I was using the Deck of the Bastard tarot deck recently and the Wheel of Fortune (card X) came up. I have to admit, as much as I adore this deck, this card had never been my favorite. It sort of reminds me of a caveman riding a wheel in a cartoon ala the Flintstones. Some other decks seem to have a much richer and esoteric visual representation for this card. Note the card’s imagery in tarot’s most popular deck, the Rider-Waite-Smith:
The Wheel of Fortune, in fact, seems often to contain some of the tarot’s most befuddling imagery and most hidden secrets. What are all those images around the wheel supposed to be? Why is there a sphinx at the top of the wheel? What are the letters T-A-R-O supposed to mean around the wheel’s rim? What are the various animals in the corners of the card and why are they there? All good questions…with answers that we’ll delve into in the future…but for now, let’s focus on the card at hand—this Wheel of Fortune card from the Deck of the Bastard by Seven Stars. This artist used images from several older decks to create her deck. This particular Wheel of Fortune image actually comes from another deck known as the Ettiella Tarot from 18th century.
The image of a sole woman standing atop a seven-spoked wheel harks toward a philosophy of depicting the virtues and allegories as female figures. “Fortune” therefore rides atop the Wheel—the wheel itself a prominent image that helped to explain, reason, and rationalize class in feudal times. Society was a tiered system with nobility and royalty at the top, ecclesiastical religious in a class of their own, merchants and craftsmen, and peasants or the feudal serving class.
The Wheel of Fortune wasn’t just a means of explaining that everyone had their “ups-and-downs” in life, or that lean times were sure to resolve themselves into more fruitful times, or that fame or fortune were fleeting… The Wheel of Fortune did indicate these things; but the Wheel also worked in larger concentric circles as well, some of which expanded out to cosmic realms where grander, epic rules of play were at work. The Wheel also was at play in the lifetime designations of where and what class one was born into. Part of the Bible’s theology foretold that fortune could change on a grander scale beyond one’s suffering through a lowly life wearing rags and tending to crops in the fields…the gospels stated that, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first”—a polar turn of the Wheel of Fortune when the next life—in heaven—arrived. Through adherence to the commandments and the virtues, one could assure one’s self that one had the opportunity to climb that Wheel and experience the view from the top when one crossed beyond the boundary of Death (card XIII).
Anyway, I can suffice with this card’s depiction of the Allegory-female-form of Fortune—and all that it entails and infers. But what else can I get out of its sparse imagery?
Fortunately (!) for me, I just happened to read a passage in Lexa Roséan’s book Tarot Power: 22 Keys to Unlocking Magick, Spellcraft, and Meditation (Citadel Press Books/Kensington Publishing Corp., 2005) while looking for something appropriate to meditate on for the All Hallows’ Eve celebration on the last day of October. Here’s the passage that struck me:
“The turning Wheel speaks the law of Ator (or Hathor). The law of Hathor governs the revealing of fate and fortune. The Egyptian goddess Hathor has seven aspects (or forms) and they appear at the cradle of every newborn and work their sacred tools of divination to decide the fate of the child’s future…A hint of Hathor appears on [some versions of] the Wheel card in the lower left-hand corner. Although the bull is representative of Taurus, it also symbolizes the cow goddess Hathor. She was also the Golden Calf worshipped in the Old Testament (Exodus 32:1-8). The Israelites sinned by building an idol in the desert while waiting for Moses to return from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments…” 1
The “bull” or ox that is found on some depictions of the Wheel of Fortune—as on the Rider-Waite-Smith version, for example—is more succinctly a visual-symbolic representation of the Gospel of Luke in the Bible…likely a reminder message to adhere to the sacred word of the gospels as a means of attaining that apogee at the top of the Wheel. But this is part of the joy of the tarot and its multiplicity of meanings and connections to meaning through myth and storytelling.
The 18th-century parlour tarot reader Ettiella—whose self-designed deck is named in his own honor, and whose Wheel card inspired Seven Star’s Deck of the Bastard Wheel of Fortune card—came from a time in French society that was infatuated with all things Egyptian. So the reference or connection to the goddess Hathor is quite appropriate, particularly in her aspect as a patron of divination. I also recognized that the wheel on Ettiella’s Wheel of Fortune card has seven spokes on it (most deck versions have eight spokes)…perhaps reflecting the seven aspects of Hathor in her divinatory form at the point of “reading” childrens’ futures.
In accompanying a contemplation of Halloween and All Saints’ Day, here is another tidbit in which Hathor can be relevant: “The Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead have spells to help the deceased live forever as a follower of Hathor. In a Late Period story, Hathor rules the underworld, emerging to punish those who behave unjustly on earth. By the Greco-Roman period, dead women in the afterlife identified themselves with Hathor instead of Osiris. It was only after Isis took over many of her attributes that Hathor lost her place as the most important of Egyptian goddesses.” 2
Furthering evidence that the machinations of the Wheel of Fortune escapes no one and encompasses every tier of society, there is this:
“Hathor was worshipped in every region of Egypt before the ascent of Isis and her cult was popular with both the poor working class of Egypt and the ruling elite.” 3
However your own personal Wheel might be turning right now, may you experience a safe All Hallows’ Eve and a blessed All Saints’ Day!
 Roséan, Lexa. Tarot Power: 22 Keys to Unlock Magick, Spellcraft, and Meditation. (New York: Citadel Press/Kensington Publishing Corp., 2005). p. 125-126.
 Pinch, G. Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). p. 139.
 Joshua J. Mark, “Hathor,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, last modified September 02, 2009, http://www.ancient.eu /Hathor/. (last accessed 10/31/2016).