The Wheel of the Tarot speaks the Law of Love.
~ MacGregor Mathers, co-founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
For the first time in about eight years of pulling a card each week, we are visited by a card whose absence, one might have thought, would be glaring.
This week, we welcome The Wheel of Fortune.
I know. It seems rather shocking that such an important Major Arcana card has never once appeared, in over 364 draws.
One of the most widely recognized of the Majors, it features a number of esoteric symbols and quite a lot of mystery. Which, if you think about it, it probably should.
For instance, in the Rider-Waite-Smith version (which is what I am pretty much sticking to in this weekly feature), the central image is three nested circles. Inside the space between the outside circle and the next smaller one, we see a combination of Hebrew and Roman letters. The Hebrew letters comprise the Tetragrammaton, the all-powerful name of the Divine.
As for the Roman letters, Tarot expert Rachel Pollack notes, “Starting at various points and going in either direction but staying in order, we can find various four-letter words in different languages.
“Here,” she continues, “is a sentence from MacGregor Mathers, co-founder of the Golden Dawn: ROTA TARO ORAT TORA ATOR. The Wheel (Latin rota) of the Tarot (taro) speaks (Latin orat) the law (Hebrew Tora, usually spelled torah), of Love (from Ator, or Hathor, and Egyptian Goddess akin to Aphrodite).”
That’s just for starters.
Inside the rim, going clockwise from 12 o’clock, we see the alchemical symbols for mercury, sulphur, water and salt. Author and scholar Robert Place remarks that we can interpret these as soul and spirit in combination with the body.
The four creatures in the corners are the same as those found in The World card, and Arthur Waite refers to them as the four living creatures of Ezekial’s Merkavah (the heavenly chariot). Here, at the half-way point before the final realization of The World, they are reading books, which are usually understood to be references to the four Christian gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The figures themselves represent the fixed signs of the zodiac, Aquarius (the human), Scorpio (the eagle), Leo (the lion), and Taurus (the bull). Thus, the Wheel has important things to say about cosmic time and cycles.
Robert tells us that the human figure with the head of a jackal is a hybrid of Anubis, the Egyptian God of the dead combined with the Greek messenger God, Hermes. He is a force of Good, patron of the ancient Egyptian priesthood, and the guide for souls in their journey to the underworld. On the opposite side of the wheel is the snake Typhon, the Greek name for Osiris’ murderous brother, Set.
At the top, mediating the two, is the Sphinx, bringing wisdom and balance.
This Wheel of Fortune holds within it thousands of years of thought and myth, including the prescient dream of King Arthur on the eve of his final battle, the concept of reincarnation, and medieval Christian morality tales instructing us of our peril, when we are too much of this world rather than attending to the next.
So why does it come to us this particular week? Why indeed.
There are certainly some very big changes on our doorstep. Cross-currents of political, economic, environmental and social change are in the process of coming full circle and in combinations never seen before.
Astrologer Lara Owen writes, “If you’re feeling shaken, rattled and rolled, it’s because we’re coming up to the annual Sun opposition to Pluto on Tuesday, and a very tense New Moon/Solar Eclipse on Friday. The Cardinal Grand Cross is again in effect as the Sun squares Uranus, opposes Pluto and squares Saturn this week, all amplified by the Moon doing the same on Friday at the New Moon/Eclipse.”
(And for a much more detailed view of this year’s version of the Cardinal Grand Cross, you can read more here.)
“Try not to take everything personally,” Lara advises. “Meditate and spend time in nature to balance the mind; take the long view. There’s a great deal of change in the air at the macro and micro levels, and so coping with and embracing change is a major theme in these times. Aligned with it is the work to see what we have and should keep, and what we are clinging to that we’d do well to move on from.” (More details here…)
She could have well been writing about the Wheel of Fortune itself!
In our personal lives, finding the still point at the hub of the turning will be important if we are to cope with the enormous changes ahead. Cultivating a view of the big picture, and becoming aware of the larger patterns of change in our lives will help us succeed, turning challenges into opportunities.
What is it time to let go of? What new thing is knocking on your door? Be open to surprises, miracles, unexpected twists of Fate, and options never seen before. What major turning point is now upon you?
When we move with the flow of change, yet hold to the still point at the center of the Wheel, when we allow, as Robert beautifully describes it, “the world of time and impermanence [to be] permeated by the spirit and as the spirit at work,” good fortune must follow. “The good God,” he writes, “is rising, and the evil God descending.”
So mote it be.