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The Wheel of Fortune appears in this free reading for the collective. Reminding us all of luck’s arbitrary nature, it might seem like this tarot card is only adding insult in injury in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Many of us are out of work, physically isolated from the people we care about, and scared by the pervasive under-reaction in the west that puts the chronically ill and the elderly at great risk. With so many changes cascading down over us and real fear for our well-being and our loved ones, you might be wrestling with feelings of powerlessness.

How can we continue to believe in our own autonomy when the world is upside-down? What matters and what doesn’t, now that the staples of our daily lives have been ripped out? And how can we tell the difference? These questions are extremely stressful to consider, and you’re not alone if you’re struggling with them.

But the Wheel of Fortune card isn’t just reminding us that there’s so much in life beyond our control. It’s also come up to tell you that ill luck doesn’t change who you are. In the face of misfortune, it’s more important than ever that we strive to embody our values and our beliefs. Pandemics have a way of reminding us that so much is outside our grasp—a lesson that those with less privilege live out every day. We have to accept that. But this card also reminds us that there’s so much we can do in the face of disaster. While some aspects of our life are losing power, others are on the ascendant—and we can turn to them for strength.

The Wheel of Fortune tarot card meaning from the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck
The Wheel of Fortune tarot card features a wheel representing the ever-changing nature of fortune, surrounded by diverse spiritual and physical influences on our lives.

The Wheel of Fortune card in the Smith-Waite Centennial tarot deck

In Rider-Waite-Smith tarot cards like our trusty Centennial deck, the Wheel of Fortune sticks pretty close to the traditional version of the card from the older playing card decks—but with the addition of occult symbols. We see a six-spoked wheel at the centre of the card, representing the ever-changing nature of fortune.

The latin letters on the wheel spell out TARO when read clockwise and TORA when read backward, perhaps suggesting that magic and the divine can both influence our lives. And below these latin letters, we see the alchemical symbols of the four elements. For tarot readers, each of these elements is associated with one of the suits and their energies—Earth (Pentacles or Coins, the physical world and the body), Air (Swords, the rational mind and philosophy), Water (Cups, emotional intuition and interpersonal relationships), and Fire (Wands, passion and creativity). The inclusion of these symbols reminds us that our lives are made up of each of these elements—and that the balance between them is in constant flux.

We also see in The Wheel of Fortune tarot card four Hebrew letters. These letters spell out YHWH or Yahweh, the Biblical God. And again, this card emphasizes the coupling of divine power and earthly magic. At the four corners of the card, we see a lion, a human, a bird, and a bull—evoking constellations and astrological signs. Similarly, three occult figures surround the wheel itself: a sphinx, an Anubis-like canid humanoid, and a serpent. I won’t unpack the possible meanings of all these symbols in detail here. Suffice to say they represent diverse spiritual and physical influences on our lives. And as the wheel turns, all of these influences wax and wane.

Above all, this card reminds us that each of our destinies takes its own twists and turns. The paths of our lives aren’t ever straight. They wend and wind, giving and taking away. Essentially, the only certainty in our live’s trajectories is that we can never be sure what will happen next. The future is always changing, and myriad factors work in our favour and against us all the time. 

Rallying in the face of misfortune, especially during the coronavirus pandemic

In the current context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to imagine which symbols and elements are at the bottom of The Wheel of Fortune right now. Earth, the element of the body and physical health, is taking a tragic hit around the world. Beyond the threat to our bodies, this calamity has also put countless livelihoods on the line. (Remember that Earth is also associated with Coins and literal money.) And if Earth is upside-down right now, then Water is falling. Our loving relationships are strained by the necessity of social distancing—which is super hard but super important. And our intuitions are sending distress signals while we steel ourselves for even tougher times to come.

But as The Wheel of Fortune turns, other elements are on the rise—even in these times of turmoil. With Earth at the bottom of the Wheel and Water on the decline, Air is gaining strength. In this way, the Wheel of Fortune tarot card reminds you that even in the midst of all this despair and suffering, we have the gift of a reasoning mind. Our fates have changed in a deeply troubling way, but you know what hasn’t? Our values. As we come together (figuratively, not physically!) to face this crisis, we have a tremendous opportunity to embody our beliefs. The world of the intellect is unscathed, and with courage, we can draw on our philosophies to guide our responses and keep each other safe.

And similarly, in Wheel of Fortune terms, the Fire element is riding high. Now is the time to honour our creative impulses. Consider the quarantined Italians who sing from their balconies to comfort their community and cheer on brave first responders. We can all channel art and passion to soothe each other, to cheer each other on. (But remember that rest is also important. Our Fires need fuel, after all. Please don’t push yourself too hard right now.)

The Fire and Air elements are giving you strength

Our convictions remind us to care for one another, to make sure everybody has what they need, and to sacrifice our own comforts in order to protect those who are most at risk. Let this clean Air soothe your troubled body. Your personal values are a gentle breeze that will clear the fog of panic away. Can you trust in them? Can you trust in yourself?

Above all, the Wheel of Fortune card tells you there’s Fire in solidarity. And it’s time to light that flame. May it light our way through these dark times, bringing its little joys and strengthening our communities. Take care, and take heart. We’re in this together. You’re never alone.