The Wheel of Fortune and the Gifts of Karma


You’re rolling along doing great, happy as a clam, your life full of blue skies and smiles and – BLAM – you get fired from your job.  Or your girlfriend leaves you. Or even worse, you get fired from your job and get terrible, terrible reviews on your exit interview and you know your resume’ will be screwed up for years.  Or . . . wait . . . your girlfriend leaves you for a lesbian who ALSO happens to be your supervisor and fires you and they BOTH give you terrible, terrible reviews on your exit interviews and you know your resume’, your ego and your libido will be screwed up for years.

We’ve all had those moments when life suddenly turns to shit with no warning and for no discernable reason.  It happens to everyone. A rabbi named Harold Kushner even wrote a book about it called, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” that sold millions of copies.

Of course, you could also write a book called, “When Good Things Happen to Bad People,” but it probably wouldn’t sell as well.  Or you could write a book called, “When Good People Have Their Lives Turn into Shit Sandwiches and Then All of a Sudden Things Get Better For No Particular Reason.”

As the King of Siam said, “It’s a puzzlement.”

One of the reasons it’s puzzling for most of us is that we get that training from the time that we’re infants:  if you’re good, good things will happen to you. If you’re bad, no fruit cup for dessert and you stand in the corner.  It’s supposed to be a straight, cause and effect transaction that if you’re good you get rewarded, not kicked in the head.

But life is full of ups and downs, and The Wheel of Fortune is a perfect illustration of that.  At best our ill fortune can seem terribly random and at worst it can seem just plain perverse. A turn of some invisible wheel over which we have no control.


As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to take a lot of comfort in the concept of karma.  When a stranger decides he doesn’t like me and he’s going to make my life hell it makes more sense to me to think that I must have screwed with him in a past life than to think that he  just doesn’t like my nose or my aftershave.

And if you really embrace the concept it can actually help you to get through some horrific times.  “Yes, this is terribly painful and I’m going through some serious suffering. On the other hand, think of all of the bad karma I’m burning off.”

I remember the first time I had a serious discussion about karma.  I was taking a tour of a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center and the woman who was the tour guide and who lived there said:  “When we get up in the morning we try to live virtuously and if we do that we accumulate merit, which is good karma. And then we consciously dedicate that merit that we’ve earned to anyone who is suffering or in need.  Which is also a virtuous thing to do so we accumulate more merit by doing it and then we consciously dedicate THAT merit to others.”

To which I replied, “Huh?”

It took me a few years to get it but the key words there are, “consciously dedicate.”  

When we encounter the bad times in life – as we always do – live them consciously.  Endure them with grace and dignity. Be determined to learn and to grow spiritually from them.  Consciously dedicate those bad times to earning merit.

And when we’re having good times in life, consciously dedicate some of that extra energy and fortune to helping others who are having hard times.  

Conscious living makes The Wheel of Fortune make sense.

The Angels of the Tarot

 

There are ALOT of angels flying around in the Major Arcana of the Tarot.

the-lovers

The first one to appear is in The Lovers, hovering over Adam and Eve, arms outstretched, while the crafty snake twines around an apple tree.  One assumes that this snapshot was taken BEFORE Uppity Eve decided that she just had to have a goddamned apple for breakfast, because the angel seems to be protecting or blessing them as they stand there.  After her snack, of course, god went into a major psychotic rage and the angel drove them out of the garden with a flaming sword. (“She ate AN APPLE! That bitch ate one of my apples! How dare she? They’re MY apples. I’ll show her!  I’ll throw her skinny ass right OUT of Paradise. I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”)

Jewish tradition holds that the angel who tossed them out was Jophiel, which is odd because she seems like a pretty nice angel.  She’s known as, “the angel of beauty,” and she’s shines beautiful thoughts into people’s hearts and helps addicts and artists.

wheel

The next angels to appear are the Cherubim and we see them in both The Wheel of Fortune and The World.  Cherubim have four faces, one of an ox, a man, and eagle, and a lion. The human face fits on the front and the lion face goes on the right and ox goes on the left and the eagle face goes . . . somewhere else.  Must be on the top or the back, right?

What else?  They have two sets of wings that join together.  The top set is to fly around with and the bottom set they use to cover themselves up.  For why, I don’t know. (Ezekial 1:6)

So, as near as I can tell, they look sort of like giant dragonflies only they have four faces which are placed right, left, middle, and somewhere else.  And to think they didn’t even have LSD when they wrote this . . .

We should note that cherubim are NOT cherubs as we know them on Valentines Day cards.  The cute, cuddly little guys who shoot arrows into your heart are actually putti.  That’s right, they’re putti.  Cutey puttis. Look it up.

Also, apparently the Cherubim guard the gates of the Garden of Paradise so Uppity Eve can’t sneak back in for another apple, though it’s not clear if Jophiel (remember Jophiel?  Nice angel? About 5 foot 4, blonde hair?) is a Cherub.

