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Spring Fling: Discard

"Wheel of Fortune" from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, 1909 Pamela-A from Sacred Texts.
“Wheel of Fortune” from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, 1909 Pamela-A from Sacred Texts.

Our wrangler Ania Marczyk suggested the very thought-provoking topic: which card we might like to fling out from the tarot deck during a spree of tarot spring cleaning.

I’m an advocate for keeping those cards that are generally considered difficult —cards like Death, the Devil, the Tower, the Ten of Swords, the Five of Pentacles, and others. To me, they lend an honest and truthful look at the situations we go through. Ultimately I find every card to have a role to play when it takes its position on my table. These cards cut directly to the heart of the matter. When they come up they can serve as a quick diagnostic to assess the problems that are holding the querent back. Once a problem is clearly seen, we can then focus the reading on developing a plan for addressing it.

Likewise, just because my day-to-day existence doesn’t incorporate such personages as Kings, Queens, Emperors and Popes does not mean that these designations are outdated—there are still leaders with these titles throughout the industrialized world. I can easily understand you if you say that your roommate acts as if she were the Queen of England, or in your new job you feel like the Emperor. Our vocabulary is rich enough to employ these metaphors—and depending on the types of clients you have, these cards might even be literal. Furthermore, due to the depth of meaning to these archetypes, there are always plenty of layers to uncover when these cards appear in a reading.

If I had to pick one card that I’m most interested in dumping from the deck, I think I would have to say the Wheel of Fortune. This card is about change, changing circumstances, changing luck, cycles. But it doesn’t put those changes in perspective. The Magician might say, Take control of your changing circumstances. Death might say, it’s over, let it come to a rest. The Moon might say, when you can’t see things clearly, follow your intuition. But the Wheel just turns, commentary on mute.

"X - Wheel of Fortune" from the Morgan-Greer Tarot by Bill Greer, Lloyd Morgan,  published by U.S. Games.
“X – Wheel of Fortune” from the Morgan-Greer Tarot by Bill Greer, Lloyd Morgan,
published by U.S. Games.

Philosophically, the card can be quite interesting. The qabalistic correspondence is kaph, the cupped hand or palm of the hand. This symbolism is seen quite clearly in the Morgan-Greer deck, showing a cupped hand turning the wheel. This can slant the meaning toward taking control of your circumstances, aligning yourself with the hand that turns the wheel, not the characters who ride.

The astrological correspondence according to the Golden Dawn is Jupiter. Associated with luck, this lends the meaning that things are on their way up; your luck is changing for the better. The significations of the planet are much more complex than this, but this is what seems most relevant to the card. Certainly the idea of Jupiter’s expansiveness, expanding yourself through travel or study, would be a great meaning for the card, but it doesn’t seem to fit the standard imagery.

"X - The Wheel" from the DruidCraft Tarot by Stephanie Carr-Gomm, Philip Carr-Gomm, Will Worthington, published by St. Martin's Press.
“X – The Wheel” from the DruidCraft Tarot by Stephanie Carr-Gomm, Philip Carr-Gomm, Will Worthington, published by St. Martin’s Press.

I have on multiple occasions had this card come up to mean circles, particularly magical ritual circles, as shown in the Druidcraft deck.

The Rider-Waite-Smith illustration includes alchemical symbols that invoke the cycles of change in the alchemical process. But this generality eclipses specificity and the card flounders.

The meaning I most like goes back to the Visconti-Sforza, the earliest known tarot, created in the 15th century. It shows Rota Fortunae, Fortune’s Wheel, in which the four characters mark the circumference of the wheel. The one rising says, “I will reign”; the one at the top says, “I reign”; the one descending says “I have reigned” and the one at the bottom says, “I am without reign.” In many ways, this concept is more accurate today than it was at the time of the cards–when this archetype was introduced, the chance of a person rising above their station was probably more unlikely and much more difficult than it would be today. Then again, with the ongoing dialogue today about power and privilege, reversals of fortune still seem like a distant dream to many.

