The Wheel of Fortune card in the Tarot is based on the idea of the karmic wheel and destiny or fate. There are many wonderful renderings of this card but one of my favourites is the one in the Hanson-Roberts Tarot deck, the artist, Mary Hanson-Roberts. The deck is published by U. S. Games Systems, Inc. You can see a picture of the card above.
If we believe in karma, destiny, or fate, then from a practical point of view the wheel rolls on and on, carrying us along with it. We're up, then we're falling, then we're down and the wheel is rolling over us, and then we grab on and we're climbing up to the top again.
The Hanson-Roberts deck is based on the deck created by Arthur Edward Waite. Waite had Pamela Colman Smith illustrate the Minor Arcana cards, which had previously been rendered merely as pip cards (like playing cards.)
The unusual symbolism evident in the Wheel of Fortune card above comes from Waite's and others' ideas taken from a wide variety of old beliefs. The four outer symbols represent the four elements—earth, water, air, and fire—via astrological symbolism. The symbolism around the wheel itself is Egyptian.
I don't worry too much about that old-fashioned thinking. I learn it, but only take from it anything that is useful in respect to the evolved spiritual thinking to which I aspire. When I read intuitively I like to explain the stories in the cards. Obviously everybody wants to be the sphinx on top of the Wheel of Fortune, but life will eventually, one way or another, cause them to slip or slide or fall off. Nobody wants to be on the bottom. But if they fall, they want the good fortune to rise to the top again.
What I like about the Hanson-Roberts rendition of this typical human interpretation of life is that we don't have to stay with that outward-focused view. We can instead work to peel back our layers, find our spiritual core, and reside there in the light of higher insight.