Understanding Tarot: The Wheel of Fortune

tarot wheel of fortune meaning
Tarot card art from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot Deck
This article is written by Tarot Reader, Claire Chilvers. You can find out more about her insights and readings at @ClaireChilversTarot

Trusting the outcome and going with the flow

The Wheel of Fortune is the midpoint in the Major Arcana cards. It is card number ten and within numerology, tens denote an ending of a cycle and the beginning of a new one.

This cyclical card with its never-ending wheel turning around and around is a very good symbol of this point. 

To look at this card can be very confusing. What on Earth do all those strange creatures represent? Why are they sitting there reading books? Why are there no people in the picture (unlike all the other Major Arcana cards?) 

In a reading it is equally frustrating, with groans of despair when it arrives and questions such as; “Where am I on the wheel – on the way up or way down?”; “What is it that is going to change my life so suddenly?”; “What can I do to change this or is fate going to start ruling my life?” 

Many people find this card unsettling because, put simply, it is so uncertain – and us humans, well, we are not very good with uncertainty and rarely see it as a positive!

People consult the tarot because they want to understand what is going on in their own world and require clarity, assurances, calmness, and order.

To have The Wheel of Fortune arrive in the middle of a card reading, may leave you wishing you could ask for your money back!

But, before we focus too much on the card’s negatives aspects, let us remind ourselves that all the cards are neutral, and have both positive and negative attributes.

Although, that can be difficult to see if the only clarity it gives you is that things are out of your control.

Remember that The Wheel of Fortune is a small part of the journey of the Fool as he passes through every card on his way towards the successful completion of his human life.

The Wheel arrives just at the point where he has grown up. We last saw him when he had taken some time to reflect on all that he had learned from his mentors and the early part of his life.

He left card number nine, The Hermit, with a renewed picture of who he was and wishing to continue on his journey to fulfill his purpose.

With this in mind, it is the perfect time for the Universe to send him a challenge – they would not do so if they did not think he had gained all the abilities and wisdom to cope.

The Universe is urging him to jump on that wheel, embrace the challenge, face the adversity, hold on tight, and let them turn his life around until he is perfectly placed to continue on to the next phase of his life.

Unfortunately, however, when the wheel turns it can be unsettling. If we are not in control of where we join it or when we are going to be allowed off of the spinning wheel, then that in itself is a challenge.

But, the positive with this is that these are the times when we do not have the time to worry or overthink, we just have to trust all will be ok and go with our gut feelings.

We usually find when the Universe throws us this challenge, we are able to draw on our unused strengths and abilities we didn’t know we had to achieve more than we ever thought possible.

And, when we stop spinning, we find ourselves in a much better place and one we wouldn’t have dreamed of being in had we followed our own ideas.

Once again our tarot journey that I am writing here is playing out in real time and has mirrored the ups and downs that we have all been witnessing recently.

As we are working our way through an intense Eclipse Season it seems that the world is willing us all to change and move on to a new cycle. 

But, as we have all clung on to the wheel as our world has been spinning – seemingly out of control – I am aware that some people may have felt that their lives have plunged into darkness, yet others may feel positive and enlightened by the changes they have seen, and a vast majority of people may have no idea at all whether they are up or down!

So, let us look now at the abundance of symbolism that this card offers us.

As an exercise, firstly ask the card for guidance and then take some time to have a look at the card and see what you are drawn to – you don’t need to know what the images are, just let your eye wander and see what resonates.

We will all be drawn to something different, as we are all on different journeys.

Have a look at some of the explanations below to see if the symbol you have been drawn to resonates with you, (you may even see the symbol -or something that relates to it –  as you go through your daily life, especially if you are asking for help and guidance through this confusing time).

  • Sphinx: The Sphinx on the top of the wheel is an Egyptian symbol of knowledge and strength. These qualities may be in the offering or you may be called to use them if you are moving into more difficult times. 
  • Anubis: The red creature at the bottom is often shown as Anubis, who welcomes souls to the underworld. He is the patron of lost souls and as scary as he looks, I feel that he is a comforting person to have around if we are feeling as low as we can be. It reminds us we are not alone.
  • Snake: The snake is often associated with evil in the tarot (he is also spotted in The Lovers card by the woman). He is plunging down towards the bottom – and reminds me of the game Snakes and Ladders in that sometimes you can be up one minute, and then you land on the snake and slide all the way down and have to start again.
  • Angel, Eagle, Bull, Lion: The four characters in the corners are representative of astrology and the minor arcana. The Angel (Aquarius, Swords and element air), The Eagle (Scorpio, Cups and element water), The Bull (Taurus, Pentacles and element Earth), and the Lion (Leo, Wands and the element Fire). And the keen-eyed among you will realise that they all have wings. As we all move along with the wheel, they are motionless, sitting on their clouds engrossed in their books (the Torah – ancient book of wisdom). Have you ever seen a bird trying to stay in one place on a windy day? Able to keep in place even though the wind is strong. All these symbols not only relate to different elements or signs you may resonate with, but, collectively, are showing that it is possible to remain composed even through the chaos!
  • The Roman Numeral X: We spoke about the number ten which is shown by the Roman Numeral X, and that this is the end of a cycle and the beginning of another.

Lastly, I will mention the Wheel of Fortune is also assigned to the planet Jupiter.

Jupiter has many aspects assigned to it, but, I often feel that the qualities of optimism and growth, which it is linked to, could be very valuable when we see this card. 

Wherever you see yourself on this Wheel of Fortune remember that you will not be there forever and that this too will pass.

If you are riding high, be grateful and enjoy the moment. If you are at the lowest point, even if it feels you are stuck, the wheel will soon move you out of the darkness. And as you can see by the abundance of characters that surround you during this time, you are never on this journey alone.

Read More:

Understanding Tarot: The Fool’s Journey

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About the author

Claire Chilvers

Claire Chilvers is a writer and tarot reader and lives in Essex, UK. She offers tarot readings to clients in the UK and around the world via video calls (Skype usually), if you would like a reading please contact her at clairechilverstarot@yahoo.com. Claire also has a Youtube Channel where she shares daily readings- https://www.youtube.com/@dailytarotwithclaire