The Wheel of Life is part of a triptych called The Beauty of Life. I’m going to write about the other two panels in the next posts (and post two other commissions I’m finishing up).
I came up with three random scenes for The Beauty of Life and drew them in my sketchbook. Then, I began researching each scene. I discovered that they aren’t really random at all. They are connected (and not just by squiggly pathways in my brain) though coincidental or synchronistic symbols (I’m not sure which and I’m very sleep deprived). I’ve been passively mulling over Tarot cards (mostly the Death card) and I spent a lot of time thinking about Magic last summer for the School33 show. When I added up the symbols I chose and looked up the cards, it was like a Tarot reading by itself.
The Wheel Of Fortune card, like other cards of the Major Arcana, varies widely in depiction between Tarot decks. Basically, this card has been modeled ever since the tarot’s inception in the 15th century after the medieval concept of Rota Fortunae, the wheel of the goddess Fortuna. Images generally show a six- or eight-spoked wheel, often attended or crested by an individual (sometimes human; sometimes a Sphinx-like half-human) attired in an Egyptian-style headdress. In some decks, such as the AG Müller, the wheel is also attended by an individual wearing a blindfold; and often there are people sitting or riding on the wheel whilst others are shown falling from it.
The wheel in my piece is an Ouroboros, rather than a traditional 6 or 8 spoke wheel. Again, from Wikipedia:
The Ouroboros or Uroborus is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.
The Ouroboros often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end (compare with phoenix). It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished. The Ouroboros has been important in religious and mythological symbolism, but has also been frequently used in alchemical illustrations, where it symbolizes the circular nature of the alchemist’s opus. It is also often associated with Gnosticism, and Hermeticism. Carl Jung interpreted the Ouroboros as having an archetypal significance to the human psyche. The Jungian psychologist Erich Neumann writes of it as a representation of the pre-ego “dawn state”, depicting the undifferentiated infancy experience of both mankind and the individual child.