The Wheel of Fortune

identify the cycles that we create in our lives

from Spiral Tarot

As the Wheel of Fortune spins, we’re invited to look at the cycles and patterns that we create and consider that what we perceive as fate is, in fact, our unresolved complexes perpetuating. After The Hermit’s introspection, this is an opportunity to create change from a place of presence and in co-creation with our best selves in an evolution of our soul’s path, rather than wait for change to happen to us.

The turning of the Wheel may also refer to the natural cycles of the seasons, the wheel of the year, biological life changes, generational patterns or wounds, seasonal disorders, memories held by the body or mind, and other cyclical occurrences (there is an element of time in this card). We may find ourselves at a turning point, ready to change the cycle if we’re in the center rather than clinging to the outer rim.

(-) In resistance, we’re stuck in a rut, failing to see how the seeds we are sowing today will affect our future. Blind to the part that we play in the cause & effect of our lives, we resign ourselves to fate.

(+) In excess, the consequences of our actions continue to perpetuate as we fail to identify our projections, unaware of their repetition in the patterns of our lives, and we cling to the outer wheel with increasing anger and resentment.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • What pattern is repeating?
  • What factors are outside of your control? How would you change them?
  • Is there a challenging seasonal cycle that you can plan for (rather than endure)?
  • Are there painful memories that your body holds?
  • What ancestral baggage are you carrying?
  • How may your current actions or choices affect future outcomes?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you? What are some examples of this card’s energies?

The Hermit

pause deeply in solitude

from Tarocco Soprafino by il Meneghello

As The Hierophant prompts us to connect with an outer or greater divinity, The Hermit’s search is internal; a union with the spiritual self. Note that The Hermit falls in the same vertical line of the majors as The High Priestess; but where she recedes into the unconscious and intuition, The Hermit pauses deeply in reflective but conscious solitude. Here, we are asked to withdraw to a pace that is slower than we’re used to in order to connect with the wisdom of the internal master and our place in the greater whole (or, to connect with the pureness of Self uninterrupted by activated parts). We sometimes see The Hermit portrayed as a guru we seek to learn the answers to the great questions of life, but this archetype’s lantern guides the inner journey. The guru is the Self.

This card denotes a period of non-activity, but is temporary.

(-) In resistance, we may not want to take the time to pause, or resist a more deeply-seated fear of being alone with our thoughts.

(+) In excess, our reflex is to cut ourselves off from the outside world; to run away. Here in the safety of our solitude, we do not make room for others or their ideas. Where the true hermit is introspective, the maladjusted hermit needs only to convert the world to his own point of view. As a shut-in, we risk losing contact not only with the outside world, but with reality.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • Is there a situation on which you need to gain some perspective?
  • Are you avoiding being alone? What need does external stimulus or the company of others provide for you?
  • Do you prefer to always have background noise? Is it difficult for you to quell internal parts (such as the critic) and to connect with your true self?
  • Do you withdraw from others, avoiding contact with the outside world? Is this coming from a place of quiet introspection and self-discovery, or fear?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you? What are some examples of this card’s energies?


approach your fear with patience and tolerance

from Cary-Yale Visconti, by U.S. Games

Strength carries forward the lesson of the Chariot’s efforts to control our impulses as we head into line 2, which takes us through tests of spirit and surrender — but here, it’s through inner strength and confidence. We learn to conquer fear not by force, but by listening to our animal nature (symbolized by the lion) and working with it, not against it. It is through approaching our fear with an undefended heart that true strength is experienced. Though the process may be dark and ugly, the appearance of this card may prompt us to examine the integration of opposites or of parts that we had been working on in Line 1, leading to wholeness.

(-) In resistance, we allow fear and timidity to take over, and we turn away rather than face our fears, continuing the loops our brain gets into because we’re afraid to confront it. We often think of Strength’s shadow as overbearing force (we’ve all seen the cards showing defeat of the lion through brute force), which speaks to the more aggressive and egoic aspects of the shadow; but consider here the denial of your subconscious — or even the lion as an exiled part. We aim for integration, but fear in the face of this integration can lead to stifling these needs and desires in self-denial, to flight reflexes that hinder rather than facilitate contact with the subconscious. Keeping our heart carefully shielded, we may then fall into overprotectiveness.

