Arcanum X The Wheel of Fortune


Esoteric Titles:
Wheel of Great Time
The Wheel of Destiny
The Cycle of Karma

As already mentioned at the beginning of this section, the Wheel is of great importance in the symbolic significance of Tarot. Firstly, in relationship to a calendar cycle of 11 x 2 years, the number of months, days and hours calculated of old by numbers – not through the use of mechanical devices or powerful digital technology. The civilisations of yesteryear compensated for their lack of such sophisticated tools and devices by a superior knowledge of time cycles using the Sun and Moon, as well as the movement of constellations and regular appearance of solar and lunar eclipses. Astrology therefore was a practical proto-science employed by hunter-gatherers and agricultural communities out of pure necessity. It ensured the survival of the tribe by cultivating propitious and auspicious days in the calendar and gave instructions for sowing, reaping and slaughter. Arcanum 10 being the first card to appear after the number 9 – (a number of ultimate perfection) is composed of one and zero (the numbers of #The Fool and #The Magician). Secondly, it makes reference to Karma and its relationship to the position of the Lunar Nodes. Moreover the tenth card suggests change and reorientation – surely a fact of life when Destiny may literally “twist” the Fate of any individual causing good to become bad, and bad to become good. This twist is brought about by the transference of psychic energy from the solar current to the lunar current in the subtle body (ida & pingala) – from the right hand path to the left hand path. These “etheric currents” are similar to those found in light waves and magnetism, these being ruled by the Sun and Moon respectively.

The Tree of Life aligned to the human body and the chakras

Traditionally the card is ruled by the planet Jupiter, which coincidentally takes exactly 12 years to travel through the 12 zodiacal signs and was used in Chinese Astrology to define the attributes of their twelve Animal signs. Generally speaking this “change” is usually for the better and often brings with it good luck. From these ideas we may speculate that it has a great affinity with the planet Uranus which as many astrologers know is the harbinger of Change and is attributed to the 2nd sphere Chokmah, governed by the first card the Magician. The change is brought about through a transition from evolution (nos: 1-10) to involution (11-21), thus trump #Justice or more correctly Adjustment is a veiled reference to the addition or subtraction of a calendar month or day in any “leap year”. Therefore the archetypal “Fall of Man” gives rise to the “Ascent of the Soul”. We might compare these cataclysmic changes to the catastrophic onslaught of the K2 meteorite which destroyed the Age of the Dinosaurs and made way for advent and subsequent evolution of mammals into homo sapiens – the Crown of Creation. Apart from the gargantuan ages Eras, Aeons and Epochs of Natural Change in the evolution of the world there are those created and imposed by human intervention. The well-known Chinese Oracle, or I Ching is known popularly as “The Book of Changes”, attempts to give a portent of the future but also advises on human attitudes prior to any action.

On a pair of six-sided dice there can only be 21 number combinations as there are with the 4 letters inscribed around its hub TAROORATROTA etc. Thus numerically and symbolically we have gone full circle and returned to the beginning, albeit not quite to the same beginning from which we started. The zero in the number ten represents the infinite spiral of lifetimes into which every fool is born into this world and can begin anew thereby formulating their aspiration to the perfection of the Great Work. In Medieval Alchemy the so-called “work” was a monumental undertaking or opus which reflected the transformation of the most imperfect or gross thing into the most subtle and refined. For this idea they substituted the metals lead which by alchemical means could be transformed into gold. Alchemy therefore was supported for a number of selfish and avaricious reasons, not merely for its philosophical and scientific benefits but because it could make a poor man rich and wealthy. As the lottery is used by many people today, so Alchemy, in its heyday, was in fact a gamble of the highest magnitude. The traditional card uses the image of Osiris and his protagonist Seth with the sphinx and serpent arranged around the circumference of the wheel itself. In each corner are located the four cherubs signifying the astrological signs Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. The fixed signs of the zodiac represent the hub of the wheel, the cardinal signs the spokes and the mutable signs the rim. The astrological and mythological symbolism is therefore self explanatory and needs no further description. Time, the great healer will bring forth change and this change ultimately affects the destiny of those individuals who are tied to its rim sometimes they are on top at other times at the bottom.

