The Wheel of Fortune (card number ten in the Tarot's Major Arcana) depicts a cosmic wheel surmounted by a sphinx, and in each of the four corners of the card we see an angelic form reading an open book. There is a wealth of symbolic detail in this card, but this brief description is sufficient for our discussion here.
The Wheel of Fortune represents the endless cycles within cycles that make up the universe. Everything, from a grain of sand to a galaxy, has a beginning and an end, and this card represents the eternal cycle of birth, life, and death. It also tells us that fate will inevitably hand us a series of ups and downs, and it urges us to try to understand and learn from those continual changes.
It often seems that things just happen for no apparent reason and regardless of what we deserve, whether good or bad. That is one way to view life's seemingly capricious nature, but there are other perspectives as well. One is to consider life's ups and downs to be lessons from the Divine. Similarly, we may think of them as part of the curriculum that we chose when we incarnated into this life. In any case, the important point is that no matter what the source of life's boons and misfortunes may be, we always have the choice of whether or not we want to learn from those experiences, and we are free to choose what we learn from them. Ultimately, then, it is not so much what happens to us that matters; it's how we experience it, deal with it, and learn from it that counts.
Besides learning lessons from our experiences, how else can we deal with fate's roller coaster ride? This card advises us to find our spiritual center in order to cope with our adversities. Using the metaphor of Fortune as a spinning wheel, we can consider that even when its rim seems to spin wildly, the hub turns at a relatively languid pace. So we see that it is when life seems to spin out of control that we have the greatest need to search for that calm center within that connects us to what is eternal, for it is there that we can find peace amid the chaos of life.
Another piece of advice, which is illustrated on this card by the aloof sphinx sitting atop the wheel, is to cultivate a sense of equanimity about our earthly gains and losses. As the Buddha taught, it is our attachment to material things (which are transitory) that causes suffering, not the loss of those things.
Take a moment to consider the things you value in your life. You may appreciate them for what they are in the "here and now," but remember that nothing is permanent, for as the Wheel of Fortune turns, anything may be lost. This is not a depressing observation, however, when you realize that it is your ability to appreciate that is truly important. As long as you have that sense of appreciation, which comes from the center of your being and not from outside of you, you can always find joy in your life. On the other hand, if you are experiencing a loss, consider that this too shall pass. The wheel keeps turning, so today's misfortune may be a necessary step on the way to tomorrow's good fortune.
Finally, the Wheel of Fortune assures us that as we strengthen our inner connection to what is truly eternal, instead of that which is transitory, we will cultivate a more permanent happiness in our earthly life.
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James Ricklef is a Tarot reader, lecturer, and writer. He has been a frequent workshop presenter at Tarot conferences and symposia from Los Angeles to New York. He is the author of several Tarot books, including Tarot Tells the Tale which was first runner up in the General Interest category for the 2004 Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) Awards. (A revised version of that book is now available as Tarot Reading Explained.) He is also the creator of the acclaimed Tarot of the Masters deck.