(+) In excess, we display aggression in an abuse of power, perhaps overcompensating for perceived weakness or overestimating our abilities. From a place of ego rather than heart, and in the opposite of the flight reflex we saw in resistance, we fight.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card appears include

  • where are you being called to show courage?
  • What fear prevents you from acting? What internal part is it protecting?
  • What parts have been subdued into exile which may be better understood and integrated with a compassionate approach?
  • How do your protector parts tend to react when exiled parts are threatened?
  • Are you struggling with a challenge that may be overcome with understanding rather than force?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you? What are some examples of this card’s energies?

The Chariot

control your impulses and thus your direction

from Arcana Full Tarot Playing Cards, by Dead on Paper

If we divide the majors (sans Fool) into three lines of seven, The Chariot ends the first line, which revolves around our egoic identifications. It’s also, interestingly, the first card that isn’t represented by a persona, but a concept or thing. It’s The Chariot, not The Charioteer. The Chariot holds the driver (or ego) protectively in the vehicle as he maneuvers through the transformation from line 1 to line 2. We’re in alignment, driving toward our goal; the lessons learned thus far have provided us with the ability to navigate through challenge. So, here we have drive, but the need to control is a huge part of staying on course. While the black & white sphinxes (in the Waite-Smith deck) represent the conscious and unconscious (or opposing forces of the psyche) to be balanced or controlled, the charioteer must cast off the protective shell of the chariot, which the ego uses to remain safe, and progress into line 2 where true strength controls without force.

(-) In resistance, we’re unable to control the opposing forces of our will, resulting in inner conflict. Do we lack direction? How is our self control?

(+) In excess, we see a strong ego that demands to be in control — or believes itself to be in control when, in fact, the horses are bolting in either direction. This force of will may be all bravado, or going off the rails. It may also indicate a compulsive drive to achieve, perhaps becoming the overachiever. Was there earlier conditioning that love comes only through achievement?

Questions that may be prompted when this card comes up include

  • Where do you feel the need to be in control?
  • What internal parts take control, and when?
  • What are you struggling to control?
  • How does your persona protect you?
  • Where are you driving? In which direction are you going? Are all of your parts on board?
  • What is distracting you?
  • Do you feel a compulsive need to achieve / to prove yourself?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you? What are some examples of this card’s energies?

The Lovers

consider your choice and commit to it

from Hirajeta Tarot

In The Lovers, we’re at a crossroads and cannot stay where we are. A choice must be made; and, after examining the teachings of others with The Hierophant, we are better equipped to make decisions from a place of moral reasoning. While contemporary practice often portrays a more superficial or even shallow aspect of this card as romantic lovers, the scene on the Smith-Waite card clearly depicts the Garden of Eden – the biblical original choice. The issue to be confronted here is considering our choice and its broader implications. Do they eat the fruit and enjoy sensual earthly pleasures, or do they abstain and ascend up the tree to Divine enlightenment? This quandary has historically been portrayed on this card — a man, a woman, and a cleric. Which does he love more? Which can he truly commit to? While we have evolved beyond the limiting beliefs of Christian doctrine depicted on ancient Italian and TdM decks (and their reflections in Smith-Waite), the archetypal choice between good and evil is timeless.

The card becomes more complex with the additional dimension of the duality that is formed when a pairing is combined. As in the Royal Marriage in alchemy, the process involves dissolution into two component parts, followed by the union of opposites (which involves the loss of ego identity and therefore quite threatening), but will ultimately result in the solution to the problem of opposites. In The Lovers card, we may be invited to examine the integration of dualities within us (e.g., anima & animus, conscious & unconscious). Our emotional response to the outside world is directly linked to our subconscious; we respond favorably to reflections of those golden qualities that lie dormant within us, and are annoyed by those we’ve suppressed as undesirable. It is here that we see the similarities with The Devil card (note the Smith-Waite imagery of the couple) and, in this respect, it is the card of the mirror — how do we respond to those qualities which are reflected back to us by others? It is in these encounters with ‘the other’ that drive our choices. As in the alchemical process, the goal is union into one integrated whole.

(-) In resistance, we hesitate to engage with others to avoid what is being reflected. This can manifest as difficulty in making choices, and certainly an inability to commit. In the inner landscape, we may want to examine our projections and how they drive our decision-making process.

(+) In excess, we simply go with our temptations. In considering the intertwined connection this card has with The Devil (compare the couple rendered in each card by PCS), this is where we forego our moral reasoning in the decision-making process and indulge in our desires.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card appears include

  • How do you choose between something you desire but feel morally wrong and something more ethically sound but less appealing?
  • What are the long-term implications of your decision? Will you take responsibility for it?
  • What past choice(s) do you regret? Why?
  • What of your inner landscape are you projecting onto others?
  • What internal part is driving this decision, and what purpose is it serving?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you? What are some examples of this card’s energies?

