Anxious to keep you all entertained this Halloween, when large gatherings may be happening here and there, but really aren’t encouraged by public health officials, I have come up with another pair of divination tools to hopefully keep you entertained this weekend. For those who don’t want to play the ‘Hear From the Dead’ game I devised, nor consult the Dodecahedrons of the Dead I created, I wanted to offer an alternative. Halloween has traditionally been marked by two sorts of observances—paying homage to the Dead, and divining one’s future for the coming year, because to the ancient Celts, New Year’s Eve was Halloween.
THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE AS METAPHOR (A LITTLE HISTORY)
The Wheel of Fortune is an ancient metaphor for the seemingly-capricious nature of fate. It may’ve started with the Babylonians, and dates from at least the time of the Greeks and Romans, who always pictured a goddess (Tyche for the Greeks, Fortuna for the Romans) turning it. It started out as a reference to the zodiacal band in the sky, then later turned into a general metaphor for the idea that sometimes you’re up, and sometimes you’re down in life. Sometimes the Goddess of Fortune could roll it backward. Then forward. Then backward. Then forward. The Wheel didn’t always travel in one direction; it depended on Her whims.
Medieval philosopher Boethius seized on it as a great metaphor to use in his book, The Consolation of Philosophy in the year 520 C.E. But it was such a well-worn metaphor in ancient times, even the Roman historian Tacitus complained about its over-use. He thought people should get a new meme, although he didn’t put it quite that way. Nonetheless, the Wheel of Fortune still put in cameo appearances in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, the works of William Shakespeare, and of course, on television. I argue the Wheel of Fortune has attained archetype status, and archetypes are virtually-impossible to kill. Tough chute-waste, Tacitus.