6 of Wands: Leo II
Decan ruler (Chaldean): Jupiter
Hermetic Title: Victory
Corresponding major arcana: The Wheel of Fortune [Jupiter] + Strength/Lust [Leo]
Dates: August 2 - August 12
Fame! Accolades! Kudos! Victory! in the 6 of Wands, we find glorious Jupiter bestowing his blessings on the heart of the Sun's own sign, Leo. Is it any surprise that we seem to have stumbled upon a triumphal procession in progress? In the fixed heart of Leo, the solar light is steady and bright, illuminating Jupiter's boundless glittering gifts.
Although many versions of the Wheel of Fortune exist in tarot, some esoteric and others less so, over the centuries they have shared a common element: a great central wheel surmounted by three (or occasionally, four) creatures. These represent the ever-changing cycles of Fortune, which elevates some while abasing others in the same smooth motion.
At the time tarot originated, it was common to show 4 men in contrasting life conditions bound to Fortuna’s wheel. At the top of the wheel, a crowned king presided next to the inscription Regno ("I rule"); to one side of him, a toppling figure, his crown plummeting with him (regnavi, "I have ruled"), to the other side a young striver eagerly climbing (regnabo, "I shall rule.") At the base, crushed beneath the Wheel, a pauper or even a corpse (sum sine regno , "I am without a kingdom"). The message might come as a warning (“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown!”) or a reassurance (“This too shall pass!”) depending on where you stood.
Given that Fortuna rules all conditions - mean and poor as well as exalted and successful - you might think that the Wheel of Fortune has an ambiguous meaning in tarot. Yet it rarely does. When people draw it, it is almost always a sign of good things to come - fortunes on the upswing. Indeed, part of its appeal is anticipation, for we are never happier than the moment just before we receive what we hoped for.
In the 6 of Wands we stand at the very apex of the Wheel, where Fortune smiles upon us - not the anticipation, but the announcement. Waite suggested that his "laurelled horseman" might be read in many positive ways: a “victor triumphing,” “great news,” “the crown of hope,” and most evocatively, "expectation crowned with its own desire".
There are five expressions of Jupiter in the minors: the 8 of Swords, the 6 of Wands, the 4 of Swords, the 2 of Pentacles, and the 9 of Cups. For the most part, these cards come across as subjectively positive, as befits the Greater Benefic. But the 6 of Wands and 9 of Cups seem particularly blessed, while the 8 of Swords seems unusually miserable.
Why? Because, in the Golden Dawn's system, two kinds of "dignity" matter:
1) Number; i.e. what sephira on the Tree the number corresponds to. Higher is better. On the Middle Pillar is better.
2) Astrological dignity: rulership/detriment and exaltation/fall, specifically.
I'm not a real fan of esoteric point systems, but for those would like an explanation of the range of affect in minors ruled by the same planet, here's a geeky table.
Heart of the Lion
It's hard to talk about the sign of the Lion without talking about Cor Leonis, the Heart of the Lion - the fixed star Regulus, (meaning 'little king'; in Arabic it's قلب الأسد Qalb al-Asad, 'heart of the lion'). One of the four 'royal stars' and the brightest in the leonine constellation, it is known also as the 'King-Maker' and the 'Watcher of the South'. Due to precession, Regulus has now taken up position in tropical Virgo, but for over 2000 formative years in astrological history it dwelt in tropical Leo. And for 650 of these - including the reign of Richard the Lionheart himself, whose chart featured a prominent Regulus near the ascendant - it occupied this central decan.
Regulus confers "honors and fame," bringing renown and ascendancy to public figures. It is said to be "of the character of Jupiter and Mars" - a star of military might and leadership. Along with wealth and exposure, however, Regulus also may bring violence, scandal, and danger. It has been widely noted that Regulus conjoins Donald Trump's ascendant within a degree - specifically the anaretic (29th or final) degree of Leo.
Laurels and morals
In a number of the decanic commentaries, we see some eerie foreshadowing of Pamela Colman Smith's image: "a man with white garlands on the head, "a man who wears a crown of white myrtle", "a man wearing a wreath of white basil". Basil, a martial herb, often denotes kingship (its name derives from βασιλευς, Greek for "king"). Myrtle, associated with the Garden of Eden, has a connection to solar Tiphereth. And the laurels crowning Smith's heroic horseman were particularly associated with solar Apollo; when he pursued the nymph Daphne she transformed into a laurel to escape his pursuit. Throughout the ancient world, laurel wreaths were synonymous with rank, victory, accomplishment and nobility.
But in some of the Picatrix-based texts, we see a decidedly less radiant side to the decan. The Latin Picatrix speaks of "the ascension of a man who is ignorant and base". According to Agrippa, the decan includes "hidden quarrels, unknown victories over vile men, and occasions of lawsuits and battles." The figure depicted in the Astrolabium Planum stands with drawn sword, in a defensive or aggressive posture. These images of conflict bring to mind the divided nature of Regulus, as described above.
It also brings this to mind: the Wheel of Fortune is fundamentally amoral. It may bring powerful luck to those it favors, but it does not reward or punish based on any system we can discern. It is a game of chance, not a meritocracy. Often enough it raises those who are "ignorant and base" to positions of unimaginable power; when that happens, Fortune's caprices fill us with wonder and dismay.
But the Wheel's blessings, being unearned, cannot be expected to last. So while the laurels of victory grace the 6 of Wands, in the 7 of Wands, we shall encounter an embattled warrior facing a hostile crowd.
Perhaps this is why, at the end of the Orphic Hymn to Jupiter, we ask:
κλῦθί μευ, αἰολόμορφε, δίδου δ' ὑγίειαν ἀμεμφῆ
εἰρήνην τε θεὰν καὶ πλούτου δόξαν ἄμεμπτον.
Hear me, oh changeful one, and grant us faultless health,
divine peace, and glorious prosperity without blame.
In other words, "you who control all possible fortunes, good and evil - kindly send along the good ones!" And because Jupiter is legendarily generous, perhaps he hears and grants our prayers.
Those of us who work with the Wheel - and I count myself among them - look to align ourselves with its current in order to prosper. We know that the essence of life is change, so we learn to perpetually adapt. We anticipate downturns and try to soften the blows; when there are windfalls, we ride with them as far as we can. We look to place ourselves along the path of the Wheel's upswing; we have faith that there is a better and a worse response to each of the Wheel's vicissitudes, and we cleave to the better. Recognizing that Fortune connects all things is an essential part of embracing it. If there is an "invisible hand," I believe it is to be found in the Wheel of Fortune, rather than in market forces.
When you draw the 6 of Wands, enjoy your moment in the Sun. You may find yourself being publicly recognized or celebrated; you may have a sense of achievement. You might also feel the accolades are unearned. There is a grain of truth to that, but do not diminish others' pride in you by rejecting their praise. None of us can know for sure whether we deserve our good fortune, and few of us deserve our ill fortune. So accept your position in the limelight with grace, knowing that (1) it will not last forever, and (2) it will surely come again someday!