“Spinnin’ wheel,” says Blood Sweat and Tears, “got to go ’round.”  This is a simple card, right?  We’re at the mercy of the vagaries of the universe.  Easy.  So what else is there to say?

Tarot Card Meanings: Wheel Of Fortune

For one thing, we might ask who are these strange creatures strapped to the wheel, and what arcane symbology populates the firmament through which they spin?  This card is filled with icons, and I have to admit through all the years I have been reading I remained remarkably ignorant of their meaning.  So I sent myself on a little journey of discovery.*   Now bear with me for a moment.

T-A-R-O,  R-O-T-A,  Y-H-W-H

We can see the letters T-A-R-O in a circle, which spells out tarot, but also spells out Rota, Latin for wheel.  Being modeled after the wheel of the goddess Fortuna, this card follows the medieval concept of Rota Fortunae.  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.

Tarot Card Meanings: Elements And Suits

At the center, interspersed with the spokes of the wheel, we find alchemical symbols representing the four elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire, which are also said to be represented throughout the Tarot by the four suits of Pentacles, Cups, Swords, and Wands respectively.  I would be curious to hear if they correlate in any way with the four Directions, though I wouldn’t know which is which.  I might save that rabbit hole for later.

Tarot Card Meanings:  Chariot

“Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz,” says Janis Joplin, “my friends all have Porsches, I must make amends.”  You can’t tell me that almost everyone in every phase of life doesn’t feel some kind of identity with their vehicle.  Whatever form your car takes somehow represents you to the world, and in the tarot the Chariot card brings this home in gaudy detail.  From the star-studded velvet headliner, to the winged hood ornament, to the shiny gold aftermarket rims, this ride is pimped out and the driver even has custom studded leathers and the cap to match.  He is ready to rock and roll.

Tarot Card Meanings: Wheel Figures Turning

The wheel is perhaps presided over by a personified Fortuna, in the shape of a Sphinx-like half-human in an Egyptian headdress.  There are also two other figures rising and falling, though there are three or more in other decks.  Here we see a falling snake, such as the one that tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden, and rising the Egyptian God Anubis, who is associated with the afterlife.

Tarot Card Meanings: Wheel Four Corners


Finally on our Waite Smith card we look at the four corners, where we find four winged creatures representing the four fixed astrological signs of Leo, Taurus, Aquarius and Scorpio.  These are alternatively represented as the symbols of the four Christian Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) traditionally symbolized respectively by the Ox, the Man the Lion and the Eagle, each with wings.

Tarot Card Meanings: Wheel Ups And Downs

Perhaps at different turns of the wheel we personify different characters we see attached: sometimes at the top of the world we are in balance having achieved some wisdom, sometimes we are falling into temptation, sometimes we are rising again in the afterlife because the wheel demands that nothing ends not even with death.

Perhaps on each position of the wheel we are able to glimpse a different portion of the anchored universe, see a different fixed sign, hear a different evangelical message, be backed by a different element.  Do we ever really know where we are?  Are we ever really in only one single place on the wheel in all aspects of our lives?

Tarot Card Meanings: Wheel Around And Around

In any event the written word tells us that the Tarot is the Rota, the Wheel of Fortuna, spinning in endless cycles.  What goes up must go down, because the spinnin’ wheel goes ’round and ’round.  We are at its mercy, no doubt.  So complicated it’s actually simple.

Blessed Be –

Lily
1/19/13

* Thank you Wikipedia, among others including actual books (we remember those.)
The print is of the Roman goddess Fortuna by Hans Sebald Beham, 1541.
Unfortunately, I could find no attribution for e four elements wallpaper.
The pair of Wheel cards are from the Bosch and Ibis decks.
The ivory carving of the four evangelists is Italian or German from 1000-1050.
The picture is an Irish spinning wheel, around 1900,  from the Library of Congress 
The last Wheel card is from the New Moon deck.