The Wheel of Fortune and returning to Qi
“Round and round and round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows.”
I am so excited to have started back at Qi this month after almost a years absence. It is such a haven of enchanting crystals, creamy coffee, vibrating bowls and sweet esoteric nothings; like stepping into a dreamscape. I wonder however did I leave? As it has been a full calendar cycle since I last wrote for the Qi newsletter, I thought it a good opportunity to reflect on the Wheel of Fortune, the tenth card of the Major Arcana.
In the Wheel of Fortune, we see an image of a wheel suspended in the air. This is one of the few Major Arcana cards that does not have a human figure as a focal point; fate appears to hover above the realm and reach of man. Crowning the wheel is the Sphinx, the avatar of resurrection. Stretched along one length is the serpent, or Set, the Egyptian god of disorder and violence, who is said to have bought death to the world. On the other is a creature, half man half jackal, connected to the Egyptian god Anubis, an ancient figure of transition. As the Guardian of the Scales, Anubis weighs the human heart after death, and so deciphers the soul’s fate in the afterlife.
In the corners of the card are pegged the winged lion, ox, man and eagle, the symbols of the Four Evangelists; Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Four Evangelists also correspond to the fixed astrological signs Leo, Taurus, Aquarius, and Scorpio. Carved onto the inner circle of the wheel are the ciphers for mercury, sulphur, water and salt, the essential ingredients used in The Great Work of alchemists. The letters TORA, or if read in reverse, TARO, mark the four compass points. This is a card rich with symbology; nothing, neither deity nor element, is excluded from the elaborate tapestry of destiny.
It is often supposed that the concept of fate contradicts free will, but this is inaccurate. Rather, realisation of the transformative impact of our perception on reality is most acute at the nexus of their collision. Each person both sets his course in life and is subject to the larger cycles that include him. As fixed a universal law as order and chaos, so is stability and change, reflected also in the constancy of the superconscious and the capriciousness of ego-self. The superconscious sits at the hub of the wheel, in still observation, as the ego-self is buffeted by the shifting external situations experienced along the moving outer rim. With the wheel’s turning we are plunged from jubilation into sorrow and back again, the experience of each amplified as we turn our focus towards it. Fate is not circumstance alone, but something we pivot to meet, and alas, the wheel makes many revolutions before we awaken to the realisation that we sit both in its centre and at its edge.
The knowledge that nothing lasts forever, or as articulated in the ancient Persian proverb ‘this too shall pass’, is always bitter-sweet. We are grateful for the turn of a wheel that yanks us from our winters’ discontent, but loathe its foreboding creak during our endless summers of love. What remains is our capacity to tune our focus to the stillness of the centre, or the maelstrom at the rim; this is the truest sense of what it means to be born free. As the Fool in his youth first experiences the forces of fate, he may lurch and heave in futile effort to arrest the wheels turning; it is the seasoned traveller, grown meditative from the hum of constant rotation, that learns how to turn himself.