Tarot 101, My Way – Major Arcana: The Wheel of Fortune and Justice (or Strength)

These cards straddle the midpoint of the 22-card sequence of trumps. In the allegorical tale of the Fool’s Journey, that divide represents a new “jumping-off place” into a more complex world. The Wheel of Fortune is commonly held to indicate a major change of some kind, auspicious or ill-fated according to the context of the question;  its esoteric correspondence to astrological Jupiter, the “Greater Benefic,” argues for the former in most cases, even if only marginally. Depending on where one currently sits on the revolving wheel of life, the Wheel’s motion will carry the passenger either up into the heights or down into the depths. If it foretells recovery from a bad situation (as in having “bottomed-out”), the transition is generally experienced as relief; if it reflects the end of a period of blissful but unproductive inactivity, it might supply a momentarily distressing  but crucial antidote to complacency, a nudge out of one’s “comfort zone.” However, a simple change of scenery is too timid a concept for what is a significant departure from past norms; a “total reboot” is more accurate. The Hermit, as the last single-digit trump, marks the end of self-serving inner development that is centripetal in nature (tethered to the center), while Fortuna graphically portrays a centrifugal, or outwardly-focused, “spin of the wheel” to see what comes next. I get the fanciful notion of the Hermit spun on his head like a break-dancer to see what falls out of his robes.

The next phase runs head-on into the riddle of whether Justice or Strength is the Fool’s first traveling companion in the New World. I can picture Justice gathering up the loose change disgorged by the Hermit and weighing it to see if it amounts to the correct fare for the road ahead; the Fool may end up walking that road if he can’t pony up the toll. Justice has been described as the “trial” in contrast to the “verdict” represented by Judgement; it conveys the idea of “getting one’s just desserts,” but it may more precisely show “getting a fair shake” from the Universe. It is more about due process than results, favorable or otherwise, and is impartial in its deliberation. There is a proverb translated from the original Greek by George Herbert that goes “God’s mill grinds slow but sure.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow rendered it into poetry as

Though the mills of God grind slowly; Yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting, With exactness grinds He all.

There is a sense of righteous inevitability to this card that tolerates no excuses. It is sometimes viewed as a “good” card, but in truth it promises only what has been earned.

On the other hand, Strength as an expression of Leo is a friend to Jupiter, ready to champion its bolder excursions. Mythologically, Jupiter has a regal heritage and the Lion was often featured in royal heraldry (shields, banners and such). If one squints a bit, it might be possible to see the Scarlet Woman  in Aleister Crowley’s “Lust” card (“the joy of strength exercised”) as the Fool hitching a ride on the Beast. Although astrological opinion has varied over the centuries, Jupiter is presently considered an exponent of elemental Fire, and Leo offers a fiery milieu for its operation. Strength will single-mindedly further the agenda of the Wheel of Fortune whether it bodes well or ill for the seeker. Unlike Justice, which withholds its blessing until the last jot has been made in the ledger, Strength has no such reservations and cheerfully carries the standard of Fortuna forward into battle, asking no uncomfortable questions.

The Major Arcana: Trump 10 – The Wheel of Fortune


Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Good fortune and happiness (within bounds), but sometimes also a species of intoxication with success.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“Destiny, fortune, success, elevation, luck, felicity.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

“Change of fortune. (This generally means good fortune because the fact of consultation implies anxiety or discontent.)”


It’s currently fashionable to interpret this card as showing the arrival of significant change, plain and simple, with no nod to either positive or negative implications. The defining idea seems to be one of “What goes up must come down,” as implied by the figures astride the Wheel in the image. But the astrological association is Jupiter, the “Greater Benefic” in traditional astrology and the source of all manner of good fortune. On balance, then, the nature of changes arising from the “turning of the Wheel” can be assumed to be shaded toward the positive end of the spectrum. This card sits at the numerical center of the Major Arcana sequence, suggesting that the Fool has reached a way-station on his outward journey of self-discovery, and a “new direction” is in the offing; optimism should be the prevailing attitude in facing what the future has to offer.

Click here for additional thoughts on the Wheel of Fortune:


The Major Arcana: Trump 11 – Justice (alternately, Trump 8)


Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):
Eternal Justice and Balance. Strength and Force, but arrested as in the act of Judgment. Also . . . legal proceedings, a court of law, a trial at law, etc.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

Equity, rightness, probity, executive; triumph of the deserving side in law.

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

(Retitled “Adjustment.”) Justice, the act of adjustment, suspension of all action pending decision; in material matters, may refer to law suits or prosecutions. Socially, marriage or marriage agreements; politically, treaties.”


Fundamentally, this is a card of receiving one’s “just desserts;” the key to happiness is to be found worthy and not undeserving when the verdict is handed down. It represents more of an administrative proceeding or “fine point of law” than the inevitable cosmic finality of Trump 20, “Judgment;” there is still some maneuvering room. The point is that it is neither a “good” card nor a “bad” one, but an expression of impartiality and disinterest in the personal stake of the seeker in the matter at hand. Whether the seeker (or the subject of the inquiry) is blameless or culpable, justice will be served in an even-handed and precise but also implacable manner; there is no hiding from accountability if it is due. The necessity of “balancing the ledger” is the principal focus of this card; the Scales represent whatever mercy is to be found in its embrace, and the Sword signifies swift retribution where it is warranted. The adjacent cards will show the relative merits of the seeker’s case.

See the previous post on Strength (or Justice) and the Hermit for links to additional information on this card.

The Major Arcana: Trump 8 (alternately, Trump 11)

See the previous post on Strength (or Justice) and the Hermit for a detailed  discussion of this card and links to further information.

2 thoughts on “Tarot 101, My Way – Major Arcana: The Wheel of Fortune and Justice (or Strength)

  1. Comment 1: I appreciate you defining centripetal.
    Comment 2: I just had a Wheel moment. In my case, there was an inertia (maybe held by that centripetal force?) and I was happy with the results. I was roped into being a secretary in an organization that had a lot of political drama. I was ready to leave last year. Unfortunately, I don’t think Justice was actually issued. If it was the Wheel that started this issues, then Justice would be administrated by someone outside our realm. Because the Justice issued wasn’t Justice. I was even lied to several times when I brought up certain facts. I prefer your idea of Strength coming after the Wheel. I think human justice cannot be issued without emotions, which isn’t the point of karmic justice.

    I am actually relieved to be gone. I felt like the rules were constricting and that the people that run our group had learned as much as they could teach me. I couldn’t learn anything else from them. I was happy when the wheel turned and I broke free of it.

    I’m going to look into Liber T. I suddenly really understand why Strength would be 11 and not 8.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got a lot more meaning out of the Wheel when I recognized that it represents a turning-point between the purely internal development of the Fool/Hermit hemi-cycle (“centripetal”) and the more outward-directed trajectory of Strength (or Justice) through the World (“centrifugal”). Alejandro Jodorowsky added a lot to my understanding by pointing out that the numbers of the Wheel through the Sun begin with “1,” the number of the Magician. It’s why I say the Wheel shows the Magician driving with the Fool in the back seat. The gist of it seems to be that the personal Will is at least nominally in control of things until it reaches its apex with the Sun (which along with the Wheel reduces numerologically to “1”) and Judgement steps in to kick it out of the driver’s seat.


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