The Wheel of Fortune as “Meta-Card”

As a “meta-card,” the Wheel of Fortune is a tarot-card-about-tarot-cards. As the bearer of many symbols of divination, the card itself symbolizes fortune telling. As a “map compass” it provides context for the other cards in the drawing. At least that is my contention. I have created an exercise using a variation of the Zodiac Wheel (soon to be finished, I promise!) to illustrate. The Wheel of Fortune, Rota Fortunae, is the Wheel of the Zodiac. We trace its history as a symbol of the celestial spheres, and as a medieval metaphor–not just as a metaphor for the ups and downs of life, but as an exhortation to live a good life, in hopes of a better afterlife. What it boils down to, for those that read tarot is this: I see it as a cue to the reader to modify the overall message conveyed by the divinatory meanings of the other cards. The call is to make sure “the bottom line” is of a dual or mixed nature, up and down, sweet and sour. I think that when the Wheel of Fortune tarot card appears, it advises that whatever the outcome of the other cards, be it wealth, love, or whatever, it is a sign that very seldom will the soul (or querent, for that matter) be wholly happy or wholly unhappy with the outcome.

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The Wheel and the Mise-en-scène

Two days ago we posted the first version of a Zodiac Wheel with tarot, astrological, qabalistic and elemental divinatory meanings based upon writings of the Golden Dawn. Today we will take twelve of the minor arcana—those in the center of each deccan, having an exalted and failed (opposite of exalted) planet indicated—and see what visual links we can find between their position within the graphic and Colman Smith’s designs. The purpose of such an exploration is to be a better reader. At the end of the day, we can list every symbol, count every esoteric number, chart every symbol on every card… but still not properly relate that information to the querent’s question. But if we ask instead “how did the Golden Dawn, Waite, Crowley and everyone after them compose the divinatory meanings which for the most case we still follow today?, we may understand many cards’ meanings better. And we will hopefully be able to recognize the astrological, qabalistic or elemental traits that contributed to those meanings so as to better relate an answer that the querent can understand. I also hope that with comments and suggestions from all who view the wheel chart we can improve it. It’s a work in progress.

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A Calendar of All the Cards

For the past several months I have been on a personal Tarot search. Most of that search is to understand how symbols store meanings in the cards. Another part of the search is to understand how the symbols and meanings got there. This article is about an exercise that I set for myself that involves both those aspects. The project is a Zodiac wheel containing the planetary, elemental and qabalistic symbols, their Tarot “assignments,” and the divinatory meanings assigned them. I used the Golden Dawn’s set of meanings both because they are a major source for the Waite Colman Smith deck, and because they are not bound by copyright. The latter is important because if it’s useful to me, it’s useful to others, and this means anything I put together as part of this project can be “sharable.” I offer it to all who think they may learn from it. I also offer the “source” so that if there’s a part of it they disagree with, they can make their desired changes and create their own wheel. So in any case… this is a call for comments and suggestions. With a bit more input, I will be happy to finalize the graphic and make the Visio file available to all. I will come back and update this post when the graphic is finalized.

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Found in Translation: The Dark Side of the Sun

I had always been taught that the reversed Sun card is still 100% positive, just less so. A reading brought to my attention a negative meaning for the Sun card, reversed, purely by accident. A word tranlated from English (giddy) to a Spanish word with a slightly different connotation (dizzy) hinted at a lost divinatory meaning. The meaning points back to Waite’s (and his predecessors’) writings. Elsewhere in these posts I have shown the flexibility of Waite and Colman Smith’s symbols to adapt to newer, more modern meanings. Waite’s Christian and (nationalistic) Celtic embellishments skewed his approach to the Tarot and may have “crowded out” the negative context noted by his predecessors’ in this particular case. Instead, the rediscovered meaning led us to other well known symbols, most particularly, the lemniscate, or sign of infinity. Perhaps it even means that if the Sun is reversed, and your journey is away from it, you may become giddy, dizzy, and disoriented such that your journey takes you to the “bass ackwards” end of infinity… away from the Holy Ghost and towards the Devil. But that is the genius of Tarot… it didn’t go away completely, and was there to be found when appropriate… though thoroughly by accident!

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Knights and the Hero’s Journey

We examine the four Knights of the Waite Colman Smith deck. We look, in particular, at the Book T’s assignment of astological dates to them, and examine how Colman Smith carries the chronology over to her illustrations. We use the chronology to place the Knights upon their path in the hero’s quest (a la Joseph Campbell), and attempt to update Waite’s divinatory meanings slightly, to make them a little more specific to modern society.

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The Moon: Waite’s Symbols

For the modern reader, it is usually the “deception” side of the Moon’s meaning that is given. Often, it’s a suggestion that one has to look again, preferably with better light; to recognize something that isn’t what it appears to be as it really is. To look beyond the mystery. But in Waite’s Moon, the mangy looking yellow wolf, quite singular looking, is yellow for a reason. Notice it is the same yellow as that of the moon. Waite has already told us that the intellectual light is a reflection and beyond it is mystery; it illuminates our animal nature. Therefore the message may be that when we reflect upon the thought of our animal natures using the reflected light of intellect… we see the wild nature of the wolf. I would add “reflection” to the standard “deception” meaning of this card. Thus, for example, in a questions concerning love and faithfulness, a reader might do well to ask the querent to use their intellect to answer the question as to whether the object of their affection’s domestic or wild side rules them. In doing so, the Moon card helps them find the answer to question inside themself.

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The Pips of Love

The reading of the pips—-the non-court minor arcana—-is sometimes said to correspond between the numbers one through ten of each suit on the one hand, and the numbered major arcana one through ten. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century tarot revivalists augmented these meanings, sometimes through secondary systems such as qabalah and astrology, but the general “shape” was still maintained. We examine the writings of The Book T, Mathers’ Tarot, and the Waite’s Pictorial Guide, specifically seeking references to Love, then seeing how they correspond to each other and to the organized structure just mentioned. We will then examine the Colman Smith illustrations. We also make a few conclusions here and there as to how the modern reader might use the meanings we find, updating them into today’s terms as necessary.

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