The Wheel of Fortune | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Wheel of Fortune

Keywords for The Wheel of Fortune 

GOOD FORTUNECHANGES
LUCKMOVEMENT
OPPORTUNITYOPPORTUNITY
DESTINYCYCLES OF TIME
FATEKARMA

The image on this card is one of the most unusual we have yet to see in the progression of the Major Arcana which we began with the Fool.

The scene is one which appears to take place up high in the heavens: we see the background of a blue sky, against which are set four puffy, white-gray clouds. On each of these, we see strange figures, each of them a winged creature, holding an open book in their hands, caught in the act of rapt attention on the text in front of them. 

On the lower left is a bull, symbolizing the astrological sign of Taurus. The lower right shows a Lion, for the zodiac sign of Leo. Moving to the upper right, we see an eagle, representing the sign of Scorpio in its most elevated expression. And finally, on the top left we see a man perched on the last and final cloud, symbolizing the water-bearer of the sign of Aquarius. 

These figures are also references to the four evangelists of Christian doctrine, who, according to Rachel Pollack, are sometimes called “the guardians of heaven.” As mentioned earlier, they also make clear reference to the four fixed signs of what began as Babylonian astrology. In this context, they can also be seen as referring to the four elements of ancient and medieval science, alchemy, and ritual magic (Earth, Fire, Water, Air). 

In the center of the card we see an orange sphere, or rather, a series of four concentric circles, moving from the point of stillness in the very center out to the final expression at its outer edges. In the second ring, we see inscribed the alchemical symbols for Mercury, Sulphur, Salt, and Dissolution. In fact, these are also correlated with each of the four elements (Air/ Mercury, Fire/Sulphur, Earth/Salt, and Water/Dissolution).

In the last and final sphere, we see the letters TARO, which, if read from beginning to end in a complete cycle, spell the word “Tarot.” Interspersed between each of these letters are four of the Hebrew alphabet, the Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh of the Tetragrammaton, or divine and holy name of God. 

Finally, clinging to the outer edges of this wheel, we see three other figures: a yellow snake moving counter-clockwise down the edge of the wheel; a red-orange man with the head of a jackal; and finally, a regal blue sphinx with her sword, crowning the very top of this orange sphere. 

Interpretation of The Wheel of Fortune 

One of the primary interpretations of the Wheel of Fortune in a tarot reading has to do with the element of change. This card most often refers to the advances, new developments, and transformations that we experience throughout the course of our lives. 

More generally, the Wheel of Fortune can refer to any kind of meaningful change in our lives, not only lucky ones where we experience the favor of fortune. In some decks, this card shows the medieval symbolism of the Rota Fortuna, showing a king at the very top, who is usually on his way down to be crushed as the wheel of fortune turns against him.

On a deeper or more esoteric level, the Wheel of Fortune can indicate a moment of rising above the mundane events of our usual existence to catch a glimpse of the connections of synchronicity and meaning which tie everyone and everything together. This is an experience which some liken to that of enlightenment, or to that of “cosmic consciousness”. 

To be able to view your life from above at this level implies an awareness of the links which connect your self, your life, and everything that has ever happened to you with these elements, with the expressions of all that lives and breathes and has its being in the vast universe.

X — The Wheel of Fortune

Recently, I woke up in the morning with an image of this tarot card in my mind. Along with this image came the words, “Tie yourself to the Wheel of Life.”

As the day went on, I thought more deeply about what this meant.

There are many meanings surrounding card 10 of the Major Arcana. The central theme of this key revolves around change and the passing of time. It is the turning of the wheel of life, which churns ceaselessly on, paying no mind to our individual desires.

Another name for this card is the Rota Fortuna. “Rota” means wheel in Latin, while Fortuna refers to the Roman goddess of chance & luck.

In more ancient imagery, the goddess is depicted turning the wheel of fate. On this wheel sit men in various positions of favor. At the top of the wheel is the king. As Fortuna spins her wheel, each man changes position. The king moves to the right, and will eventually lose his crown. The man on the far left looks toward the king, hoping he will one day assume his position.

The favors of Fortuna are impersonal, and have little to do with the character or will of the men involved. In some older portrayals, she is even depicted with a blindfold, as her sister Lady Justice.

I’ve recently been contending the events that are unfolding in the United States, and all of the uncertainty and anxiety that they are provoking. I’ve wondered where I can even look to anymore for a sense of certainty. Nothing seems safe in a country ravaged by disease and seemingly on the brink of authoritarianism.

I desperately looked for something to cling to outside of myself to make me feel at ease. And that was when I thought of this card, the Wheel of Fortune.

Then I remembered the phrase “tie your self to the wheel of life” from my tarot training.

To start to understand what this means, it’s helpful to imagine yourself as if you were in one of the images of the Rota Fortuna. Think of yourself as the King or Queen at the top of the wheel. As it begins to turn, what do you do?

For many of us, our first instinct is to look outside of ourselves for something to cling to. We grab money, power, possessions, anything that we think can keep us on top.

But what happens when, from our position on the wheel, we cling to things in our external environment? As the wheel turns, we are torn apart. Our arms reach out to grasp for stability, but as time marches forward and the wheel turns, we move with the wheel downward towards our fate. The harder we cling to what is outside, the more we suffer.

I saw that the only solution was to center myself in my true and only source of power, that which is inside of myself.

This doesn’t mean ignoring what is going on around you. What this does mean is remembering that you are the only thing you can truly count on. In times of crisis, we will do well to look inside of ourselves for the resources that will ensure our endurance in trying times.

For me, this means meditating daily, reading & reflecting, and being in right relationship to my work and my surroundings.

What does this mean for you?