Wheel of Fortune

Whether it’s depicted as the Wheel, the Wheel of Fortune, the Wheel of Time or the Fates, this card brings with it change and cycles and uncertainty.

Suit

Each Major Arcana card is associated with a suit, in this case the wheel of fortune is a fire card and knowing this can help us lean into the meaning.  Without knowing anything else, we get a fast, sparking, energetic vibe, this is not a card about staying still.

Different decks

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I’m posting this from a hotel room and can’t remember the name of the tarot deck for the small card or the one on the bottom row to the right… I will update when I’m home with the boxes…
Top Row; Lumina
Bottom Row; Wild Unknown, Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Rider Waite Smith

“The Wheel of Fortune promises that change is the only thing you can rely on.”
– Michelle Tea

The Rider Waite Smith image involves a lot of symbolism.  There are many layers to this card and we’ll get a sense of that as we start to unpick things.  You can take the image at face value without knowing what the symbols mean, less so for the RWS but this is easy with some of the other decks.

With the RWS symbolism, from the little I know and have read, we have alchemical symbols which correspond to the suits of the tarot, zodiac signs depicted in the four corners and so on.  In terms of the zodiac, there is a Scorpio eagle, Leo the lion, Taurus and apparently Aquarius – all of which are fixed signs if you know anything about astrology you might want to ponder this.  The wheel itself seems to be resting on the back of what might be a devil and the wheel has a sphinx? On top and a snake to the left.

According to Michelle Tea, the snake is Typhon, a murderous monster in a downward spiral – he has had his time on top but no longer.  What I think looks like a devil is apparently Anubis (half jackal and half human) who is protector of the dead, who guides souls and brings new life.   The sphinx is indeed a sphinx who is enjoying her time up top.  There are a lot of different ways we can relate to this card through the different depictions and we will all, at one point or another, be each of them.

Rachel Pollack instead says the snake is set, Egyptian god of evil and bringer of death into the universe.  In some stories, Anubis is set’s son and so the decline of set gives space for Anubis to step into life, the cycle of death and rebirth is played out – “psychologically, only the death of the outer self can release the life energy within” (pollack).  The sphinx represents Horus, god of resurrection and so symbolises the triumph of life over death.

Pollack also notes that the wheel originally symbolised both the mystery of nature and the human ability to take part in that mystery through a ritual sacrifice.  This may sound sinister to our 21st century ears but sacrifice could just be about letting go of that thing which is no longer relevant, that belief which is no longer appropriate or that idea you have of how things should be.  She goes on to point out that the important thing about change is the reaction you have to it.

Do you embrace change?  Do you struggle against it?  Do you drain all your energy trying to fight it?

The Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Where the RWS wheel is spinning by itself, albeit with the influence of gods and such, the wheel in pagan cats is being spun by a cat herself.  We still have the four suits and the symbols which indicate the degree to which the cat cannot control the future.  Combined, these elements show an approach to destiny and fate which is in partnership with the reader of the cards.  The LWB says:

“The wheel of life is spinning and where it will land is uncertain, those who are centered will feel the effects less than those who cling to the edge. R. running away from fears or responsibilities.”

I find this interesting given the cat is clearly on the outside of the wheel, here she will feel a greater impact of change, and perhaps experience greater change because of that resistance to throwing herself at the centre.

Instead of just select astrological signs, the pagan cats wheel includes all the zodiac symbols and the planets.  Having observed this, I’m now mulling over what I think it might signify but am not feeling anything obvious – I’d love to hear from you if you have thoughts!

Wild unknown

This particular wheel of fortune card is one that I’ve leant into in a deeper and deeper way the more I’ve learnt about tarot.  The card shows a complicated web of rainbow treads, weaving in and out and getting tangled in branches and ultimately creating a circular wheel akin to a dreamcatcher.  The top half is in darkness with a crescent moon and an owl and the bottom half is light.  Things are a bit topsy turvy right now.

As with the previous cards, change is a key element here.  We are asked to be the change or to feel into how change is showing up for us.  How are we responding to those changes – are we clinging on for our lives desperately trying to be in control of the change or are we going with the flow?

The tangledness of the image reminds us of how intertwined life is.  It is a visual representation of the interconnectedness of all of us and how everything is connected and united with everything else.  However random events in your life may feel, they are connected somehow, just in a way that us mere mortals can’t see.  Life is messy and it may not feel like things are going as they should but have faith that the universe is keeping you on your path, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Related to the idea of life as messy, we can use the card as a reminder that life, like a tangled ball of wool, only becomes untangled with time and patience and making a bit more mess first.

