The day of fortune is like a harvest day, We must be busy when the corn is ripe.
As the Wheel of the Year turns this week, marking Equinox and the changing season, in a year of stunning twists and turns, it may not be that surprising that we receive a relatively unusual visit from the Wheel of Fortune.
The Wheel of Fortune is at the half-way point of the Major Arcana journey, which concludes with the final realization of The World card. 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.
Symbols Within Symbols, Wheels Within Wheels
For instance, in the Rider-Waite-Smith version, the central image is three nested circles (wheels within wheels, you might say).
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, an 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, deck creator, and scholar Robert Place writes 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 that appeared in the Jewish prophet’s vision).
The four figures in the R-W-S Tarot Wheel 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.
The human figure on the right hand side of the wheels, 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.
The R-W-S Tarot’s 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 (according to Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur), 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.
The Wheel of the Year
This week, in the Northern Hemisphere, the half of the year that has featured longer daylight hours than night will conclude on Friday, with the Autumnal Equinox. After that, the hours of darkness will overtake daylight.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is true, as Vernal Equinox arrives and the sunlight will outpace nighttime for the next six months.
In both hemispheres, for a brief day or so, light and dark are in balance. But until March, here in the northern lands, the nighttime will outlast the daylight hours and with the diminishing sunlight hours, we move from warmth into cold. We celebrate this holiday as the harvest sabbat of Mabon.
And below the equator, our brothers and sisters are looking for signs of Spring, as their days will now stretch beyond the nighttime hours. They will be celebrating the Springtime sabbat of Ostara.
I love that this perfect moment of balance is accompanied this year by the Wheel of Fortune.
Already, the bounty of Summer’s veggies and fruits has dwindled at my local farmer’s market. Now, the Fall crops are beginning to dominate the tables and booths. What was once the crowning glory of Summer’s gifts is fading, as Fall’s harvests now take center stage.
The Wheel reminds us of the slow turning of the Wheel of Time, as one season gives way to the next. What was up now slides downward, and what was but a whisper far away now prevails, only to fade, in its time, giving way to the next season. And then the next.
Nature is not static, and moments of perfect balance are rare, happening only twice a year, and only momentarily. The Wheel of Fortune and the Wheel of Time are in constant motion. Only at the center is there relative quiet, as the spokes that radiate outward turn.
Find and Hold the Center
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.
As a Major Arcana card, the matters this card touches upon for us are not trivial. There may be a big shift in our lives pending, and much about it feels out of our hands.
Cultivating a view of the big picture, and becoming aware of the larger patterns of change in our lives will help us succeed, turning these 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 you have never seen or even dreamed of before.
What decisive turning point is now upon you?
Let us move with the flow of change, yet hold to the still, eternal present point at the center of the Wheel.
This is the great dance of life — learning when to hold on, when to let go; when to push, when to surrender.
Humanity stands on the threshold of the Great Turning. It is the end of an Age, and we are in labor to bring forth the birth of a new aeon for our species.
Will we make it? What now falls and what will rise to take its place? It is all still very much up in the air, but you can rely on the truth that enormous change is underway.
How might you help to create the best possible outcome? How can you at least not hinder? Consider this your invitation to lend your hand.
Be open and receptive, let go of the past, be attuned to the divine Now. Sing into being your finest dreams.
Let us hope for Lady Fortuna to bless us. And if we are wise, we will also be busy aligning and flowing with Her, as the ripening now arrives.
Wishing you blessed, fruitful harvests.