrets otherwise unvailable.  On the wheel we can also see four Hebrew lettters, they spell Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh: YHVH, Yehovah. This Hebrew word for the most high, usually called Tetragrammaton is a root of creative process. These letters are mapped to four elements that were the first step from unmanifested universe into manifested and as such are foundation of existence and indeed the first "Word". The alchemical glyphs on the wheel are symbols for Mercury, Sulphur, Salt and Water. This message points to the goal of alchemical process; through experience in everyday lives, through constant changes on the Wheel of Fortune we alchemically refine our souls, leading us to an enlightement through conscious experience. The wheel itself is composed of four circles, symbolising the four Kabbalistic Worlds. The hub and eight radiating spokes illustrate that effects that the Wheel of Fortune brings, originate in the Macrocosmos and then descends to our private lives, the Microcosmos. The snake around the wheel symbolise involution of cosmic radiant energy into a matter. The jackal-headed Hermanubis represents the evolution of consciousness from lower forms to higher, his eyes are shaped like Yod, indicating that God's help is always near. On the top of the wheel sits the Sphinx. Having mastered control over its lower animal nature, symbolised by an animal body but a human face, the sphinx is more of a witness of wheel's turning than participant. The sphinx has both a feminine and androgine characteristcs, portaying balance and fusion of opposites, another nuance of the alchemical goal. The sword in the hand is a faculty of discernment, illustrating wisdom and wise choices. Sphinx lives in the world but is not of this world. Number ten of this card further increases that impression, being composite of the number zero, The Fool (the One consciousness), and the number one, The Magician (the personality). Four beings in the corners symbolise not only the four Archangels in the four corners of The World, but also the four Evangelist (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John), four fixed signs of the zodiac, a man (Aquarius), a lion (Leo), a bull (Taurus) and an eagle (Scorpio). All four beings are holding a book, reminder on the book of Revelation and a symbol of inner knowledge. They are watching beings on the Wheel of Fortune circling from their immutable position in the four corners of The World.

In this symbol I have again followed the reconstruction of Éliphas Lévi, who has furnished several variants. It is legitimate--as I have intimated--to use Egyptian symbolism when this serves our purpose, provided that no theory of origin is implied therein. I have, however, presented Typhon in his serpent form. The symbolism is, of course, not exclusively Egyptian, as the four Living Creatures of Ezekiel occupy the angles of the card, and the wheel itself follows other indications of Lévi in respect of Ezekiel's vision, as illustrative of the particular Tarot Key. With the French occultist, and in the design itself, the symbolic picture stands for the perpetual motion of a fluidic universe and for the flux of human life. The Sphinx is the equilibrium therein. The transliteration of Taro as Rota is inscribed on the wheel, counterchanged with the letters of the Divine Name--to shew that Providence is imphed through all. But this is the Divine intention within, and the similar intention without is exemplified by the four Living Creatures. Sometimes the sphinx is represented couchant on a pedestal above, which defrauds the symbolism by stultifying the essential idea of stability amidst movement.

Behind the general notion expressed in the symbol there lies the denial of chance and the fatality which is implied therein. It may be added that, from the days of Lévi onward, the occult explanations of this card are--even for occultism itself--of a singularly fatuous kind. It has been said to mean principle, fecundity, virile honour, ruling authority, etc. The findings of common fortune-telling are better than this on their own plane.


The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by A.E. Waite

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