Continuing our series on the meaning of the Tarot, we pick up again this week with the Wheel of Fortune, representing fate, destiny and major turning points.
The Wheel of Fortune is packed with esoteric symbolism. The four corners of the image are adorned with symbols for the four fixed signs of the Zodiac: the man represents Aquarius the Water-Bearer, the Eagle represents Scorpio, the Lion represents Leo, and the Bull represents Taurus. All four of these characters are winged, symbolizing stability amidst change. They are each reading a book—the Torah representing wisdom, insight and knowledge.
On the actual Wheel, the Hebrew letters Yod, Heh, Vau, Heh, spell Yahweh—the Tetragrammaton, or the unpronounceable four letter word that is the sacred name of God. Between these Hebrew letters are four letters in English, when read counterclockwise, the letters read, “TORA,” another reference to the Hebrew scripture. But when read clockwise, the letters read, “TAROT,” a reference to the Tarot’s ability to reveal the secrets of fortune, both good and bad.
To the left of the Wheel, a snake slithers downward. The snake represents Typhon, the Egyptian god of evil, as well as the serpent who tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit. Besides referring to these two well-known mythological figures, the snake generally symbolizes the descent of spirit into matter through carnal flesh.
To the right of the Wheel, the Egyptian god Anubis stands in for Hermes, god of intelligence and wisdom. Anubis, who was a god of death, represents the ascension of spirit from matter back to divinity—the opposite of the serpent on the left side.
A sphinx sits atop the Wheel, representing the riddles of life’s mysteries. The sphinx holds a sword, symbolizing the mental clarity needed to reach spiritual insight.
The center wheel within the larger Wheel contains four alchemical symbols for mercury, sulphur, water and salt—representing the Four Elements (Air, Fire, Water and Earth) as well as the building blocks of biological life. The outer circle represents the limitations of physical reality and space-time, and the eight spokes within the Wheel represents the eight transcendental energies emanating from God that manifest as the known universe.
When the Wheel of Fortune arises in readings, it signifies a time of significant life changes. The Wheel of Fortune represents a time when fate or destiny is stepping into your life in a major, obvious way. Huge life events are likely to occur, affecting the trajectory of your future for many years to come. While the coming change may be sudden or even traumatic, it’s usually in your best interest in the long term—though you may not understand why until the dust settles.
Wheel of Fortune moments include everything from a new job, moving, meeting your soul mate, or having a baby. Pretty much anything that is a game changer in your life falls under the umbrella of the Wheel of Fortune.
The Wheel of Fortune usually represents a reversal of fortune, so it’s interpretation can depend on the actual situations and the other cards in the reading. For example, if the Current Situation card in a reading is a negative card, then the Wheel of Fortune in the Outcome position is good news: it means your negative situation is about to reverse. But if your Current Situation is a positive card, then the Wheel of Fortune as an Outcome means a negative change is impending.
In reverse, the Wheel of Fortune represents bad luck, the forced payment of karmic debts, and a lack of control in your life. A reversed Wheel of Fortune heralds a period of bad luck where external forces are working against you and there’s not much you can do to fight it.
Generally, the Wheel of Fortune encourages you to surrender to the ever-changing flow of life and find stability in spirit, rather than in the impermanent material world. Whether a wave of good luck or bad luck is coming your way, it’s important to let go and embrace the change. Imagine the Wheel of Fortune is like a tidal wave: you have a choice to swim with the wave or fight it at your own peril. Even when the Wheel of Fortune foreshadows bad news, you’re encouraged to embrace the upcoming changes because they will be better for you in the long run. For example, you may lose a job you love, but it may be for your best because a better job is around the corner, one you wouldn’t have found had you not been fired. So when the Wheel of Fortune sends some karma your way—whether good or bad—take it with grace and patience. Whether you are on top or on bottom, remember that this too shall pass.