By Judy Jennings © Copyright 2013
The followers of the Goddess Fortuna built her temple on the banks of the Tigris in 293 B.C., and she’s been living on through the Tarot and the hearts of her people ever since. In fact, Fortuna, who represents the personification of chance events, persisted in such popularity after the advent of Christianity that she incurred the wrath of Saint Augustine, who developed not only the concept of the Catholic Church, but the ideas of “original sin” and “just war”. Disliking the inclusive nature of Fortuna, he wrote “How, therefore is she good, who without discernment comes to both the good and to the bad?...It profit no one if she is truly fortune...let the bad worship her.”
Worshipped she is, and not only by the bad. Lady Luck and people’s belief in her are as close at hand in modern times as the nearest line for lottery tickets. In the Tarot, she has maintained a powerful presence through the Wheel of Fortune. Older versions of this card often include the image of Fortuna at the wheel, while the Rider-Waite deck employs the fixed signs of the Zodiac to signify the changing Wheel, revolving within universal truth that remains constant in contrast to the flux of human lives. Fate and change are the province of Fortuna, and those two energies together are inextricably tied to the idea of Karma.
|Golden Dawn Initiatory Deck|
The Wheel of Fortune marks a change in the attention of the Tarot, as the tenth triumph moves away from areas of personal development and begins to address forces of a more universal nature. This card offers a strong metaphysical side for the student of contemplation, as well as an extremely energetic presence whenever it presents in a reading.
Psychologically, the Wheel of Fortune represents the principle that all mental activity is cyclical in nature and has a tendency to recur in rhythms. This arcana speaks to the evolution of consciousness and the development of the higher mind. The rising figure on the right side of the Wheel in the Rider-Waite version is Anubis, escort of the soul’s journey through the underworld, suggesting elevating consciousness. Representing the Great Work itself, the Wheel embodies the mode of consciousness that brings conciliation and harmony. Progress and civilization are suggested, as are the ideas of accomplishment and mastery.
Metaphysically, The Wheel is widely understood to represent the Law of Karma, which Western culture acknowledges with phrases like “What goes around, comes around” and “Violence begets violence”. The concept of karma is embraced in widely different forms in religions around the world, from the karmic dirt of Jainism to the samsara and nirvana of Buddhism. Christianity disguises the idea in a series of metaphors culminating in the resurrection of Jesus, and the Bible makes repeated references to the Law of Karma in phrases like “Reap what one sows”, “Live by the sword, die by the sword", and "Seek, and ye shall find".
Tarot is a system that advocates taking personal responsibility for your own life, not only for your actions but for your thoughts as well. This lesson begins immediately with the partnership shown in the first and second major arcana. The Magician and High Priestess represent the left and right hemispheres of the brain, the conscious and subconscious, intellect and intuition. The relationship between those forces is what determines our experience in this life, because it is our subconscious reaction to events that take place in the material world that shapes our attitudes and actions. Messages sent from the conscious mind are taken literally by the subconscious, and if thoughts are full of negativity, spirit will be so also. Who among us has not seen that in action? Replace that with positive thinking, teaches the Tarot, and possibility becomes endless.
This message of personal responsibility continues in The Wheel, which signifies the results of the expressions of the earlier stages of personal development. The greatest challenge of this card, at least for the Western thinker, may well be to avoid thinking of Karma as a system of punishment and reward, and instead, contemplate on the interwoven energies of Change, Fate, and Personal Responsibility.