Comparing The Fool and The Wheel
I’m in a Major Arcana kind of mood, so let’s compare two Major Arcana cards: The Fool and The Wheel, also known as The Wheel of Fortune. First, let’s review some terms. If you’ve read my column before, you can skip the next paragraph.
There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, an object, or a concept which can be copied, patterned, or imitated. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts: a “stereotype,” a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative, or an “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative. So archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner. Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has (or will) personally experienced these archetypes.
Besides its archetype and individual meaning, each Major Arcana card corresponds to a number, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. By comparing these correspondences, we can learn specific details about these two cards, thus deepening our understanding of them and their messages within a reading. Get comfy because we have a lot to cover.
Both The Fool and The Wheel have some things in common. They both present circumstances with the potential for long-term effects that involve sudden and unpredictable change. These cards tell of powerful energies that are chaotic and mostly uncontrollable, and that are sourced from outside of us rather than from within our own intellect, emotions and feelings. Both cards present the idea of “possibility,” and tell us that we can make use of that possibility by being aware of its presence. Both cards hint at a uniqueness about them as compared to the other Majors, The Fool because he seems separated from and unaffected by what is around him and The Wheel because it represents effects that are not caused by humans and the way we live our lives. In Ciro Marchetti’s Legacy of the Divine Tarot, The Fool appears on several other Major Arcana cards, including The Wheel, hinting at parallels within that uniqueness. Both of these cards also encourage a new look at or a new understanding of whatever circumstances are being dealt with by a Seeker. Both cards are neutral, neither positive nor negative, and require our own involvement in order to manifest. So how do we present these cards correctly within a reading? We delve deeper and look at the building blocks of these two similar yet different cards.
The traditional image on The Fool is of a boy or young man in danger of stepping off a ledge, dressed in warm colors (sometimes as a jester or in traveling clothes), and carrying a stick or a bundle over his shoulder, accompanied by a white dog. That dog represents trust and fidelity, the superconscious, and the Divine essence that seems to watch over all fools. Tradition holds that in his bundle are the four symbols of the elements found on The Magician, the scepter or wand, the cup, the sword and the pentacle. The Fool always carries these symbols; they belong to him and they retain their own powers, even though he does not know how to use them.
The traditional image on The Wheel of Fortune is a wheel of chance, usually being turned by a blindfolded figure, or a hand reaching from within a cloud. Often there are figures on the wheel, traditionally there is one balanced at the top, one hanging on and moving up, one falling downward, and one laying below the wheel (representing the cycles of growth, peak, degeneration and rebirth). Behind the wheel are a beautiful blue sky and some white, fluffy clouds. Some cards show angels (spiritual evolution, a focus on the Higher Self) in the clouds and demons (spiritual blindness, a focus on the material world) riding the wheel, and others show griffins (union of fire and air, action with intellect) or lions (passion and an outward or direct thrust of energy) or sphinxes (ancient wisdom). Many cards show serpents laced through the spokes of the wheel. Snakes symbolize renewal and development (through the shedding of their skins), adaptation (because they are cold-blooded), and flexibility, all useful talents for dealing with Fate and Destiny.
The Fool represents the archetype of the Divine Child. This archetype brings us amazing and extraordinary possibilities, a huge potential to achieve redemption, and a powerful regenerative force that can lead to wholeness but that needs some outside influence in order to manifest. The Fool represents the true self, that part of us that is unaffected by ego. But The Fool has a dark side as well, for the Divine Child tends to avoid evil altogether, and like most children, he is afraid of the dark and the unknown. He is optimistic, he approaches life as an adventure and expects that he will succeed, but his lack of a plan can lead to confusion and disorganization.
The Wheel represents the archetypes of Fate and Destiny. Fate is defined as “the development of events beyond a person’s control; to be destined to happen, turn out, or act in a particular way.” Destiny is defined as “the events that will happen to a particular person or thing in the future; the hidden and irresistible power believed to control what will happen in the future.” There are three mythological Goddesses who are said to control Fate or Destiny, Clotho (who spins the thread of life on her distaff), Lachesis (who measures the thread of life allotted to each person), and Atropos (who snips the thread of life and chose the manner of each person’s death). There is a common concept here: we are not in control of the circumstances that present themselves to us in our lives.
The Fool is numbered 0, which in itself shows a sophistication not apparent when we first look at the traditional image for the card because the number 0 is a placeholder for a concept that can’t be held in our hand: nothingness or potential. The number 0 is also without gender, in the same way that a newly fertilized ovum is without gender because its gender has not yet manifested. The number 0 is circular; in sacred geometry, a circle is the basic building block or source of every other shape. In some decks, The Fool is the last card of the Majors rather than the first, and thus is also associated with the Ouroboros, representing endless cycles, and a life force so deeply connected to the Divine that it cannot be extinguished.