The subtle diagrammatic representation of Tarot Trumps in the figure of eight arrangement

“All’s Well That Ends Well” Kaph  – The Wheel of Destiny

“Shakespeare’s Tarot” is a series of articles which make a comparison with several of Shakespeare’s plays and the narrative or plot of which coincides with one of the 22 Tarot Trumps. In effect I am re-defining, deconstructing, and re-contextualising the dramatic works of William Shakespeare against a background of occult science, alchemy, astrology and the Christian Qaballah. In combining two great interests of mine the Mystical and Philosophical Qaballah and the plays and poetry of William Shakespeare I have uncovered a number of enigmas of England’s Tudor Period in history. Whenever we examine in detail the work of the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare”, his plays and poetry and take note of the inclusion of so much of 15th and 16th century occult science hidden within it then it would not be unusual to assume that the playwright had more than a passing acquaintance with the divination system in Europe known as the Tarot. I have already written how “Shakespeare” was greatly influenced by astronomy, astrology, alchemy, magic, Hermeticism, as well as the political and social circumstances in 15th century England. My guess is that the play which corresponds to “The Wheel of Fortune” is “All’s Well That Ends Well” for a variety of reasons. According to the “Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship” and the “De Vere Society” Edward de Vere was also a practising Mason and had attained to the 28th degree. A nobleman by birth he was also commissioned as a spy by Francis Walsingham (See “Shakespeare’s Codename”). When I realised that the author of Shakespeare’s Folio (Edward de Vere) had travelled to Italy and France where the Tarot was already flourishing it would be safe to assume, given that he was a student of Dr. John Dee, Robert Fludd, Giordano Bruno and Trithemius that he had acquired his own deck of Tarot cards and indeed probably used them in a creative manner. By 1450 the first 78-card deck was commissioned by the Visconti-Sforza family and in France by 1392 Charles VIth commissioned Jacquemin Gringonneur to create three hand-painted packs. However, the first list of the Major Arcana in Europe was found in a Latin manuscript entitled “Sermones de Ludo Cumalis” (1500) and by 1540 in Italy it is defined and described as a divination system by Marcolino (Le Sorti). Furthermore, as I have subsequently discovered Edward de Vere was a member of the Rosicrucian Order as well as a Freemason and he would without doubt have come across a divination system originally known as ROTA. This year in a series of posts I hope to highlight and compare each Tarot key with a Shakespearean play to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s Folio. The 1623 First Folio edition features 36 plays, 14 are listed as “Comedies”, 10 as “Histories” and 11 as “Tragedies”. Shakespeare’s plays regularly feature fools of every type and description.

