Arcana In Balance: The Wheel (2014)



This is a good time of year to look at the Wheel card. We’re having a change of seasons here in the temperate zones…summer to fall in the north, winter to spring in the southern hemisphere. Plus we’re going into the major holiday season with Halloween and winter holidays on the near horizon. The holidays in the final three months of the calendar year are the ones most steeped in tradition. The wheel is about change…yet for some things, the more they change the more they stay the same.

That is the exact balance point of the wheel card, change vs foundation and tradition. Both are essential. Oddly, change is one of the most feared essential things. To Western conservative thought, change is scary, steeped in the fear of loss and the unknown. The love of tradition is often based in the fear of the unknown too. Tradition, foundation, the known and predictable are very comforting to us, especially in the long dark nights of northern winter.

On the other hand, Taoist (Eastern) thought embraces change as life. Stagnation is death. The only things that don’t change are the dead ones…languages, beings, cultures. Change is life…change in weather and change in seasons brings food and water, essential to life. Change and mental stimulation wards off boredom, eases the sadness that can come from the long dark northern nights.

Both change and tradition can be comforting, depending on your mind-set.

That isn’t to say there is no place for tradition. It connects us to others and to our largest self-identities (family, culture, peer group, politics religion) Humans seem to have a need to belong…even if that belonging comes in identifying with hermits and lone wolves.

The wheel is a useful symbol for all the different aspects of change.

Imagine an old-style wagon wheel. Imagine a red dot on one end of a spoke, near the hub, and another on the other end of the same spoke, near the rim. Imagine the wheel turning a quarter turn. How far have the red dots moved? Imagine the rim is large enough that the quarter turn has moved the wagon ahead a foot or so (about 1/3 meter). How far has the one at the hub actually moved through space…all you math and geometry geeks out there feel free to do the calculations. The rest of us can just visualize the rim dot making a large arc, while the hub one makes a much smaller arc, maybe a few inches or centimeters.

Lets say the wheel axle is your dearest held beliefs and most cherished relationships. Those change little over time. The dot near the rim is the little things, the minutae that change often…or at least we can hope. Variety really is the spice of life. Like food…some of us like things spicier than others.  The point is, both change and relative stability / tradition co-exist perfectly well within the same wheel.

Change is essential for life – and wagon wheels – to move forward. Don’t change, nothing moves, the wheel has no meaning or purpose. Change too hard, to fast, too long, and the wheels can come off. That is the balance of the wheel. If the wheel is strong, and change is happening at a good pace..all is well. Staying stopped too long brings stagnation, and too much stress can cause damage…balance brings function, normalcy, comfort.

Change is both fearful of loss and hopeful of gain. If things change for the better, be present in the moment because they can change again. If things change for the worse, have hope because they can change for the better again. A wheel needs to move and change to do what it needs to do…but it also has to hold on to the center to be able to do what it needs to do too. We can embrace change, make things better, while holding on to traditions and the people that we love.