Spin Me Right Round, Baby, Right Round: The Wheel of Fortune

How to interpret The Wheel of Fortune in any reading

Image courtesy of tarot card psychic reading.

When The Wheel of Fortune pops up in a reading, it can be difficult to interpret it because its very nature is so changeable. You don’t have to be a fan of the name-twin game show to know that.

The key to interpreting The Wheel of Fortune lies in combining knowledge of the card with the role and function it plays in the reading, and applying that to the situation or inquiry. But to really get accurate readings with it, you need to build a relationship with The Wheel of Fortune.

In this latest installment of our Interpreting the Major Arcana series, we’ll discuss:

  • The Wheel of Fortune basics
  • Developing a relationship with The Wheel of Fortune
  • Practicing reading with it

Now spin the wheel… and here we go!

the wheel of fortune tarot card in the marseille and RWS deck
Note the similarities and differences between these two versions of The Wheel of Fortune. Image courtesy of Angelorum.

The basics of The Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel of Fortune is a concept that’s much older than the tarot, and the traditional artwork reflects this. It is perhaps the most symbolic card in the deck.

The wheel in the center spins, bringing change and luck-- for good or for ill. It is inscribed with the alchemical symbols of the four elements-- earth, air, fire, water-- which are also the four suits of the tarot deck. Sometimes these symbols are replaced with TARO/TORA or ROTA, which, depending upon the spin direction, mean the tarot/torah wisdom or the Latin word for wheel. In between these are stamped the Hebrew letters for Yahweh. In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the wheel is framed by an angel, eagle, lion and bull. These are both the fixed astrological symbols for the zodiac signs Aquarius, Scorpio, Leo and Taurus and they are the symbols for the Four Evangelists-- Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

There are other creatures present. The snake, Typhon, descends into the material world. The Egyptian god Anubis rises, bringing with him the wisdom of the underworld, while a sphynx sits at the top of the wheel with the wisdom of gods and kings. All is forever spinning, rotating, changing. All are in balance and have their lesson to teach you.

The Wheel of Fortune’s meaning is fairly simple and rather obvious from its symbolism, nature, and of course the mythology attached to such things. It means that change is coming in your life-- that destiny or fate is coming, and your fortune is fluctuating. Upright, it’s a good thing-- the odds are in your favor, destiny is smiling upon you, and your endeavors are blessed with good luck. Reversed isn’t necessarily bad though! Yes, it can mean that the odds are not in your favor or you’re mired in bad luck, but this reversal is a huge lesson-- perhaps you’ve avoided your destiny or have gotten stuck in a cycle that’s toxic or stagnant. When the Wheel is reversed, don’t curse your luck-- take a good hard look around and inside yourself to see what self-sabotaging obstacles you need to remove. Alternatively, and less likely, the Wheel of Fortune Rx can mean bad luck from external sources out of your control.

And that is the ultimate lesson of the card-- let go, as you do not have control over the spin, only your reaction to it.

Traditional artwork for The Week of Fortune features many key symbols. In many ways, it’s the most symbol-rich card of the deck. Image courtesy of Higher Self Portal.

Developing a relationship with The Wheel of Fortune

As we’ve discussed before, keeping a tarot journal is one of the best ways to develop your relationship with your whole deck, and with tarot divination in general. In it, record readings, journaling prompts, and notes about your research into each card’s symbolism and history.

Suggest Tarot Journal Prompts:

  • How do you view and handle change? Is it healthy, or could it use some improvement? How could you handle change better?
  • Do you believe in destiny or fate? What do those words mean to you? How could they apply to your life? What is your emotional reaction to them?
  • Where could you let go of control? Is control important to you? What does “control” mean to you? Do you have a hard time letting go of control? Why?
  • Do you believe in luck?
  • What does “fortune” mean to you? Take some time to look up the word’s etymology and history. Note it down, and also your reaction to it. What does it make you think of?
  • What do you think of when you look at the card?
  • Life cycles-- what do those look like? Why is it described as a cycle?