The wheel of fortune from the Burana Codex; The figures are labelled "Regno, Regnavi, Sum sine regno, Regnabo": I reign, I reigned, My reign is finished, I shall reign.
The wheel of fortune from the 12th century Burana Codex; The figures are labelled “Regno, Regnavi, Sum sine regno, Regnabo”: I reign, I reigned, My reign is finished, I shall reign.
Wheel of Fortune from the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, painted by Bonifacio Bembo, reproduction published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wheel of Fortune from the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, painted by Bonifacio Bembo, reproduction published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Despite this variety of ways to explore the card, when it comes up in a straight ahead predictive reading, ultimately all I have to say is: Things are changing. For better or worse, it doesn’t say. What’s changing, it doesn’t say. Sometimes it’s clear from the other cards that the querent has to accomplish a particular task in order to turn the wheel in their favor—in this case the Wheel in the final outcome is very much dependent on a particular series of steps—if executed correctly in a timely manner, the desired result will come to pass; if not, it won’t. But there can be a fatalistic quality to the card as well, undermining all attempts at understanding, and begging for a clarifier.

I guess my dialogue with the Wheel has been ongoing, because as I wrote this I realized that I have three different Wheel of Fortune spreads. The Revolutionary Wheel takes a metaphysical approach based on the RWS illustration. The Who Will Reign Spread takes its symbolism from the older Visconti Sforza deck. My Cogs in a Wheel spread is a vast spread that examines where you currently are in a cycle, its origins, and how to navigate it.

As I think through the complexities of this card and my ultimate failure to ever find anything relevant to say about it in a reading, I come to a dismal conclusion. I think that perhaps it is not the card that is at fault. Rather, it is my limited understanding, my inability to shift gears from one meaning to another according to the spread, that must be discarded.

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Joy Vernon has been studying and teaching energetic and esoteric modalities for more than twenty years. She is the organizer of the Denver Tarot Geeks, Denver Tarot Meetup and Denver Traditional Reiki Meetup, and she served on the faculty of Avalon Center for Druidic Studies. She is one of the psychics at Isis Books and is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and a member of the American Tarot Association and Tarosophy Tarot Association. Joy also teaches Traditional Japanese Reiki. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please visit JoyVernon.com.

© 2015 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.
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Spring Fling: Discard

9 thoughts on “Spring Fling: Discard

  • March 20, 2015 at 3:53 pm
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    I enjoyed this post, very thought-provoking 🙂

  • March 20, 2015 at 5:46 pm
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    Thorough, educational and insightful, Joy. Very nice! Beautiful.

  • March 20, 2015 at 5:56 pm
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    I love that you chose the Wheel as a focus, since it’s certainly not one of the cards that causes the most commotion. But I think it’s worthy of discussion, for sure. When this card comes up in a reading, I almost treat it as a wild card, and I think I might possibly get a mischievous glint in my eye, haha…. I will tell my client… “You might soon find yourself on the receiving end of what’s best for you, which may or may not be what you think you want. Whatever it is, it should be interesting!”

  • March 20, 2015 at 8:27 pm
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    I think that the Wheel of Fortune in its original context and culture works—given that the earliest decks we know of belonged to the nobility, who could gain or lose kingdoms. In a modern context, I think that we need to bear in mind that a modern kingdom is different. For instance, when I was a manager is food service, the restaurant I managed was my kingdom, however insignificant it was in the grand scheme of things.

  • March 21, 2015 at 1:22 am
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    I’ve always rather liked the Wheel, perhaps because I am not someone who fears change, so the movement it promises is something I view as a positive factor 🙂

  • March 21, 2015 at 5:24 am
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    Nice post, very thought provoking…
    I’ve got a wry smile as I’m just thinking… Yeah… that W of F card is very changeable in how it appears… I guess it depends what mood cycle it’s in when you catch it 😀

  • March 21, 2015 at 11:37 am
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    Funny you say you don’t always think to apply different meanings to the Wheel, as you gave one I’d not heard before: for circles! 🙂

  • March 22, 2015 at 5:52 am
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    I always enjoy your thoughts, and your writing style, so much, Joy! I agree with you on many points, and love your discussion of the Wheel of Fortune, which I also briefly mention in mine this time around.

  • March 23, 2015 at 5:09 am
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    I love your thoughts on the Wheel of Fortune card – although I could never get rid of it lol!

Comments are closed.