To jump-start my writing again, I decided to use an exercise I recall from Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s wonderful writing book, Pen on Fire. I got the book a few years ago to help me develop a habit of writing, and it went fabulously until I hit a major depressive episode and my life went off the rails. But that’s another story.
The exercise is to use a picture postcard as writing prompt/inspiration. (I’d cite chapter and verse, but I can’t lay my hands on the book at the moment.) Not having a stack of picture postcards handy, I decided my collection of tarot card decks might work just as well.
The last few days I’ve been using the Kitty Kahane tarot, a cartoonish sort of deck with a simple but unusual color scheme. Today I turned up the Wheel of Fortune card, and writing about it led me to some interesting insights.
The Wheel of Fortune card bears certain resemblances to the The World card. Both belong to the Major Arcana, a series of 22 cards that stand for major forces that act in our lives. The Wheel of Fortune is the eleventh card in this series, and The World is the twenty-second, so it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine they might be related.
In the corners of the card stand the four symbols of the evangelists. The eight spokes of the wheel might be seen to correspond to the four quarters and four cross-quarters of the year. The hand on the right side of the wheel could be either stopping the movement of the wheel or preparing to spin it. The sphinx on top of the wheel represents wisdom; the sword she holds represents choice and decision. The snake can be a symbol of temptation, though it is also a symbol of renewal and healing. (It almost seems to be tickling the demon’s rear end with its tongue, which makes me laugh.) In bearing the wheel, the demon at the bottom might be serving out some kind of punishment.
The visual movement in the image is from the right, through the hand up to the top of the wheel, where wisdom presides, slithering down the left side with the serpent, to the belaboring demon below. The bad news, no doubt, is that this is the normal progression of things: we start out knowing what we’re about, but succumb to temptation and soon find ourselves toiling beneath the weight of our choices and their consequences. The good news is that the wheel keeps turning. Whether the hand on the wheel is our own or that of the Divine, the wheel has the potential to bring us up again to the top, hopefully the wiser for our experience at the bottom.
The booklet that accompanies the deck has this to say about the card: Much that happens to you is beyond your control. Let your life surprise you!
I rather like thinking about it that way.
(Kitty Kahane Tarot by Kitty Kahane, text by Lilo Schwarz, translated by Charles Warcup, AGMueller Urania, 2006.)