Suggested reading for The Wheel of Fortune:

  • The Three Fates in Greek mythology
  • The Wyrd Sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth
  • Myths, legends, and history of spinning wheels
  • Sleeping Beauty (original)
  • Goddess Fortuna myths and legends
  • History of the wheel
  • Myths and legends of Anubis and sphinxes
  • Snake legends
  • The four apostles
  • The Torah
  • Astrology and zodiac material

Some of these suggestions will make immediate sense, such as reading up on the Three Fates and the folklore around spinning wheels. Other suggestions may not make immediate sense, such as Macbeth or the four apostles. As you read, take notes about themes of cycles and change, particularly in reference to luck/fortune or control and destiny/fate.

For example, when reading Macbeth, note the similarities and differences between the Wyrd Sisters and the Three Fates, as well as the roles of control and destiny/fate and change. The apostles are suggested because their symbols adorn the traditional artwork-- the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was illustrated in a way that specifically chronicles the magickal elements of each card. Pay attention to where each apostle starts/stops their story, what parts of Jesus’s life cycle they focus on, and consider the time lapse between when the apostles wrote verses when Jesus lived. What effect could that have on the view each presents on his life? Additionally, in Jesus’s life story, runs the theme of life/death, which is usually illustrated as a cycle. How is it depicted in the apostles? Think about the resurrections in Jesus’s life as well. Where does that fit into the cycle?

The Wheel of Fortune is not chaotic like The Tower, but both serve your highest good. Image courtesy of iStock.

Putting your skills and knowledge to use in a reading

Now that you’ve covered the basics of The Wheel of Fortune and dove into research and reflection on it, let’s put your skills to the test. First, we’ll run through a sample reading and break it down for you. Then we’ll create an alternate card layout for the same situation for you to practice interpreting.

Everyone goes through hard times, but let’s say that you’ve really been put through the ringer lately. Maybe your boss has been particularly harsh towards you, your projects are faltering, and you didn’t balance your checkbook correctly so now you owe late fees or overdraft fees. You wake up one morning and can’t take it anymore, so you head to your tarot deck for some advice. You shuffle up and select the following cards: 9 of Swords, The Wheel of Fortune Reversed, and The Star. The outcome is the Ace of Wands.

Here’s how we’d break it down:

  • 9 of Swords-- anxiety, worry, nightmares, the things that keep you up at night
  • The Wheel of Fortune Rx-- a lesson that must be learned before fortune’s change
  • The Star-- hope, renewal, solace, a balm to the soul
  • Ace of Wands-- a sparkling new creative endeavor, a return of creative juices, motivation

When you consider each card, relate it to the situation and the function/role it plays in the reading. The 9 of Swords is obviously the mental and emotional state that you’re currently experiencing. Often these anxieties are due to issues with control and expectations. Where could you mitigate these in your life? The Wheel of Fortune is reversed here, which indicates that there is a lesson that you need to learn and incorporate into your life before things can change. The lesson is likely related to issues of control and expectations. Once you do that shadow work, The Star shines like a beacon to let you know that even if nobody else believes you, you have the truth and the Universe on your side. Perhaps, since the issues featured job and financial items, you need to take that leap of faith into a new job or career path that has scared you before.

Look at your financial and professional situation and let go of the expectation that it should be perfect and your life should be in a certain place by your age. The Ace of Wands assures us that if you make the changes and let go of control and expectation, take that leap of faith into a passion, you will not only find your motivation again your whole life will change for the better. The Wheel of Fortune will spin upright again because you have let go of what was holding you back from your greatest, fiery potential.

Now it’s your turn to practice. Let’s keep the same situation, but change up the cards a bit, and see what your interpretation is!

  • 6 of Pentacles reversed
  • The Magician
  • The Wheel of Fortune
  • Outcome: 9 of Swords reversed

Let us know in the comments what your interpretation is, and how you arrived at it!

Take the time to dive into your own tarot deck’s artwork for The Wheel of Fortune. There’s always more to learn in each artistic version. Image courtesy of Uncaged Tarot.

The Wheel of Fortune energy is not chaotic, although letting go of control may feel that way. But surrender to the cycle. It will spin on anyway. Dive into this major arcana card, and learn the lessons it tries to show you.

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Jean Linder

Jean Linder is a writer and photographer from Pittsburgh, PA.
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