Lumina

“Intentionally move the spinning wheel of You to the beat of your own heart’s guidance”

Where the phases of the moon were hinted at in the wild unknown, they are explicit with the lumina tarot.  A feminine figure stands at the centre of 8 arms, each reaching for a different moon phase.  Above sits the moon and she stands on the sun, echoing the wild unknown.  Etched into the moon is the symbol for Jupiter which I’ll look at a bit later on.

The centring of the figure suggests she is at the centre of the wheel of fortune; she is moving with the flow not resisting change.  Fighting it makes no difference to what happens, just how you react to it.

The moons in this card speak to me of cycles – the lunar cycle, the way tides flow in and out, the way a year moves through seasons and the cycle of life that we all experience.  Everything changes and everything passes.  We also cannot skip a stage of the cycle.  You cannot go from new to full moon without passing through the crescent moon on the way.  Works of Literata expands on these ideas around cycles and phases in a post about the wheel of fortune.

Other decks

In the Simplified Tarot, the wheel of fortune shows a wild looking woman turning a crank to spin a wheel with 6 of the zodiac signs on it – Pollack suggests that this is saying in a direct way we make out own luck.

The Chrysalis Tarot has a somewhat different image to most of the other decks I’ve looked at.  In this deck, the wheel of fortune appears as though it could be burning.  I wonder if this is saying we can take control of our fate?

The Herbal Tarot illustrates this card with slippery elm, something which doesn’t take much leaning into to feel appropriate for the wheel of fortune.

Finally, in the goddess tarot, the wheel of fortune is represented by hindu goddess Lakshmi who is associated with fortune and prosperity, the generosity of the universe.

I find these different versions of the wheel of fortune reflective of the different types of change we all experience, the different ways we move through change and the different levels of control we have over changes.

General thoughts

“Like the wheel of life that never stops turning, the longer you cling on and try to stay where you are, the more out of flow with life you get, life is not linear, it is cyclic.  A boundless journey of transformation. Of highs and lows. Of contractions and expansiveness.  Of birth and death.  Of wins and losses.  Change is a sure thing.  Our ability to surrender to its natural rhythms is our greatest tool”
Rebecca Campbell

“I walk with life’s ups and downs. Sometimes I’m ahead, sometimes I’m behind. This too shall pass”
Jessi Huntenburg

  • What is changing? How am I responding?
  • How can I stay centred?
  • Have you checked out of your life in some way?
  • Are you struggling to trust that the future will unfold as it’s meant to?
  • Who is spinning the wheel?
  • Where on the wheel am I?

Keywords for the wheel of fortune:

Destiny, change of course, life is messy but have faith that the universe is keeping you on your path, change, luck, karma, fate, turn of events, turning point, movement, action, brief glimpse of the world card, taking control of your destiny,

Associations

Fixed zodiac signs

As we saw with the RWS card, the fixed astrological signs come into play here.  These are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius and Café Astrology says:

The fixed signs are not as interested in manipulating their environment as their Cardinal brothers and sisters- they are happy to concentrate on personal matters and will resist outside attempts at trying to change their lives. They tend to hang on to the past, which is their biggest weakness, but they are strong in their stability.

In the context of the wheel of fortune, these signs feel like they should be more resistant to change and to the turning wheel so I’m finding it a little strange that they are highlighted.  I’d be interested to hear other people’s ideas about why the fixed signs in particular are used on this card.

Amethyst

Previously I’ve not really explored the symbolism of the associated crystals but I love amethyst and as a pisces, it’s my birth stone and it’s been with me for over 2/3 my life in different ways so I felt compelled to find out more about it.

Firstly, it’s quartz so let’s start there.  Quartz comes in many varieties and formations and is the most abundant mineral on the earth’s surface.  There is, when you put it like that, nothing special about quartz.  But it is special.  I have a lump that I picked up as a child and whilst I don’t know where it is, I can picture it as clearly as I can my teddy bears.  It was raw and full of character and as I write this, I’m upset that I can’t think where it is.  I know I didn’t get rid of it but I’ve moved house so many times…  Anyway, back to quartz.  It’s clearish and if you look back in time, it was used to heal sickness and wounds and is generally thought of as a basic go to crystal if you are into crystal healing.  If you don’t know where to turn, grab some quartz.

