Wheel of Fortune (Tarot card)
To the right is the Wheel Of Fortune card from the A. E. Waite tarot deck. A. E. Waite was a key figure in the development of the Tarot in line with the Hermetic magical-religious system which was also being developed at the time, and this deck, as well as being in common use today, also forms the basis for a number of other modern tarot decks.
The Wheel Of Fortune card, like other cards of the Major Arcana, varies widely in depiction between Tarot decks. Basically, this card has been modeled ever since the tarot's inception in the 15th century after the medieval concept of Rota Fortunae, the wheel of the goddess Fortuna. Images generally show a six- or eight-spoked wheel, often attended or crested by an individual (sometimes human; sometimes a Sphinx-like half-human) attired in an Egyptian-style headdress. In some decks, such as the AG Müller, the wheel is also attended by an individual wearing a blindfold; and often there are people sitting or riding on the wheel whilst others are shown falling from it.
The wheel is not always shown inscribed with any lettering. Where this is the case, the letters T-A-R-O (clockwise) or T-O-R-A (counter clockwise) can often be found aligned against four of the spokes, which can also be interpreted as R-O-T-A, the Latin word meaning "wheel". In some decks, such as the Waite, the wheel is also inscribed with additional alchemical symbols representing the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water (which are also said to be represented throughout the Tarot by the four 'suits' of Pentacles or Discs, Swords, Wands and Cups respectively. These emblems can also be seen on the Magician's table in the Magician card (Card I)).
On the Waite card shown, though not necessarily on others, there are also four winged creatures in the corners of the card, representing the symbols of the four Evangelists (The Lion, the Ox, the Man and the Eagle). These four Evengelists are also represented by the four fixed astrological signs: Leo, Taurus, Aquarius and Scorpio. In addition a representation of the god Anubis is seen rising with the wheel on the right side, while the snake-like Typhon descends on the left. On the wheel, alternating with the letters T-A-R-O are the Hebrew letters י-ה-ו-ה, usually transliterated as YHWH (Yahweh), the name of the God of Israel.
When the Tarot deck is used for divinatory purposes, the cards are often laid out in a 'spread', and the exact meaning of the card varies depending on the disposition of any surrounding cards. In addition, as specific meanings can be drawn from the exact appearance of a card and, as mentioned, that can vary widely between decks, the interpretation of the card also can vary between decks. Some decks, such as Waite, carry a theological symbolism specific to their designer's interpretation; yet such meanings might not be associated with other variants on the same card, and they may not be acknowledged or referenced by any given reader.
A common aspect to most interpretations of this card within a reading is to introduce an element of change in the querant's life, such change being in station, position or fortune: such as the rich becoming poor, or the poor becoming rich.
- Turning point — Opportunities — Possibilities
- Destiny — Fate — Superiority — Movement
- Development — Activity — Surprises — Expansion
- Sudden events — Speed — New developments — Life cycles
- Interpretation — Sudden change — Dissension — Approachability
Symbolism in Mythopoetics
In this Mythopoetic approach, which views the Major Arcana as a journey through life taken by the character of the Fool (the Fool being the first card, or the zero card, of the Major Arcana), the Wheel of Fortune represents the intercession of random chance into the Fool's path. The card represents the forces that can help or hinder the querant suddenly or unpredictably.
It can also represent the underlying order that the Magician attempts to master. The letters on the wheel were intended by Waite to mean "Rota Taro Orat Tora Ator," which he "translated" (this term used loosely) to: "The Wheel of Taro[t] speaks the Law of Ator [Hathor, or Love]."
Through its cross sum (the sum of the digits), it is closely connected to The Magician and The Sun (cards 1 and 19 of the Major Arcana respectively). Each represents a break with the previously established order: the Magician starting the journey; The Wheel of Fortune introducing random chance; and The Sun reborn from the underworld.
In the Mythic Tarot deck, the Wheel of Fortune is depicted by the Fates.
- Drury, Neville: The History of Magic in the Modern Age, Constable, 2000
- Douglas, Alfred: The Tarot, Gollancz, 1972
- A. E. Waite's 1910 Pictorial Key to the Tarot
- Douglas, op cit
- Reed, Ellen Cannon: The Witches Tarot, Llewellyn, 1989
- Wood, Robin:The Robin Wood Tarot, Robin Wood Publishing, 1998
- Waite, op cit.
- Gosling, Nadia:Guide to the Tarot, Brockhampton Reference, 1996
- Hajo Banzhaf, Tarot and the Journey of the Hero (2000)
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