Also, Satan was a Cherub.  Who knew, right?

temperance

The next angel, who is pictured in the Temperance card, is . . . well . . . the Temperance angel.  I’ve done a lot of research on him/her and no one seems to know who she/he is, although they all agree that he/she is either of both sexes or no sex, which would make he/she an it, rather than she/he. We know that Temperance is one of the christian cardinal virtues so perhaps the angel is merely supposed to be an allegorical reference to our better self.

devil (1)

The next to the last angel is The Devil.  And perhaps I’m taking a leap here that isn’t justified.  There are so many christian symbols in the Tarot that it seems logical that if they’re referring to The Devil they probably mean Satan who, as noted above, is a Cherub and NOT a putti.  NOT A PUTTI!

On the other hand, he could be Beelza Bubba, or whole bunch of other fallen angels.  Or the idea of evil itself. Still, it seemed better to err on the side of caution and include him.

judgement

And the last angel is the angel blowing the horn on the Judgement card to summon the dead out of their graves.  We can probably go out on a limb and say that this is Gabriel the Archangel. Anal retentive biblical scholars will point out to you that the bible doesn’t say it was Gabriel and, in fact, the bible doesn’t even mention Gabriel and in fact the only archangel that the bible even mentions is Michael.

But we all know it’s Gabriel.  Gabriel’s the one with the horn.  Everyone knows that.

Angels.  What a trip!  If you want to take a deep dive into angelology (yes, there IS such a word) Wikipedia has an extremely detailed article here.

If you’re interested in exploring your personal relationship with angels and spirit guides  DailyOm has several good courses with guided visualizations here.

AND . . . you can buy my ebook, “Just the Tarot,”  here.

The Wheel of Fortune

 

wheel

The Waite deck obviously went all out on this card and crammed as much occult symbolism into one little package as the mind can conceive.  I personally think you’re pretty much always going in the wrong direction when you combine the new testament with Egyptian gods, but – hey! – to each his own.

The word Taro in the center of the wheel is a reversal of the word Rota, meaning wheel and it emphasizes that our journey through this life is very much like being affixed to a turning wheel.  What goes up must inevitably come down and then, in the nature of the wheel, go back up again. This card is talking about the fact that change is inevitable.  Nothing remains fixed or static in this world and you may be riding high one day and fall off your horse the next.  You may be flat busted and then have a crazy idea that makes you a fortune. Life is always changing and we just pretend that it isn’t because it makes us more comfortable.

When the Wheel of Fortune shows up in a reading you know that a large change is about to happen.  The card doesn’t speak to whether the change is good, bad, or indifferent: it’s just telling you that something big is about to happen and you should be prepared for it.  When it happens it will probably feel like a bolt from the blue, a sudden stroke of good luck or a lightning flash of bad luck. Other cards in the reading may give clues as to the area of life in which you can expect the changes.

REVERSED:  There’s not a huge difference between the upright and reversed card, except the reversed card shows more of an aspect of bad luck.  It’s possible that the questioner is about to enter into a period of hard times or that he or she is simply going to have a string of bad luck.  The main lesson for this card is to use the tough times to develop stronger character. Persevere and grow.

A Few Other Thoughts About The Wheel of Fortune:

The Wheel of Fortune represents a glitch in the fabric of their well-ordered universes which organized religions have been trying to ignore since their inception.

Which is to say . . . luck.  Good luck, bad luck, and no luck.  

If The Hierophant represents the well-oiled machinery of organized religion, the The Wheel of Fortune represents a huge monkey wrench that got thrown into the gears of that machinery.  Organized religions teach – put simplistically – that if you’re a good person then good things will happen to you. And if you’re a bad person, then bad things will happen to you.

And, of course, that flies in the face of much of what we see around us.  Why do kind, gentle people of faith sitting in a synagogue in Philadelphia get gunned down by a vile racist who is consumed with hate?   Why do billionaires who celebrate avarice and greed live lives of luxury while the pious frequently don’t have enough food for their children?

It’s a conundrum that religions have been hard put to explain.  In the christian religion we see the rather sickening tale of god and the devil deciding to turn Job into a human ping pong ball, kill his children and his livestock, and give him some sort of a leprous disease just to, “test his faith.”

The most logical explanation I’ve run across is the Buddhist idea of karma.  We plant seeds of hate and violence in past lives and they may bloom into poisonous flowers hundreds of lifetimes later.  Thus, bad things happening to us aren’t the random, crazy things that they seem to be but just natural consequences of our past actions.

That’s what I personally believe but, like all metaphysical assertions, it’s an unprovable hypothesis based on my experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

The Wheel of Fortune pushes aside all of the metaphysical hypotheses and organized religions and just says, “Look:  shit happens. And good things happen.” Period. You don’t have to have an explanation for it to recognize that it happens.

The nicest, most successful person in the world can hit a string of really putrid luck and have everything she’s worked for destroyed.  The biggest bastard in the world can hit a string of really good luck and end up in the White House.

It’s a principle of randomness that seems to be built into the universe.  What goes up, must come down, and vice verse. Today’s rooster is tomorrow’s feather duster.  Life moves in cycles and we have no choice but to move with them and do the best that we can. The Wheel of Fortune is a reminder of that.  

Ultimately none of the castles that we build – or lose – on this earth plane are real.  Figure out what things ARE real. Your values. Your heart. Your love for and from others.  Those are things we create ourselves with the way that we live our lives. No change of fortune can give them to you and no change of fortune can take them away.