So, amethyst is a type of quartz.  It’s purple colour is down to manganese and iron in the crystal, so really, not only is this quartz, a really common crystal, it’s also impure.  And yet, it is so beautiful!  I feel this really chimes with the message of the wheel of fortune – things don’t need to be neat and tidy to be valuable, messy and impure have their own rewards.  If you start to look at how amethyst is used, you’ll find it’s a magnifier, it enhances the qualities of other crystals and like quartz is a bit of an all rounder.  More specifically, it’s allegedly good for protection, balance and interestingly purification… It is supposed to calm eg nerves and environment, and echoing its use as enhancing other crystals, it’s supposed to enhance self esteem, spirituality and meditation.

A further note on the idea of enhancing or magnifying, on a trip to Mexico Danielle Dorsey found herself dealing with a number of challenges and repeatedly drawing the wheel of fortune.  She writes:

“The Wheel of Fortune continued to appear, gently reminding me that while these misfortunes might seem temporarily magnified, it was up to me whether I would allow them to define my trip.”

When we are in the middle of change, we often experience it more intensely that it is.  Spinning around, feeling out of control, amplifies all the other areas in life where we feel untethered.

Jupiter

In the lumina tarot, we saw the symbol for Jupiter.  This was echoed in another deck which featured Fortuna on the wheel of fortune (Jupiter is said to be her father).  We also find oak associated with this card and again, that brings us back to Jupiter and his counterpart Zeus.

Aside: Zeus is linked with oak and when I was looking at plant associations for the wheel, oak was one of them.  If this feels intriguing or relevant you might want to explore this further.

As a planet in astrology, Jupiter is about expansion and growth and is excited about new things which could be seen as a very healthy attitude towards the wheel of fortune and change.  Traditionally Jupiter has been seen as the planet of luck and good fortune so perhaps we should or could see future change as a positive opportunity instead of a negative, external imposition.

Owl

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Top, left to right: Animal Allies, Animal Dreaming
Bottom, left to right: Medicine Cards, Wild Unknown Animal Spirit

 

The owl on the wild unknown card is showing herself to be wise enough to step back and observe and adapt, she is not trying to hold onto the wheel or hold back the changes.  She looks from the darkness, the unconscious and flows with the cycles instead of struggling against them.  She teaches us to adapt and to make the most out of what is coming as it will come regardless of whether you like it or not.

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Animal Dreaming: Dog, take 2

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So take one wasn’t very helpful… In my defense I really was not feeling the card at the time when I wrote it.

Dogs are mans best friend. They are a symbol of loyalty, fidelity and reliability.  The card therefore asks us to consider our own loyalties, who or what are we putting our trust in?

Dogs are used to protect us, to warn us of approaching danger and to attack intruders.  They offer us warning signals as a way of serving us.  This idea of service is seen again and again with dogs, the most obvious being assistance dogs.

Side note, did you know that assistance dogs doesn’t just mean guide dogs for the blind? There are lots of reasons why a person might have a specially trained dog to help them.  My sister has an assistance dog through the charity Canine Partners and it is amazing how many different and seemingly complex tasks the dogs can be trained to do.

On a darker note, we see the appearance of a black dog in village as a predictor of plague in the 1300s.  Dogs are also associated with death in a number of societys.  Sometimes this is as the gatekeeper to the afterlife.  Sometimes it’s believed that dogs can sense death coming for a human.  Because of their excellent hearing, they were alleged to hear ghosts.  This ties into the concept of the dog as a warning system.

In the Rider Waite Smith tarot, the dog appears on the Moon, the Fool and the 10 of Pentacles cards:

  • The Moon – I would argue that this is possibly a representation of the wolf, there is a wildness associated with the moon that I do not sense in the dog as a domesticated animal.  Perhaps though we need to remind ourselves of how much involvement humans had in creating the dogs we have today.  We have changed their very nature and temperaments.  Is this a good or a bad thing?  It certainly shows the power of humanity but it also shows our cultural approach to nature as a thing which must be tamed.  We tend to feel the same about our emotions and our unconsciousness, both represented by the moon.
  • The Fool – A journey is beginning, where do we go?  Who do we take along?  In this case, I can see the value of an unwaveringly loyal companion who does not question but stands at your heel as you take the first step.
  • 10 of Pentacles – This card asks us to consider what is really important to us in life.  It asks us to look at our definition of success and whether we feel we have reached it.  Where the fool is the beginning of the journey, the ten of pentacles could be considered the end.

Echidna: Animal Dreaming

wp-image-505075752jpg.jpgAnother amazing animal, this suit really is filled with some exceptional creatures!

They are named after Echidna, a half woman half snake creature from greek mythology.

