Wheels of Becoming

One of my favourite Tarot spreads from a metaphysical meditative point of view is Barbara G. Walker’s Wheels of Becoming. These are basically two loops forming a figure 8 or – on its side – the infinity sign. Using only the 21 cards of the Major Arcana they represent the infinite and cyclical nature of existence.

Barbara G Walker, author of “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets”, placed the origins of the Tarot in India and more specifically the Tantric Tradition. As I understand it key concepts of Tantra spirituality include:

* cyclical time frame
* infinite life cycles
* rebirth / reincarnation
* half of an individual life cycle is spent in life and half in death before being born again
* balance through complementary female-male union (Shakti – Shiva)
* oneness of natural / physical and spirit world, i.e. the Goddess is immanent in all existence (animate and inanimate) and thus all existence contains a spiritual, divine essence or energy.

These are the underlying principles of the Wheels of Becoming.

Tarot - Wheels of Becoming

The starting point of the journey is of course card #0 – The Fool. It lies just after the crossover point of the two loops on the right-hand or clockwise circle.

The right-hand or clockwise loop follows the path of the sun and represents the outward energy of the manifested cycle. It is the cycle of birth into the natural world where energy is contained within a body. It represents outwardness, outbreath, expansion, birth and life. It is the Yang cycle of action and activity. From the point of view of a path to enlightenment this loop represents the outward focus along the journey, the learning of the tools required to achieve enlightenment.

The clockwise loop is lead by #1 – The Magician who is marked with an infinity sign above her head.

The card at the crossover point from right-hand to left-hand loop, a point of standstill, is card #10 – The Wheel of Fortune.

The left-hand or counter-clockwise loop is lead by #11 – Strength, a card that in modern decks has often been exchanged for #8 – Justice. Like the Magician the Strength card is also marked with an infinity sign.

The counter-clockwise loop follows the path of the moon and represents the release of energy from the manifested back to the unmanifested universal energy source, the Goddess. It is the cycle of death and the spirit world. It represents inwardness, inbreath, contraction, death and regeneration. It is the Yin cycle of rest and healing. From the point of view of a path to enlightenment this loop represents the inward focus of reflection along the journey, the rite of intitiation and the ultimate ego-death required to achieve enlightenment.

The crossover card that is laid over The Wheel of Fortune is #21 – The World, leading on to a new cycle with the innocent Fool.

The most interesting aspect of the Wheel of Becoming is that each card in each loop has a corresponding card in the other. The numbers of the two corresponding cards always add up to 20 with exception of the “last” card, #21 – The World. The additional 1 represents rebirth and the return to the clockwise cycle of life with the Goddess giving birth to Her children in the natural world and unmanifested energy becomes yet again contained within a physical body.

The corresponding cards are as follows:

Tarot - Major Arcana relationships

The two loops of the Wheels of Becoming, the principles behind them and the corresponding relationships between the cards on the two loops underlay my exploration of the Sacred Goddess-Inspired Tarot.