Wheel of Fortune (Tarot card)
The card pictured 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. The 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 Evangelists 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.
A common aspect to most interpretations of this card within a reading is to introduce an element of change in the querent's life, such change being in station, position or fortune: such as the rich becoming poor, or the poor becoming rich.
At the top of the wheel perches the sphinx, who is there to remind us that if we stay stable amidst turmoil and use reasoning then we can retain the power to change our own lives instead of staying at the mercy of chance.
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
- Gray, Eden. "Complete Guide to the Tarot." 1970. Crown Publishers, New York, NY.
- Media related to Wheel of Fortune (Tarot) at Wikimedia Commons