The echidna’s closest relative may be the platypus, both are egg laying mammals with tiny electroreceptors on their snouts which detect currents.  For the echidna, this allows them to burrow and detect prey with their eyes closed.  Despite laying eggs, their babies, called puggles(!), hatch very undeveloped so they need a lot of looking after and nourishment.

All of this though, comes after mating.  And the echidna is a solitary character who goes quietly about her own business.  When the time is right, an echidna train will form – a female followed by male after male after male…  Not much is known about the echidna’s life but we do know that the males have a four headed penis and their shaft is covered in spines…  During mating, two of the heads sort of shut down and the other two are used to release semen.  The active heads alternate each time the male has sex. We also know that they flatten their spikes to mate.

Once the eggs are hatched, the puggles remain in mum’s pouch for 45 to 55 days and will be kicked out when they start to grow spikes.  Mum then digs a nursery burrow and leaves the puggles there, coming back every few days to feed them.

When the echidna is threatened, they curl up into a ball, leaving their spikes facing outwards so the predator gets a mouthful of spines.  These spines are made of keratin, the same stuff that our nails are made of.  They are designed for self preservation and they are defensive as opposed to offensive, with a gentle nature despite their spikes.  In one dreaming, the echidna refused to fight and thus his spines are the spears he continues to keep with him.

Other helpful adaptations include backwards facing feet which help with digging, sharp claws and a sticky tongue help them get to the ants and termites that they eat.  They can also breathe in bush fires by entering a mini hibernation type state in which they don’t need so much oxygen.  So much about the echidna is about self preservation and personal protection.

Whilst that is it for animal spirit cards, there are some plants and animals that I have a personal relationship with or affinity for and I will be doing a few random posts to look into them.

Wombat: Animal Dreaming

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Ooh the wombat is amazing!  They are so cute and so full of attitude!  These gentle, vegetarian marsupials are burrow dwellers with a powerful jaw for gnawing through plants.  Their teeth are also very helpful for digging their extensive tunnel systems along with their powerful claws.  Because of their burrowing, they have a backwards facing pouch to avoid filling it with dirt.  They tend to have one baby at a time which is born in the spring.  After about seven months they leave the pouch and are weaned after 15 months.

Their burrows protect them from fire and the heat of the day but also from predators.  They are mostly at risk from attacks by dingoes and tasmanian devils.  To escape, they will go into their tunnel and stand with their bums facing the entrance. They have a big layer of cartilage and muscle on their back and if a predator tries to grab them this will protect them from too much pain.  They also let the attacker get close and then they ram this hard shield into the top of the tunnel! These endearing, slow moving creatures are fully prepared to use a bit of violence to protect themselves.

This layer of muscle and cartilage is also used in communication – babies will nip and bite at it to talk to their mum.

They are lovely, chilled out animals which mooch along and yet below the surface is a bit of attitude and a bit of fiestiness.  These “ground koalas” have a tendency to head butt their way past obstacles.

When a female enters oestrus she becomes active and aggressive. Mating has been observed in captive wombats; the female attacked the male for about 30 minutes before allowing him to mate. The mating lasted for about 30 minutes with both male and female laying on their sides. In the wild, the courtship consists of the female being chased by the male in wide circles. The male then bites the female’s rump and rolls her over on her side. After several minutes the female breaks away and resumes the chasing behaviour. This action can be repeated several times within about 30 minutes.
– 
Australian Museum

In one dreaming story, wombat and kangaroo were both competitive about their homes.  Each thought theirs was the best; the wombat’s underground and protecting him from terrible weather, the kangaroo’s in the open air where he could watch the stars and enjoy a gentle breeze.  One stormy night kangaroo decided he wanted to be in the safety of the wombats burrow and went to stay with wombat, uninvited and unannounced.  Kangaroo got frustrated and angry and annoyed after his difficult night and ended up hitting wombat on the head which is why wombat has a flat head today.  In retaliation, wombat threw a spear at kangaroo, which made his tail.

This story and the importance of home to the wombat (they spend about 2/3 of their life in their burrow) may be asking you to think about your own home, your safe place, your nest.  And once you have found this place of comfort, you may need to gently, but firmly, enforce your boundaries.

Bowerbird: Animal Dreaming

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I’ve been so excited about this post!  The bowerbird is fascinating and interesting and amazing!  These architects of the bird world build complex and intriguing structures.  Some even paint these elaborate creations using natural pigments.  They collect treasures from the environment to decorate these intricate displays.  And why?  It is an activity carried out by the males as part of the mating ritual.

