Wheel of Fortune
Tracing its ancestry back to ancient Greece and the spinning wheel of the Fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropus – daughters of Zeus and Themis. They were responsible for the birth, life and death of every mortal and none of the Gods – not even Zeus – could intervene in their decisions. Clotho spun the thread of life for every individual hence, obviously, the origin of the word “cloth”. Lachesis was responsible for the fortune of each, and Atropos cut the cord and brought death – hence the word “atrophy”.
In mediaeval times fortune represented the vanity of man. Traditionally the card is surmounted by a Sphinx meaning "I rule", but flanked on either side by a serpent meaning "I have ruled" and a dog meaning "I will rule", it is perhaps echoed in the Bob Dylan song, 'Mr. Tambourine Man': "All the ancient empires have returned into sand". The poem "Ozymandias" by Shelley is relevant here:
I met a traveller from an antique land
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
This card is however usually positive, indicating a turn for the better, a stroke of luck, better times ahead. Reaping the rewards of past actions and positive Karma which has been built up. Occasionally in a spread the card might have the reversed meaning of "life is a lottery". The wheel itself is "without rule", because the power of the Fates, as mentioned above, exceeded the power of the gods themselves:
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~ and go to Themis for the Hours and the Fates.
Something is about to begin or is in its beginning stages and you need insight and information. You are cautious and apprehensive in your dealings with others but that is not a bad thing while you are still somewhat "in the dark" and lacking in a full picture of what is going on.
Fortune carries the Hebrew letter Yod (Y), tenth in the Hebrew Alefbet to reflect its position in the major arcana, and the sign of Jupiter which is its ruling planet.
It seemed appropriate to use tree rings as a representation of the wheel of fortune, not only because of the visual similarity to a wheel, but also on account of the science of dendrochronology: the ability to establish good and bad years in terms of climate and growth by examining the thickness of tree rings.
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