Wheel of Fortune (Tarot card)

Wheel of Fortune (Tarot card)

Wheel of Fortune (X) is the tenth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. It is used in game playing as well as in divination.


To the right is the "Wheel Of Fortune" card from the A. E. Waite tarot deck. A. E. Waite was a key figure in the development of the modern range of Tarot interpretations (Wood, 1998), and this deck is one of the varieties most commonly used.

The "Wheel Of Fortune" card, like other cards of the Major Arcana, varies widely in depiction between Tarot decks. Basically, this card has been modeled ever since the tarot's inception in the 15th century after the medieval concept of "Rota Fortunae", the wheel of the goddess Fortuna. Images generally show a six- or eight-spoked wheel, often attended or crested by an individual (sometimes human; sometimes a Sphinx-like half-human) attired in an Egyptian-style headdress. In some decks, such as the AG Müller, the wheel is also attended by an individual wearing a blindfold; and often there are people sitting or riding on the wheel whilst others are shown falling from it.

The wheel is not always shown inscribed with any lettering. Where this is the case, the letters T-A-R-O can often be found aligned against four of the spokes. In some decks, such as the Waite, the wheel is also inscribed with additional alchemical symbols representing the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water (which are also said to be represented throughout the Tarot by the four 'suits' of Pentacles or Discs, Swords, Wands and Cups respectively. These emblems can also be seen on the Magician's table in the Magician card (Card I)).

On the Waite card shown, though not necessarily on others, there are also four winged creatures in the corners of the card; and in addition a representation of the god Anubis is seen rising with the wheel on the right side, while the snake-like Typhon descends on the left.

Interpretation and Symbolism

As with all Tarot cards, and in particular the Major Arcana which is most often used for divinatory purposes, the exact meaning of the card in the context of a reading will depend greatly on the experience and circumstances of the reader and the querant (the subject of the reading), as well as the disposition of any surrounding cards. Specific meanings can be drawn from the exact appearance of a card and, as mentioned, that can vary widely between decks. Some decks, such as Waite, carry a theological symbolism specific to their designer's interpretation; yet such meanings might not be associated with other variants on the same card, and they may not be acknowledged or referenced by any given reader.

However, the most common function of this card within a reading is to introduce an element of random interference or sudden and unpredictable change in the querant's life. Several key concepts are frequently associated with the card:

*"Turning point; Opportunities; Possibilities"

*"Destiny; Fate; Superior Forces; Movement"

*"Development; Activity; Surprises; Expansion"

*"Sudden Events; Speed; New Developments; Life Cycles"

In the Waite deck, the winged creatures in the corners of the card - a man, an eagle, a bull, and a lion - each hold an open book. Depending on the tradition referred to, these may be said to represent the four seasons, the four gospels, the four fixed signs of the zodiac, or the four angels of the apocalypse, or most likely the four evangelists. These four specific creatures also have roots in ancient Hebrew tradition as being the four corners of the divine throne of God.Fact|date=July 2007 Another Hebrew tradition in the card is the Tetragrammaton is enscribed on the wheel.

As well as the more general concepts listed above, common interpretations of the card can show it as representing changes in station or position: the rich becoming poor, or the poor becoming rich; or a sudden reversal of fortune.Fact|date=July 2007

ymbolism in the Mythopoetic Approach

In this approach, which views the Major Arcana as a journey through life taken by the character of the Fool (the Fool being the first card, or the zero card, of the Major Arcana), the Wheel of Fortune represents the intercession of random chance into the Fool's path. The card represents the forces that can help or hinder the querant suddenly or unpredictably.

It can also represent the underlying order that the Magician attempts to master. The letters on the wheel have been read to mean "Rota Taro Orat Tora Ator," which can be translated (if you don't mind syncretic translations) to: "The Wheel of Taro [t] speaks the Law of Ator [Hathor, or Love] ."Fact|date=July 2007

Through its cross sum (the sum of the digits), it is closely connected to The Magician and The Sun (cards 1 and 19 of the Major Arcana respectively). Each represents a break with the previously established order: the Magician starting the journey; The Wheel of Fortune introducing random chance; and The Sun reborn from the underworld.Fact|date=July 2007

In Pop Culture

* The Wheel of Fortune serves as the inspiration for the final boss in "The House of the Dead III". This entity, known as the Wheel of Fate, is actually a resurrected form of Dr. Roy Curien, the antagonist of the original "House of the Dead". In this form, Curien wields the fearsome power of electrokinesis, attempting to zap the players at every opportunity. He spins his wheel to determine his next attack, and the spinning wheel has a knack for deflecting gunfire intended for the (mutated) scientist's weak spot - his chest. Like all bosses of the "House of the Dead" series, The Wheel of Fate is named for one of the Major Arcana; although, in this instance, the name has been modified. Also, since the Wheel of Fate is one of the series' final bosses, its power of choice - in this case, electrokinesis - has a symbolic connection with the rest of the series. Combined with the pyrokinesis of The Magician, the metamorphosis of The Emperor, and the cryokinesis of The World, the Wheel of Fate's power appears to represent the forces of nature and life.

*In the Persona video game series, the Wheel of Fortune Arcana features various mythological figures associated with fate, such as the three Moirae.


* A. E. Waite's 1910 "Pictorial Key to the Tarot"
* Hajo Banzhaf, Tarot and the Journey of the Hero (2000).
* Juliette Wood, Folklore 109 (1998):15-24, The Celtic Tarot and the Secret Tradition: A Study in Modern Legend Making (1998)


* In the X/1999 Tarot version made by CLAMP, The Wheel of Fortune is Kakyou Kuzuki.

External links

* [http://trionfi.com/tarot/cards/10-wheel-of-fortune/ "Wheel of Fortune" cards from many decks and articles to the iconography]
* [http://www.tarothermit.com/wheel.htm The History of the Wheel of Fortune Card] from The Hermitage.

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