The Meaning of
the "Wheel of Fortune" Tarot Card
Tarot Quick Info
What is the inverted meaning of
the "Wheel of Fortune"?
The Meaning of
the "Wheel of Fortune"
The Symbolism of the Wheel of Fortune
"Chance raises a man to the heights, Chance casts him down. And none can foretell what will be from what is."
In the center of the Wheel of Fortune card is a large wheel, which is filled and surrounded by complex symbols.
Starting at the very center of the wheel we see the symbols for the four classical elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water — which form the core of all things both living and inanimate.
Around the rim of the wheel we see a cast of characters from ancient mythology: Anubis the jackal, a serpent representing Typhon (Or the Egyptian Set), and the mysterious Sphinx.
Inside the outer rim, we see two words whose letters alternate with one another: The first word is formed from the Hebrew letters YHVH, which is shorthand for the unpronounceable name of God.
The second word is the clevely ambiguous TARO, which can also be read as TORA meaning the first five books of the Bible, or ROTA — short for Rota Fortunae. (See note below)
Around the rim of the wheel we see a cast of characters from Egyptian mythology: Anubis the jackal, a serpent representing Set, and the mysterious Sphinx, clutching a sword.
In the four corners of the card we see an angel, a winged lion, a winged ox and a winged eagle. These are the biblical symbols of the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — as described in both Ezekiel and the Book of Revelations.
The overall symbolic message of the card is that fortune is ultimately understood only by the Divine. All other parties are merely participants in a great game of chance.
NOTE: To truly understand the symbolism of the Wheel of Fortune card it's important to understand the historic concept of the Rota Fortunae. In ancient belief systems from Babylon to ancient Greece, the concept of fate was often imagined as a large, cosmic wheel known as the Rota Fortunae. Countless historic illustrations of the Wheel exist from the ancient period up through the Middle Ages. Typically these illustrations feature well-known kings, emperors, political figures and even clergy — all drawn around the wheel. The implication in all cases is that fate alone raises men up and fate casts them down. The artwork of the Wheel of Fortune tarot card is a direct reference to this common historic pictorialization of fate — and the word TARO or ROTA in the center of the wheel cleverly hints at both Tarot and Rota Fortunae.
How to Interpret the Wheel of Fortune
The Wheel of Fortune is like the "Chance" card of the tarot deck. It's a reminder that fate is forever and always, unpredictable.
What is expected often has little to do with what eventually happens. And what is unexpected can be either positive or negative, no matter how carefully we have planned.
When the Wheel of Fortune appears in a tarot reading, it's a reminder to expect the unexpected.
The Wheel of Fortune is ultimately a warning against complacency. We all like to make assumptions about what is and what isn't, but the Universe likes to remind us sometimes that we really know nothing at all.
When the Wheel of Fortune appears in a tarot reading, it's a reminder to expect the unexpected. The order which we perceive in the world is in fact part of a larger disorder. And the disorder of unexpected events, may be part of a greater order we simply cannot understand.
The card also reminds us to adopt a positive mindset to the unexpected. In order to postively manifest change, we must always be open to the randomness of life. By being positive about all changes, we can adapt to them, and seize new opportunities.
If the card is referencing a past event in a tarot spread, the Wheel of Fortune may point to the importance of unexpected events a past time. We often forget that what is clear now, may not have been clear then.
Generally speaking the Wheel of Fortune is neither positive nor negative; It is the the ultimate unknowable. But if we maintain a positive outlook and a personal openness to change, the card reminds us that one can manifest positive outcomes even from negative events.
The Wheel of Fortune Inverted
The reversed Wheel of Fortune card can have a few different meanings in a tarot spread, but in most cases it points to resistance to change.
Unexpected changes are a fact of life. There's nothing we can do to stop life from throwing us the occasional curve ball. The question is, how will we respond?
The appearance of the inverted Wheel of Fortune is a stern reminder that change is here and ignoring it is not going to help.
When the inverted Wheel of Fortune appears in a tarot reading, it's often a sign that someone is resisting change at some level. Instead of rolling with it and making the best of it, that someone may be clinging to the past and pretending that things haven't already changed.
The one surefire way to suffer negatively from change is to close one's eyes and hope it goes away. The appearance of the inverted Wheel of Fortune is a stern reminder that change is here and ignoring it is not going to help.
Another possible interpretation of the inverted Wheel of Fortune is that someone is stuck in a rut. Change is needed, but it's not coming. In this case, the card reminds us that we must open our hearts and minds to the possibility of change. Some changes are subtle and small. We must be open to them and ready to seize upon them if we want to move in the right direction.
Common Symbols Found On the Wheel of Fortune Card
Tarot cards often use a language of symbols to convey hints about how the card should be interpreted. The Wheel of Fortune includes at least three well-known, repeating Tarot symbols. Each of these symbols which repeat throughout the deck can add greater layers of meaning to the card.
The symbols which appear on the Wheel of Fortune card are:
Lions symbolism appears on the Wheel of Fortune card:
Lions in a broad sense symbolize strength and courage, however the depiction of lions in the Tarot can vary from card to card — and their meaning depends upon the specific card where each lion makes an apearance. In addition to being the primary theme of the Major Arcana Strength Tarot card, lions are a recurring symbol on several other cards across the Tarot deck.
Serpents symbolism appears on the Wheel of Fortune card:
Snake and serpent symbolism in Tarot artwork is closely connected to the classical serpent of Eden. The biblical serpent represents temptation, deception and the allure of false promises.
NOTE: The one card where a serpent arguably doesn't represent the serpent from the Bible (although it may, depending on the reader) is the Wheel of Fortune card. Around the inner disc of the Wheel, we see an Egyptian Sphinx, a large snake and a red character. It would be easy to assume that the red character is a traditional devil. But the presence of the Sphinx suggests that these three creatures are not actualy Biblical references, but characters from ancient mythology: Namely, a Sphinx, Anubis the jackal, and Typhon the serpent — representing destruction.
Birds symbolism appears on the Wheel of Fortune card:
Birds depicted in Tarot cards typically fall into two distinct categories: Identifiable birds (like doves, falcons, etc.) and flocks of small, unidentifiable birds shown flying far away in the sky. All the court cards in the Suit of Swords depict the latter. These small birds are a reminder that the Swords suit is connected to the classical element of Air. Although each of the identifiable birds, has its own unique interpretation, birds in a general sense all represent freedom — both a psychological freedom, and freedom from physical restraint.
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