Placement: The Major Arcana


The most common illustration for the Wheel of Fortune card is, unsurprisingly, a wheel, belonging to the Roman goddess Fortuna. To confuse things a little in a veritable collage of religious iconography, Wheel of Fortune often includes symbols of Jesus’ official biographers, the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. To honour them, at each corner of many Wheel of Fortune cards, you will find a winged man, a winged lion, a winged ox, and an eagle who, unsurprisingly, also has wings. In many versions of this card, they sit reading, as if it were library day in the heavenly zoo. Sometimes a sphinx sits on top of the wheel. Sometimes an elderly man is crushed or drowned under the wheel. Sometimes the wheel is inscribed with the letters T A R O or sometimes T O R A or sometimes R O T A or Y M C A. Sometimes the alchemical signs for salt, sulfur, mercury and water are inscribed on the wheel. Additionally, sometimes a snake or a demon slithers down one side of the wheel and the Egyptian god Anubis slides up the other side. Some taroists believe that their presence is meant to symbolize bad luck and good luck respectively, while others maintain that they would feel left out if all those other symbols were invited to the party and not them.

Right side up:

The demented carnival ride of destiny. The turning of the proverbial tides. A reversal of your current circumstances. The eternal version of the self through times of prosperity and misfortune. Expansion of horizons. Excessive worrying about the future is unwise because whatever will be, will be. I kid, of course. You should always worry about everything.

A reversal of your circumstances means that if you are alive, you will someday be dead, and even given current technology you cannot prevent the wheel of your life from turning in that direction. You do not yet know when your death will take place, or where, or how, but a Roman goddess, an Egyptian god, a sphinx, four saints disguised as flying animals, a snake, and an alchemist graffiti artist know exactly how it will invariably transpire, and they would laugh at its ridiculousness if they did not already pity you so.

Upside down:

Fate closes a door but opens a window… on the 22nd floor. Trying and failing to avoid your destiny. Have you never read a time travel story or even Greek tragedy? Do you not know that taking action to prevent the inevitable will be the direct cause of said terrible event? “At least I tried,” you may tell yourself. Fine. Believe that lie if you must. You will not anger a Roman goddess, an Egyptian god, a sphinx, four saints disguised as flying animals, a snake, and an alchemical graffiti artist, but you will disappoint them.

Classic Wheel of Fortune deaths:

  • Killing a direct ancestor, a century before your birth
  • Complications from eyes removal due to an accidental crime that Freud will eventually use to inspire Psycho
  • Crushed under a falling Tardis
  • Any ironic end not already under the Justice card’s jurisdiction
  • Spending too much on vowels