The Hierophant

follow the wisdom of your own moral compass

from the Leonardo Da Vinci Tarot (Lo Scarabeo)

As the mediator between the divine and the mortal in matters of ethics and integrity, The Hierophant is our own voice of conscience in our belief systems. From the Greek for “revealer of sacred things,” The Hierophant is yang to the High Priestess’s yin, reminding us that we can turn outward to a spiritual elder or other teacher, but we must question what The Establishment expects us to believe in light of what we know is our truth. In Tarot as a Way if Life, Karen Hamaker-Zondag writes “Thus The Hierophant is our desire to experience an extra dimension of life, the feeling that there is something more than the mundane.” As long as we lack an appreciation for creation and no sense of oneness with it in our own psyche, we look outward to some religious organization. In seeking to develop an outlook based on this sense of oneness with Earth and her inhabitants, it’s interesting to note that some of the earlier decks included the lady pope or La Papesse.

As we evolve in our philosophical or spiritual growth and understanding, traditional or societal teachings must sometimes be questioned, updated, or abandoned, and we must trust our own moral compass.

(-) In resistance, we behave contrary to our values. We know in our heart what is right, but we choose to forego it out of timidity or uncertainty.

(+) In excess, we adopt the values of others with unquestioning conformity and dogmatism, with perhaps an unwavering devotion to one teacher or way of thinking. We may become intolerant of those with differing views or employ a holier-than-thou stance — traits which often go hand in hand with hypocrisy. At its best, we may simply follow social norms blindly. At its worst, it becomes fanaticism.

Conversely, we may become the rebellious non-conformist merely for the sake of it. While non-conformity is a healthy expression of critical thought in the arena of principles, are we merely casting off the religions and traditions of our childhood in their entirety without exploring their doctrines? Are we bashing them broadly and loudly at any given chance? This may speak to our own repressed feelings. What are you reacting to? What internal part needs to be heard?

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • Are you making choices out of alignment with your own moral code? What internal parts are driving this?
  • What is your relationship with religious teachings?
  • What of your beliefs (and dogma?) is borrowed rather than inspired?
  • Are you looking outward for wisdom which you already possess? Why don’t you trust it?
  • Are you ready to step into the role of teacher or spiritual mentor? Are you resisting it?
  • Do you take exceptional pride in being the non-conformist, wearing it as your persona? What are you trying to prove?
  • Where is the line between not conforming to an unjust system and rebelling just to be disruptive?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you? What are some examples of this card’s energies?

The Emperor

stand in your power

from Murder of Crows Tarot (Lo Scarabeo)

As The Empress gives forth from the creative principle, The Emperor builds upon it in an active and structural sense, establishing order. Yang to The Empress’s yin, he has traditionally represented the masculine end of the spectrum and the archetypal father figure, and we may be invited to explore our relationship with our own father. As we reflect on the qualities of leadership in our life, is The Emperor us (stepping up, taking charge, creating order, leading a group) or someone else (the father, the employer, the govt)? As Paul Quinn writes in Tarot for Your Life, “a secure and balanced emperor creates no opportunity for being manipulated, bullied, or taken advantage of and rejects employing such tactics with others,” and we are reminded to stand securely in our power and authority, and to simply take the space we need.

(-) In resistance, we are submissive. With a lack of solid boundaries, we yield to others and, in doing so, we give away our power.

(+) In excess, our need to take an active part in controlling matters becomes rigid and domineering. Where the energy of The Emperor is constructive, his shadow is obstructive and critical. Where The Emperor is the essence of stability and security, his shadow’s smugness and self-importance is rooted in insecurity, so that when his authority is challenged, he responds with anger or excessive force. While many associate this card with the Patriarchy, this is instead its shadow. It’s here, in excess, that his demand for power is an unbalanced one requiring the oppression of others in order to ensure his continued dominance. In the extreme, he is a tyrant representing authoritarianism.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • What internal parts are acting from a complex or dysfunctional relationship with your father?
  • Is it challenging for you to assert yourself? Are you uncomfortable in situations where you need to stand up for yourself?
  • Are there identifiable patterns in your life of establishing dominance and/or submission?
  • Where have you experienced toxic masculinity? How did that make you feel?
  • What is your relationship to authority?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you? What are some examples of this card’s energies?