This is a painstaking process.  You need to prepare, think ahead, pull together the resources available and then carefully build your work of art.  You may need to steal from your fellow birds, you must keep an eye out for opportunities and you must gather your strength, your creativeness and your treasures.

A bower must be decorative, with a carefully arranged display of objects, a dowry.  These objects include shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, bones*, berries, plastic, glass or anything else the male may find, satin bowerbirds being particularly fond of blue objects. And it’s not a rough and ready affair.  The male spends hours arranging his display.  You must dedicate yourself to the work for this is your future.  If you do not impress the females, your genes will not be passed on.

Bowerbirds have also been observed creating optical illusions in their bowers to appeal to mates. They arrange objects in the bower’s court area from smallest to largest, creating a forced perspective which holds the attention of the female for longer. Males with objects arranged in a way that have a strong optical illusion are likely to have higher mating success.
– 
Wikipedia

But it doesn’t stop there.  Once a female has been attracted by the bower, you must start the elaborate mating ritual.  This involves expanding your pupils alternately, a call and dance then waving of wings like a matador followed by headbutting the female…  All of this is to prove yourself worthy to her.

Once a mate has been found, the male will fertilise her and then she has the job of building a nest and chick rearing all by herself.  Presumably leaving the male to continue preening his creation.  Which you will have noticed is not doubling up as a nest.  This feels strange to us when most animal behaviour has a clearer function.

Dowries, the keyword for this card, are gifts or money which is given by the brides family to the husbands family when they marry.  Whilst no actual dowry is transferred between the birds, it does feel like the male is the one offering the treasure instead.  I don’t think she actually takes any of his objects but there is a feeling that they are displaying their wealth and enticing her with it rather than her bringing the offering as in the human sense of the word.  Regardless, I feel that this card and the keyword are asking us to look around and see what resources and treasures we have and to think about our relationship to them and how we treat them.  By resources and treasures I am including knowledge, opportunities, friends, family and environment as well as what you physically own or have access to.  We are all abundant in some way.


*Because of their bone collecting habit, the aboriginal people called the bowerbird the ghost bird.

 

Possom: Animal Dreaming

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I don’t really know anything about possums… So this was an interesting card, an interesting opportunity if you will, to learn.

First things first, a possum is not an opossum.  The latter are found in the Americas and the former in Australia.

Possums are nocturnal marsupials which are related to cuscuses.  Based on my limited research, this may be the common ringtail possum, the scientific name of which is Pseudocheirus peregrinus (Greek for “false hand” and Latin for “pilgrim” or “alien”).  The common ringtail possum enjoys eating leaves, flowers, fruit and a special type of faeces that is produced during the daytime when it is resting…  This sounds a bit disgusting to us by it’s similar to behaviour displayed by rabbits and helps to maintain their energy levels, important given their low nutrient diet.  It also helps them to conserve water.  The common brushtail possum is less discerning when it comes to diet.  They normally eat leaves, flowers and fruits but they are often found in urban areas where they will eat pretty much anything.  They don’t pass up the opportunity for a meal even if it’s not what they would generally choose.

Possums spend most of their life in the trees, rarely descending to the ground.  They are excellent climbers and use their prehensile tail to help with balance and grip.  Their large, sharp claws also help with their arboreal lifestyle.  That said, the common brushtail possum is happy to adjust and will delight in sharing your home with you (you may feel differently about this arrangement…).  This is a really opportunistic, inventive and adaptable creature.

One possum pair eager to get their paws on tasty garden veggies was witnessed balancing like acrobats: one hanging from a branch, holding the other’s back legs in its front paws and lowering him down the tree!
-BirdGard

As night dwellers, the possum lives in the shadows, able to see and hear and navigate the darkness.  However, danger can hide there so the possum must remain on high alert.  This seems to come naturally to them, they seem always to be on the look out and always thinking and noticing what is around them and how they can make use of opportunities which cross their path.  These skills will also ensure the possum is aware of any predators – in their search for opportunity they also spot danger.

 

Grey Kangaroo: Animal Dreaming

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For general kangaroo info, check out the red kangaroo post.

Grey kangaroos are smaller than the reds and need more predictable climate.  Because they are more abundant that other types of kangaroos, the eastern grey can be “commercially harvested for export” by licenced hunters.

In terms of the keyword abundance, this is similar to how other cultures have viewed the whale and bison.  A gift from nature which provides lots of resources and for which the community is thankful for.  In this case, the grey kangaroo provided meat, pelts, and strong bones for digging.  She is a sign of prosperity and a reminder that earth will look after you if you look after her.  The balance of the planet relies on us taking only what we need.