chariot of the major arcana

Tarot Talk

January, 2016

I love comparing cards! Let’s begin a comparison of The Chariot and Strength by looking at The Chariot of the Major Arcana. First, a quick review.

There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, an object, or a concept which can be copied, patterned, or imitated. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts: a “stereotype,” a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative, or an “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative.

So archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner. Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has (or will) personally experienced these archetypes.

Each Major Arcana card corresponds to an archetype, an image, a number, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. Let’s start breaking this one down; we’ve got a lot of work to do!

Many Major Arcana cards represent archetypes of people in our lives. The Empress is The Mother, The Emperor is The Father, The Hierophant is The Teacher; we easily understand these archetypes because most of us have them in our lives. Other Tarot Majors represent ideas or feelings or concepts or stories, rather than people. The Chariot is one of the former types of cards, as it is the archetype of The Warrior. The Warrior within each of us is usually activated in adolescence and continues to protect our emotional boundaries and assert our needs in the world. The Warrior is about duty, honor, loyalty and discipline, about the boundaries we set for ourselves, and about the way we respond to the boundaries imposed by others. Today the Warrior archetype lives on in our reverence for those who serve in the armed forces

The traditional image associated with The Chariot is a warrior or king standing on a chariot that is being pulled by two animals or beings, often those animals or beings are faced in opposite directions or are rearing or struggling to move in their own chosen direction. The animals pulling the chariot are often opposites of some kind, representing the Shadow Self and the Conscious Self. Often there is a sun in the sky, or some other representation of the sun may be found on the warrior’s armor or chariot. Some images also present a body of water or some representation of water in the vicinity of the chariot. The Chariot card of the Shadowscapes Tarot is such a beauty! The chariot is riding a wave, with the charioteer standing with pride and confidence, reins dropped by her sides.

The Chariot is the number 7 card of the Majors. This number tells of pause and reflection, of accomplishments (but with work still to be done), evaluation, research, and thoughtfulness. The number 7 can represent the energy of pushing too hard and thus needing to step back, or of isolation, aloofness, or a solitary approach to a situation; it tells of the onset of the degeneration of the balanced energy of the sixes, but in that process greater variety and imagination is infused into that energy.

The Chariot corresponds with the element of Water. The element of Water corresponds with the Tarot suit of Cups, the playing cards suit of Hearts, the direction of West and the color Blue. Water is about inner manifestations of all kinds, emotions, dreams, divine love, the heart and the subconscious., as well as our connections and bonds at many levels, Water also represents purification and transformation, and being grounded in the heart rather than the intellect. The element of Water usually represents a caring and sensitive nature; it can also represent dreaminess and self-delusion, the presence of some emotional trauma, and possibly a refusal to address this hurt.

In astrology, The Chariot corresponds with Cancer. (“I feel,” sensitive, tenacious, nurturing, moody). Cancer, the Crab, is responsive, emotional and generous, but that hard shell can shield a person who is moody, insecure or sensitive, and is often affected by the environment and people nearby. Those born under the sign of Cancer, the 4th sign of the zodiac, acknowledge that they experience strong feelings and emotions, and they are very protective of those feelings and emotions. Cancer people tend to be very attuned to the past, and they like to have mementos of the times and people of their childhood. Cancer people place a high importance on family, both family of the blood and family of the heart. They nurture and protect those they love. Cancer people are hard workers, and that paycheck is important not only for what it will buy, but also for the security it provides.

In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe, and they express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. The Chariot corresponds with the Hebrew letter Cheth (the hedge or fence), the 8th letter in the alphabet which falls into the archetypical level. A hedge or fence can be seen as delineating boundaries or imposing form upon a place or situation. Cheth represents the profession of tailor, representing the physical body. If we understand that the life essence takes on a physical body the way a person dresses in clothes, we will understand this concept. Cheth also represents equilibrium, our reservoir of energy, and the law of attraction and repulsion.

On the Tree of Life, Temperance represents Path 18, running between Geburah (the place where forms and structure are challenged or affirmed) and Binah (female receptive energy and the origin of form and structure), representing Influencing Intelligence. The 18th Path offer the ability to discern truth and falsehood, the ability to decide when using power is for the highest good, and when **not** using power is for the highest good. It offers the ability to control and use power, and to correctly choose how to use it. The Chariot climbs the Pillar of Form and transitions beyond the Abyss to the Sacred Feminine.

The Chariot tells of having the control necessary to focus on our goals, and to avoid distractions. This card definitely brings a sense of motion to the day, and motion (and the control of that motion) is his forte. The Chariot represents the ability to get to where we need to go, perhaps even the ability to get there quickly, rather than walking. Indeed, the Chariot is a vehicle for forward motion and change. The young charioteer is in command of his physical and emotional drives, even when they seem to oppose each other; he point his Chariot toward the present moment, for he has found the “now” and rides through life in that way.

Sometimes The Chariot can represent our mind and intellect, and the way our feelings can affect them; our mind can take us anywhere we can visualize, but often our thoughts and emotions play tug of war with us, and they need to be controlled with a firm hand. Indeed, while the charioteer often holds a set of reigns, it is not those reigns that control the movement. Rather it is the charioteer’s pride and confidence, and ability to focus on the goal.

There are dangers associated with this card. While the charioteer has control over the chariot and the creatures pulling the chariot, he is also to some extent insulated or isolated from the world around him because he is in his chariot. Here is the “stillness in what is eternal motion” of The Chariot. If the charioteer looks away for even one moment, everything might tumble, and focusing on the goal way off in the distance could end up causing him to trip over something right at his feet. If the energy of The Chariot runs out of control we run the risk of quite literally running “off the rails,” and find ourselves engaging in relationships and behavior which goes against our better judgment. The life lesson is: don’t assume the reins unless you do so with humility and grace.

The Chariot shows us that when we are focused on our path and have found our direction, nothing will divert or distract us. We can move past obstacles, make decisions, choose the correct path and get things done. The steeds pulling the chariot keep the wheels turning, but it is our control and direction that gets them to the desired destination.

-Next month, we will look at the Strength card, and compare it with The Chariot.