The Empress

receive so that you may create from a nourished well

from Dali Tarot (Taschen Books)

From the out and in of The Magician and The High Priestess, respectively, we get the creative principle of The Empress. She is the fertility of the Earth Mother, fruitful and abundantly creative. She is the essence of yin to The Emperor’s yang (and with an awareness of binary gender labeling, we can again think in terms of a spectrum, with each at either end and the majority in various places in between, or always containing elements of the other as in the yin/yang symbol). In this capacity of yin, the deep knowledge of this card lies in receptivity. We cannot create without rooting to a source of nourishment. While she shares the receptive quality of The High Priestess before her, she is not passive but symbolizes the flowing richness of birthing to material form and nurturing growth. Her element is earth, and we reconnect through her to the ground and our roots, our gateway to Divine Receptivity.

(-) In resistance, we cannot create because we’re not open to receiving. Sometimes, receiving can feel really confronting, and we may want to explore the roots of that.

Since the first line of the Major Arcana portrays egoic identities, might this card also pertain to the culturally dictated identity of women as childbearers– especially to those who are not nor ever will be mothers? (Not just unable to receive, but unable to conceive.)

(+) In excess, the archetypal mother figure may represent the obvious “mother issues” (as The Emperor may relate to father issues), and we’re invited to explore the remnants from our relationship with our own mother which may be at the root of the issue. In another aspect, we may be overprotective in our nurturing capacity, smothering and preventing others from achieving their own individuality. In our constant attempt to nurture others, do we fail to acknowledge our own needs? Or are we so focused on our own self-nurturance that we fail to recognize the needs of others?

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • What internal parts are rooted in your complex or dysfunctional relationship with your mother? When is the inner voice hers?
  • How is your relationship with self-nurturance?
  • Are you blocked in your creative project(s)?
  • What do you find difficult to receive? Money? Attention? Nurturance? Where is that rooted?
  • Is there a part of you in conflict with the culturally dictated identity of women as childbearers?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you? What are some examples of this card’s energies?

The High Priestess

listen deeply to your intuition

from New Orleans Voodoo

As The Magician invited us to bring something within us out, The High Priestess as the guardian of The Mysteries and of the unconscious invites us to go within. Embracing the receptive power of intuition, we are asked to listen. There is an element of secrecy here (sacred = secret); but in the stillness of silence, we can tune in to the unconscious, where the Mysteries are held and can be accessed. In the Smith-Waite card, the Torah is half hidden in her robe, indicating that esoteric knowledge cannot simply be handed over but must be experienced to be understood. The pillars of her gates are not unlike The Chariot’s balance of light and dark and, although she holds both, she remains detached from the outcome.

(-) In resistance, we doubt our intuition, or block it. We may have difficulty accessing our dreams, memories, or the depths of our psyche.

(+) In excess, our challenge lies in passivity, of holding back when engagement is needed, of emotional detachment. Taken to an extreme, we risk withdrawing from daily life; contained so much in the magical realm that we have difficulty living in the mundane physicality of our day-to-day.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card appears include

  • Do you find it difficult to access your inner realms? Can you not relax into meditation? What holds you back?
  • Can you hold the secrets of others? What are you hiding from others?
  • Do you refuse to face your own deep truths? Are you avoiding shadow work? How can you honor your inner parts?
  • Are you resisting spiritual knowledge or experience? Why?
  • Do you withdraw from the daily grind into the spiritual realms as a form of escape?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you?

The Magician

direct your will to bring forth

from Paracelsus Dreams

The Magician has goals to bring forth and the power to make them a reality by working in unison with cosmic energy. What is in us is being called out, and we realize that we have the tools needed to manifest our desires. Smith-Waite decks often depict The Magician with one arm pointing up and the other down, signifying “as above, so below.” A catalyst, it’s the quick mental force that initiates where we direct our will.

(-) In resistance, when we doubt our sense of purpose, we are aimless in our pursuits or we overcompensate, overdoing things in an attempt to hide our blocks or aimlessness from ourselves.

(+) In excess, we become too active, and as our aims disappear, we find ourselves engaging in activity for activity’s sake. We become restless and blame others for our lack of success. We’re scattered, starting many projects but not completing them.

We may overestimate our power, or use it irresponsibly (such as those drawn to the dark arts) or deceitfully (like the charlatan). Traditionally, Le Bateleur was a trickster, a street-wise con man with his table of tricks

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • Is your energy scattered and unfocused? What is one thing you can do to harness and direct it?
  • What do you feel called to bring out? Are you stifling the inspiration? Why?
  • How could you trick your fears?
  • Where have you overused your power, or used it irresponsibly?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you?