Destiny. Changes in fortune. Karma.
The Wheel of Fortune spins showing the rising and falling of opportunity and experience, and of changes in fortune. It shows changes to luck, good fortune, and the constantly flowing cycles of life. It’s a wheel of life, of karma, and destiny. But it doesn’t refer to random events—even if they may seem to be chance when they happen.
While many follow the spinning of the Wheel passively, it is possible to be active, too, changing the direction of your life, if wished. Accepting responsibility for what happens in our lives, rather than blaming events on others, is part of this.
The Wheel of Fortune (X) can literally mean the passing of time. It can also mean the ending of one cycle and the beginning of the next—the 10 representing endings and beginnings.
The Wheel of Fortune tarot card is related to Jupiter—the planet of luck, success, and expansion.
The Wheel of Fortune can also represent internal upheavals, and these can be painful. This might be one of the reasons why an image of an instrument of torture was chosen for the Marseille version of the card. Giving birth to anything new can involve pain, and the Wheel of Fortune tarot card is about the ending of one cycle and the birth of a new one.
While many decks today were influenced by the RWS deck, the Old English Tarot was influenced by the Marseilles deck, and shows a simpler wheel of life, with evil descending and good ascending. The green vegetation growing under the wheel symbolizes a new beginning to life.
The Wheel of Fortune tarot card, particularly the Rider-Waite-Smith version (RWS), is one of the richest in symbolic imagery. The wheel itself, is an ancient symbol of life, birth, death, and rebirth—whichever tarot deck you use.
In the RWS version four figures sit in each of the corners: the angel, representing Aquarius; the eagle, representing Scorpio; the winged lion, representing Leo; and the winged bull, representing Taurus. They represent the four elements, and the four fixed astrological signs. They also represent the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in Christianity.
Each reads a book, probably referring to the four gospels, but they could also be the Torah, which is spelt out in the centre of the wheel (TORA)—if read clockwise, it reads TAROT.
Descending on the Wheel of Life is Typhon, an evil and deadly monster in Greek mythology. Typhon is also associated with the Egyptian god of destruction, Set.
Ascending on the opposite side is Anubis, the Greek name of the god associated with mummification and the afterlife, guiding souls to heaven (but also representing death) in ancient Egyptian religion.
Sitting at the top of the Wheel of Life is the sphinx-like creature who balances energy of the Wheel and guards the way to the mysteries—the secrets of life and death.
In the centre of the Wheel are four Hebrew letters (YHWH יהוה) the name of God, which is considered too sacred to be uttered.
In the centre of Waite’s wheel are the symbols for mercury, sulphur, water (Aquarius the water bearer), and salt. These represent the four elements.
In the older Marseilles decks, the Wheel of Life tarot card is much simpler, and it is based on the wheel as a torture device. Victims were attached to it and beaten to death for the entertainment of the public. According to Flornoy, (in his book, Seeing the World—Tarot Signposts on the Path to Perception) this stresses an arbitrariness; not good fortune, but any fortune, good or bad.
In more modern versions of the Tarot, the wheel has moved further away from the harsher medieval version, often becoming incredibly beautiful—as in the Shadowscapes Tarot.
I once gave a reading on the likelihood of pregnancy. The Wheel of Fortune (along with other cards in the spread) pointed to the client’s increasing awareness of the passing of time, and a suggestion of increased difficulty in getting pregnant.
It also suggested a turning point in the client’s life, and ending of one cycle and the beginning of the next.