09 August 2010

The Wheel of Fortune: Up and Down, Endings and Beginnings

The Wheel of Fortune turns

I go down, demeaned;

another is raised up;

far too proud

sits the king at the summit --

let him fear ruin!

for under the axis we read

about Queen Hecuba

Carmina Burana

In ancient and medieval times the capricious nature of life was explained by Rota Fortunae or The Wheel of Fortune. Lady Fortune would spin the wheel at random and much like gambling at roulette some players would win and some would lose. Since she was often blindfolded she did not know if the participant was wealthy or poor. The detail of a French fifteenth century illuminated manuscript page illustrates Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio’s (1313 -1375), On the Fates of Famous Men. Tarot cards also represented The Wheel of Fortune, including the Visconti-Sforza tarot deck of fifteenth century Milan. A sixteenth century French painting shows Fortuna not only blindfolded but with the duality of a Janus figure. Perhaps that is an interpretation for our times; The Wheel of Fortune as a symbol of endings and beginnings and what is down and demeaned can also be raised up.


  1. One thing can be said at least... there is never a dull moment these days. :) I've sworn off Huffington Post for the week. ;)

  2. Yes, Author, that is true! I loved the regal beauty of your equestrian postings. Best, Kendra

  3. Thanks Kendra. I spent a lot of years riding as well - now just half of my siblings do it. It IS such an elegant sport. Sometimes I do miss it, but it's much harder to get one's body back into the right frame of mind for it once you've stopped for a while. :) There used to be a great horse show down in Portola Valley... not sure if they still do it, but it's a fun one to go to... including a grand prix. Great way to spend a day.

  4. I'll have to check with my friends who are on the horse circuit in Northern California. :-)

  5. Marvelous images, Kendra, and an examination of western esoterica and underlying thought revealed in these superb Medieval illuminations that is overlooked.
    Loved your post.

  6. Thanks Philip, It must have comforted the medieval mind as it witnessed the Plague that it was out of its control. Best, Kendra


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