As it may be for any number of people “The Wheel of Fortune” may turn in either direction, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst. Edward de Vere’s fortunes were extremely pied or patchy for several reasons, he went from riches to rags and died in penury. He was born of noble lineage which migrates back to Nordic and French family ties but his father, John de Vere (the 16th Earl of Oxford) died when he was 12 years old. Consequently, he was made a ward of court to Queen Elizabeth 1st. The Queen then sold that ward-ship to William Cecil (Lord Burghley) who freely executed or exploited his rights to sell or grant some of Oxford’s estates to other noblemen such as Sir Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, a favourite and paramour of Queen Elizabeth. His education was foremost the best any aristocrat could afford or receive, Roger Ascham (Secretary for Education) was his maths tutor and Dr. John Dee taught him the magical and esoteric arts which he was to use later in writing plays and poetry. Subsequently, when Edward de Vere inherited his title (Lord Great Chamberlain) he found he had been defrauded by Cecil of much of his estates, mansions, and tithes. All that remained was Hedingham Castle, the seat of the de Vere family and some of his financial inheritance. Despite this he went on to marry, much against his principles the daughter of the man who had defrauded him (Anne Cecil), namely William Cecil, Lord Burghley. He also found out that his father had probably been poisoned by agents in the employ of Robert Dudley, the subject of one of Shakespeare’s plays “The Prince of Denmark”. However, observing his dire financial circumstances the Queen granted him an annuity of £1,000 which was a princely sum in those days to oversee and manage the Great English Renaissance. But before that he had travelled to France, Italy and Germany on his great European tour. (See “Shakespeare in Italy“)He was educated at Gray’s Inn and achieved his MA at Cambridge University as one would expect of an aristocrat. He was awarded an honorary degree at Oxford University and while in his twenties was a patron and trustee of several Boy Players at the Chapel Royal as well as patronising his own acting troupe “The Earl of Oxford’s Men”. He was an expert musician, swordsman and tournament player having won several trophies from royal jousts and presented plays and masques at court for the Queen. Despite his success on the Elizabethan stage and financing the construction of the Globe Theatre and staging plays for the Blackfriar’s Theatre he worked anonymously and secretly on other personal interests and pursuits. His loyalty to Protestantism was unquestionable but he became entangled in several Catholic plotters for example the trial of the Duke of Norfolk and the Essex Rebellion. The event that was to change his life irrevocably was an affair with Queen Elizabeth herself which ended with the birth of an illegitimate child (Henry Wriothesley) who secretly became a ward of the Countess of Southampton. The Earl of Oxford had limited contact with his son but made his feelings known through his poetry in particular “Venus & Adonis” and “Shakespeare’s Sonnets”. He lost a lot of money through ill-advised investments such as the Northwest Passage and the Virginia Colony expeditions. He quarrelled with other noblemen and came to blows with Thomas Knyvet when it was discovered that he was having another affair with Anne Vavasour, his niece and one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. Furthermore, that offence was punished by imprisonment at the Tower of London for some months and when finally released he was exiled for two years from the court. Matters did not improve significantly for the Earl until James VIth of Scotland finally ascended the throne of England.

Divinatory Meaning of this Card:

The 19th path on the Tree of Life links the sphere of Chesed (Mercy-Jupiter) with that of Geburah (Strength-Mars) connecting the left hand with the right hand pillars on the Ethical triad. In Tarot it is known as the “Activated Spiritual Intelligence”, because it lies tenuously above the Abyss but yet is both blessed and exalted in sublime glory. Primarily because succeeds the second of the initiatory groups in the sequence of spiritual evolution began by that associated with the tarot card #The Hermit. Astrologically, it is described as Jupiter acting through the zodiacal sign of Leo upon the sphere of Mars. The gestalt image of this path is a snake or serpent, suggesting the activation and control of the serpent force known to Hindu mystics as Kundalini that lies dormant at the base or root chakra mulhadara. When finally aroused as a result of sustained Tantric training it is directed up the spinal cord through all the relevant chakras and finally for consummation into the head chakra. It is the repository of all knowledge, wisdom, reincarnation and human evolution and confers psychic or clairvoyant powers on the adept. In effect therefore it is the serpent of wisdom so often referred to in religious texts that winds itself round the Tree of Life conferring the knowledge of good and evil. In Tantra sexual intercourse is viewed as a sacramental rite and when performed correctly is intended to awaken and raise the serpent power from its inert, passive condition into its kinetic, active state. Ideally the electrical power of kundalini should penetrate into the inner susumna channel and be guided through the seven chakras raising the individual’s consciousness and conferring an extremely blissful state known to Buddhism as samadhi. However, this act needs to be tempered by an act of will and faith otherwise serious harm may result by unleashing this primordial energy.

Positive: Destiny creates good fortune, improvements or a turning point brings progress/advancement.

Negative: Resistance to change, inconstancy ill-luck, peaks and troughs often relative to surrounding cards.

SPHERE 10 Malkuth (Kingdom) RESPLENDENCE Kaph – The Palm of the Hand
Astrological: Capricorn or the 10th House.
Constellation: Southern & Northern Crowns – Corona Borealis & Corona Australis
Sacred Gemstone: Black Opal or Sardonyx

The next Arcanum in this series can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

“Arcanum XI, Justice”

“We all love Shakespeare, whoever he was…”

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The links to my publications 
“Shakespeare’s Qaballah”,
a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry,