X. Sapokanikan

The Wheel of Fortune, inspired by the song Sapokanikan

Elsewhere, Tobias and the Angel disguised
what the scholars surmised was a mother and kid
(interred with other daughters, in dirt, in other potter’s fields).

Joanna Newsom, “Sapokanikan” (Divers, 2015)

Image Description

Three pairs of figures walk across a desert landscape with waving sands: an angel holding a golden arm with an arm around a boy, a mother holding a flower with her arm around a daughter, and another mother and daughter, all in gold, with the mother holding a dark seed in her palm. In the distance, a white arch rises above the sand. In the sky there is a large disc with 8 concentric rings: the outermost ring is marked with a star, the next with the glyph of Saturn, the next Jupiter, then Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, and Earth.


At the end of the first decade – the midpoint of the parade of trumps – comes the Wheel of Fortune. This version swaps the popular allegorical Wheel for a circular depiction of the geocentric universe inspired by the “Prima Causa” of the Mantegna Tarocchi (see Selected References). Around the Earth are the orbits of the seven classical planets, surrounded by the realm of the fixed stars, and within another ring of light. The monumental arch from Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, a centerpiece of the song, rises above the desert.

Three pairs on the ground illustrate the layers that build up through the passage of time. The leftmost is from Titian’s ill-regarded painting “Tobias and the Angel.” The middle is the mother and child uncovered beneath that work, which suddenly gave it interest. The third is meant to be a layer deeper, an underpainting.

In contrast to VI. Esme which depicts convergence, this card shows different paths diverging from a central source, one piece of land or one painted panel. As Time obscures or destroys, it clears space for new monuments built on the bones of the old. In the same way, X clears the stage for the next decade of trumps.

Selected Meanings

End of an era, renewal, uncovering, unearthing, fading, covering up, cycles, passing time, history, chronicles, untold stories