The Wheel of Fortune is the number 10 of the Major Arcana; this number represents the end of one cycle and beginning of another, closure, a plateau or rest before moving on, or a transition point from one cycle to another. The number 10 often represents perfection, the highest integrity, the full path of life, and a return to a new level of experience. Because the number 10 tells us that we’ve gotten the most we can from a particular situation at this time, it also encourages us to be independent and act on what we’ve learned so far. Remember, the number 10 does not indicate you are done forever, but rather that this cycle has been exhausted and you need to move onward. The number 10 reduces to the number 1, which represents originality and leadership.
The Fool corresponds with the element of Air, and thus is connected to the suit of Spades, the color yellow and the cardinal direction of East, and actions, truth and clarity, the intent to manifest potential into reality, mental focus and spiritual guidance, and a striving to achieve balance between the mind and the heart. Air is connected to the beliefs we have, and to the expressions of those beliefs. Air is also the medium that allows communication; without air, we have no sound. Air is expansive and adaptive, and so is The Fool.
The Wheel of Fortune corresponds with the element of Fire, and thus the suit of Clubs, the color red and the cardinal direction of South, and passions and expansion of all kinds. This element represents spontaneous, impulsive and energetic change. Fire corresponds with creativity, ideas, ambition, growth, passion and action aligned with divine will, and sexuality. The element of Fire encourages us to move forward and to take action based on divine will rather than our ego-based self.
In astrology, The Fool corresponds with the planet Uranus. Uranus is unusual because it rotates on its side; thus each of its poles is turned toward the sun and then away from the sun in an unending cycle. Uranus corresponds to genius, individuality, new and unexpected ideas, radical notions, inventions and technology, and revolution. Uranus encourages individuality and freedom of expression. It is interesting to me that one of the correspondences of The Fool is technology, but then again, invention requires the ability to see things that don’t yet exist in the physical world.
The Wheel of Fortune corresponds with the planet Jupiter. In Roman mythology, Jupiter is the ruler, guardian and protector of the gods. The planet Jupiter is in many ways the ruler of our solar system, for its massive gravity protects the rest of us by attracting or deflecting comets and asteroids that might otherwise threaten our Earth. Like passions and emotions, Jupiter is brightly colored and covered with large and intense storms; the planet is symbolized by a lightning bolt.
In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe. They express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. The Fool corresponds with the Hebrew letter Aleph, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet; this letter corresponds with unity, origin, and with the ability to reproduce or manifest. Aleph also represents patience and learning; it shows a connection or link between the Divine and the physical world, and between the Source and everything that emanates from the Source. The Wheel of Fortune corresponds with the Hebrew letter Kaph, the eleventh letter in the Hebrew alphabet (a letter of manifestation); this letter corresponds with a grasping hand and is said to represent bending or curving, taming or subduing.
On the Tree of Life, The Fool represents Path 11, running between Kether (the Source, limitless possibility) and Chokmah (male in the electric sense, dynamic energy, the origin of vital force and polarity). Thus you could say The Fool is a catalyst rather than a manifestation, the spark that sets things in motion (in an unpredictable way, like all sparks. The energy of this Path is about the neutral powers of creativity that are not shaped in any way, and each of us must strive to find our own meanings and our own applications for the knowledge and wisdom we receive here. We usually don’t know the catalyst is there until it has completed its job and begin activating potential into actual manifestation.
The Wheel represents Path 21, running between Netzach (the stimulating factors of emotion and inspiration) and Chesed (the place where forms and structure are stabilized and nurtured). Path 21 manifests in our lives as a series of ups and downs, and offers us the opportunity to choose a response. Path 21 offers us assistance in making the choice: doors open and opportunities appear, sometimes out of the blue. We learn through working with this Path that things happen within the time, manner and means that are best for us if we let things unfold on their own.
Nothing is certain when either The Fool or The Wheel show up in a spread, and the beliefs of the Seeker receiving the reading will have a huge influence over how these Major Arcana cards manifest. If the Seeker is optimistic, The Fool will cause miracles to drop into his lap and The Wheel will bring unexpected and exciting opportunities. If the Seeker expects bad things, The Fool will trip and fall, skin his knees, and break that nice expensive bottle of single malt scotch in his backpack, and The Wheel will click past all those lovely prizes and land on “Bankrupt.”
Both The Fool and The Wheel tell of a major reboot. Both cards warn us that circumstances are likely to force an unexpected change in direction, so we need to learn from our mistakes or we will end up repeating them. Both cards tell of a crossroad, or of a decision that must be made before going forward. Both cards bring a bit of chaos, The Fool by trusting that the Universe will protect him as he risks all, and The Wheel by combining the opposites of Victory and Mercy to bring about sweeping changes in the current situation.
Aleister Crowley stated that change is stability. Both change and the challenges that change brings are necessary to prevent stagnation and degeneration. The Fool offers us this gift of stability through a new beginning without rules or expectations, and The Wheel through making use of the ebbs and flows of the energies connected to a particular situation, as well as the power found within unpredictability.
About the Author:
Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher. Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.