Exploring the symbols, metaphors, motifs and archetypal patterns found in myth, pop culture, literature, songs, religion, psychology, Tarot, art and history--and why they matter.
Round and Round We Go - The Wheel of Fortune
Here in the good ol’ Keystone State (Pennsylvania USA) we’re celebrating Groundhog Day on February 2.
In case you’ve lived under a rock the last few decades (or underground in a burrow), in 1993, Groundhog Day was commemorated in a movie starring Bill Murray.
And it’s a very funny movie, actually.
Murray plays Phil Connors, a narcissistic Pittsburgh weather forecaster who loathes the annual trip to Punxsutawney. While waiting for the furry Phil to pop out of his den to predict six more weeks of winter or an early Spring, Phil (the human) keeps repeating the same day.
Of course, weatherman Phil finds this wash-rinse-repeat type of day a boon. He immerses himself in debauchery and engages in crazy behavior, all while trying to win the girl (his producer, Rita, played by Andie MacDowell). And he does this again. And again. And again.
I don’t want to tell you the whole plot in case you haven’t seen the movie, but Phil (the human) finally decides to use his repeated day more wisely…fostering relationships, learning a language, and creating an erudite tribute to the furry Phil. As for getting the girl…you’ll have to rent the movie to see what happens.
And this brings me to the Wheel of Fortune in Tarot.
Is it a juggernaut? Is it a gear-like pit wheel? Is it a roulette wheel? Is it a grindstone? Is it a Ferris wheel? Is it a merry-go-round?
Yes. To everything.
Talk about a crapshoot! Nothing in life is guaranteed, is it? Up, down, up, down—ever tossed about by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (to quote Shakespeare). The Wheel of Fortune card encapsulates these vagaries and forces of life.
One day you’re up, next day you’re down. One day you win the lottery, the next day, your daughter is killed in a car accident. You just don’t know what life will hurl at you, huh? It’s a roll of the dice, to use yet another gambling metaphor.
Yet, for all of its “up in the air” energy, The Wheel also portrays familiar cycles. What goes up, must come down. What you give is what you get. What you sow is what you reap. Smile, and the whole world smiles with you. Garbage in, garbage out.
That sort of thing.
The Wheel can be seen as representing the cyclic four seasons—the budding Spring, the blossoming Summer, the fruitful harvest of Autumn and the decayed, barren Winter.
The energy of the Wheel of Fortune can also reveal patterns in both life and behavior. If we keep running up against a “certain type of person” or a “particular situation”, it may very well be we have something to learn or gain from it. It depends on your perspective, though. Better or bitter, as the saying goes.
So back to the movie. Human Phil finally realizes that this pattern of repeating February 2 offers more than just another opportunity to be rude, drunk or lecherous. In his emptiness, he (finally!) realizes that he can do better things with his time.
On the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, the 21 Trump cards connect the sephiroth (spheres) via paths. It just so happens that the Wheel of Fortune lies on path 21, connecting sphere 4 (Chesed) with sphere 7 (Netzach).
Interestingly, 4s are all about earthly stability, while the 7s often connote vacillation and DE-stabilization (not to mention spiritual truth, higher wisdom and refined intuition).
And here’s a Hebraic “funny”: the Wheel of Fortune connects with the Hebrew letter Kaph, which means palm of the hand. I say “funny” because that ol’ Wheel of Fortune can often feel like a “slap across the head” when it barrels down our way! (On the other hand, that outstretched palm can also look like a plea to God for mercy...as in, no more snow!)
So what should be “stable” for Phil—the consecutive days of the calendar, the predictability that February 3 follows 2, and February 4 follows 3, etc.—isn’t. The 4 energy of constancy that structures our calendars, watches and schedules suddenly gets destabilized for human Phil.
The Wheel tosses him from stable Chesed (4) to fluctuating Netzach (7).
Interestingly, Netzach, and indeed, all the 7s, also embody strategy and cunning. Once in Netzach, human Phil thinks he can use this destabilization to his advantage. He can avoid repercussions and even kill himself...but, voilà, he awakens alive the next day.
On the path of the Wheel, tossing between Chesed and Netzach, Phil finally realizes he’s just not getting it! His typical M.O. no longer serves him. In fact, he’s sick of it!
And this is where The Wheel of Fortune becomes a polishing wheel, smoothing our hard edges and buffing us to glistening shine—much like marble or diamond.
But we have to roll with the Wheel, not trying to stop it, resist it or evade it. These futile attempts at controlling our life only cause suffering.
Instead, we learn to walk with it with grace, wisdom and awareness. And, hopefully, better choices.
We may (or may not) get the girl (or boy) in the end, but we can sure ease our journey when we understand the nature of the Wheel of Fortune…and work with it, not against it.
I'll leave you with a video of The Larger Bowl performed by the best band ever, Rush. Click here for the lyrics, which embodies the energy of the Wheel of Fortune. Feel free to sing along. I don't mind. Really.
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