Card Profile: Wheel of Fortune (10)

The Wheel of Fortune is the eleventh Major Arcanum and it is the first card that is purely abstract. This is completely understandable; as it represents the abstract and incomprehensible notion of fate and change.


In the middle of the card is a Wheel, apparently corresponding to the Wheel of Fortune and it shows three circles, one within the other. The outermost circle shows the Latin letters T, A, R, O and the Hebrew Letters י (Yod), ה (He), ו (Waw), ה (He). The  middle circle resembles a compass on whose cardinal points four alchemical symbols are engraved. On the west, the symbol for salt; on the north the symbol for mercury  on the east, the symbol for sulfur and on the south, the symbol for the process of multiplication (the Aquarius symbol, ) can be discerned. The innermost circle, although sectioned into eight parts by the hyphens of the above-referred compass, is empty.

On the top of the wheel, a blue Sphinx sits; and he is depicted as latching onto a sword. The wheel is approached by a snake from the right. An anthropomorphic figure, resembling the Egyptian god Anubis seems to be carrying the Wheel on his back.

The Wheel is surrounded by clouds on four sides. On the clouds, four creatures are depicted in gold colour; all of them holding open books. On the top-right, there is an angel; on the top-left, an eagle; on the bottom-right, a winged ox; and on the bottom-left, a winged lion. These four figures will only appear together in the last Major Arcanum, the World.

The symbolism and therefore meaning of the Wheel of Fortune is subtle, and aggravates any systematic approach; for this reason, it will be explained observing the order in verbal description.

The Latin letters shown in the outermost circle of the Wheel; when read clockwise starting from the letter T, form the word TARO and when read anti-clockwise; the word is TORA, and another word that can be formed is ROTA. Tora(h); apart from signifying the first five books of Tanakh, the Jewish Holy Scripture, as a word means teaching or instruction. Rota is a Latin word, meaning the Wheel. The Hebrew Letters, together form the Tetragrammaton (יהוה),  the unpronounceable name of God, meaning He-who-is (was/will be). From my point of view; this outermost circle denotes that the Fate is subjective, like the time itself. For the wholeness is all there is, there is no change; but the illusion of it, and those who let their physical level of existence to govern their perceptions are not even aware of this self-illusion.

The alchemical symbols of Three Primes; mercury, salt and sulfur in their respective order. Image by Treska via CommonsWiki 

The middle circle, shows the alchemical symbols of three primal elements. These three primal elements represent body, mind, and spirit; and when combined, they form the symbol for the Philosopher’s Stone, the metaphor for man’s potential for enlightenment and spiritual transmutation. Yet, in this case they are pointing three directions; and in the fourth direction is the symbol of multiplication; symbolizing that the three levels of existence all have different types of perceptions and therefore call for three pathways for development. The pursuit of the Truth is not possible when one type of perception is favored against another: There is no such thing as rising in transmutation; to rise is to unite and to perceive the tapestry of existence (and nothingness) in its entirety. Following this; the innermost circle shows nothing but the amassing of the lines at a single point. The point (.) is without any dimension, and as such it does not exist; but at the same time, it exists. Here, it symbolizes the tapestry of the Universe: Existence and nothingness.  The sphinx on the top of the wheel, and the sword he holds symbolize that in achieving this unity, the mind acts as a bridge between the Spirit and the Body. The Snake represents the desire to know, and Anubis represents both the rebirth through unity in diversity and the spiritual guidance to be received in this pursuit.

The four winged creatures on the corners are the symbols of four Evangelists. This view further cemented as they all have open books before them. Here, they represent four qualities that are needed to be balanced to reach deeper levels in the pursuit of truth: Reason, courage, sacrifice and the determination to look into the eternity.


The Wheel of Fortune, in readings, indicates that it is in the nature of things to happen in cycles and to exist with their complementary opposites. When there is good, there will be bad; when there is fall, there will be rise and vice versa. This card calls for focusing on how to rise rather than focusing on the Wheel itself. A person represented by the Wheel of Fortune, therefore, would be flexible and adaptable to changes and would maintain an optimistic outlook, knowing that the down will be followed by up. In a relationship context, this card indicates the harmony of the partners: They are not necessarily similar, but with their differences they complete each other. Career-wise, this card calls for being ready for changes and when necessary, learning for the mistakes but not collapsing under them.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. 

-Jimmy Dean

All in all, the Wheel of Fortune; is a card of change and how temporary and perhaps unreal the change is. It advises for embracing what is to come rather than resisting it and making necessary self-adjustments in due course.


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