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Comparing The Magician & The Chariot



I’m in a Major Arcana kind of mood again, so let’s compare two Major Arcana cards: The Magician and The Chariot. First, let’s review some terms. If you’ve read my column before, you can skip the next paragraph.

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.

Besides its archetype and individual meaning, each Major Arcana card corresponds to a number, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. By comparing these correspondences, we can learn specific details about these two cards, thus deepening our understanding of them and their messages within a reading.

Both The Magician and The Chariot have some things in common. Both cards show a clear and bright sky and a calm and strong background. The Magician is surrounded by flowers and vines at the peak of growth and verdancy, and behind The Chariot is green grass, calm waters and what appears to be a strong and prosperous city. Both images contain a strong and mature male, and both of those males are presented as being active in some way. Both cards offer a powerful effect to us. So how do we present these cards correctly within a reading? We delve deeper and look at the building blocks of these two similar yet different cards.

The traditional image on The Magician is of a person, usually a mature man (although some images show a youth, perhaps a reminder of The Fool) dressed in white with a red robe, sometimes hooded, standing facing outward (toward us) with his right arm up (often holding a wand, also pointed up) and left arm down, often with the index finger pointing at the earth or the symbol of the element of Earth (representing the polarized nature of the elements, and the bridge between the spiritual and the physical, and suggesting that he is a conduit of unseen power). Usually the sky behind him is that of a clear mid-day, although a few images show roiling clouds and wind, and around him are green trees and vines, often heavy with fruit, and red (nature, physical desires) and white (purity, spiritual unfoldment) flowers. Over his head or somewhere within the image is the infinity symbol (infinite circling of polarized energies of nature; cosmic lemniscates, harmonious interaction between conscious and subconscious, between life and feeling, desire and emotion, dominion over the material, eternal life) and before him is a table on which rest the traditional elemental symbols.

The traditional image on The Chariot is a warrior or king, usually at least partially armored and having wavy blond hair, standing or seated 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. These beings are usually depicted as opposites of some kind, representing the Shadow Self and the Conscious Self. The Rider Tarot Chariot is being pulled by two sphinxes, one black and one white, the Guardians of the Threshold that hint at The High Priestess and hidden knowledge. 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 Magician represents the archetypes of the Active Male and the Trickster. The Active Male (who does not need to be someone with a gender of male) focuses his abilities outward in an active way, overcoming the intellectual challenges in life. He makes things happen, and he does this in a hands-on way by learning about, understanding, and manipulating the laws of the Universe. He is determined to find win-win situations, and he is mostly undeterred by ethics or the potential for creating negative consequences. The Trickster archetype represents someone who exhibits a great connection to his intellect, who has learned large amounts of secret knowledge, and who uses these things to play tricks or to disobey normal rules and conventional behavior. The Trickster seems at first to only have harmful effects, but he can present out-of-the-box alternatives to the straight and narrow path. The weakness inherent in both of these archetypes is the tendency to disregard ethics and to become manipulative in order to attain desired goals.

The Chariot represents 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. He gives his best, does not quit, and often makes great personal sacrifices in the name of the greater good. Today the Warrior archetype lives on in our reverence for those who serve in the armed forces, who fight with honor and without anger and are not afraid to die for what they believe in. Like The Magician, The Chariot is not confined to the male gender; women are the defenders of family and tribe too, and are known to protect and liberate others, sometimes at great risk to themselves.

The Magician card is numbered 1. The number 1 is about new beginnings, sowing seeds, potential, start of a cycle, and originality. All numbers are made by comparing with or interacting with the number 1; it combines the opposites of odd and even. This number offers the concept of position, The Point. In the Minor Arcana, the Aces represent the number 1, the purest essence of each corresponding element, the seed that will grow into the element. The Aces are called by some the “gift cards” for they represent the gift of the particular element being offered to the Seeker. The Magician can be seen as a Major Arcana version of the Aces, as he is tapping into his gifts and using the four elements (and their powers and effects) as tools. The number 1 is about confidence, originality and leadership, but it is also about stubbornness, pride, a quick temper and a tendency to resist authority.

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 number 6, but in that process greater variety and imagination is infused into that energy. The number 7 tells us we are at a point when our efforts can end, but we need to choose carefully because if we end too soon we will miss out on important opportunities; likewise if we don’t end soon enough.

The Magician corresponds with the element of Air, and thus the Minor Arcana suit of Swords, the playing cards suit of Spades, the direction of East, and the colors Yellow or Gold. Air is connected to the intellect, and to action, challenges, and a struggle that brings an outcome. This element represents the focused intent to bring forth manifestation, and many times it indicates a struggle as we bring an idea into reality. The element of Air can encourage a focus on truth and clarity, mental focus and spiritual guidance, and encourage a striving to achieve balance between the mind and the heart. The Sword that symbolizes Air within the Minors is usually a double-edged blade, and thus can represent attacking ~or~ defending. Air can represent logical and analytic thought patterns; it can also represent spite and aggression, or an inability to be assertive.

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, or the presence of some emotional trauma and possibly a refusal to address this hurt.

In astrology, The Magician represents the astrological sign of Mercury. Mercury is known as the messenger of the gods and is known for his ability to move fast. The planet Mercury echoes this, circling the Sun quickly, taking only 88 days to orbit the Sun. Mercury is so close to the Sun that it has no atmosphere of its own; it can only be seen in our skies with the naked eye right after the Sun has set. Astrologically, Mercury represents the principles of communication, mentality, thinking patterns, a focus on details, rationality, reasoning, adaptability and variability. Mercury is connected to schooling and education, research, moving over short distances, as well as email, telephone and snail mail. Mercury connects learning with communication by also being connected to newspapers, journalism and writing.

The Chariot corresponds with Cancer. 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 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. 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 Magician corresponds with the Hebrew letter Beth, the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet, representing the house or the builder. The house can be seen as the “dwelling of man” within the physical and non-physical world which offers support and shelter. A house is a “containing form” and regarding The Magician, it can be seen as that which contains Spirit. The builder has the knowledge, skill, and wisdom to construct the house so that it lasts and continues to offer stability and shelter. 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, The Magician represents Path 12, running between Binah (female, receptive energy and the origin of form and structure) and Kether (the source, limitless possibility). The 12th Path connects Kether to the top of the Pillar of Form, the Pillar that teaches us about feminine energies. It seems strange at first glance that a masculine (energetic and outwardly-projecting) card would connect with a group of sephiroth that describe feminine energies, but upon further consideration, this makes perfect sense. The 12th Path activates situations that teach dexterity, knowledge, wisdom and truth, presenting us with all the tools we need to grow and evolve. This Path separates the physical from the spiritual in order that we might come to understand that they are actually not separate, that the spiritual and the physical are integrated and connected. These are indeed inner pursuits. Also, the power of The Magician comes from The High Priestess, the guardian of secret knowledge; The Magician cannot be effective without harnessing the powers of the Pillar of Force, for his power does not come from within him but rather, from Deity.

The Chariot 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 bridges over and beyond the Abyss to the Sacred Feminine.

The Magician is the Major Arcana card that represents the balance of intuition and analysis. The Magician encourages us to realize and acknowledge our abilities in order to deal with energies in the present moment; it is this method that will allow those energies to manifest our goals into reality. The Magician allows us to see that we can become whatever we desire because we have the tools needed and we have the skills to use those tools effectively. The Magician’s four traditional elemental tools represent those skills, and the true Magician has control over them. The Magician does need to remember that not all those skills are meant to bring only physical world success, even if the tools represent the elements of the physical world. Divine power is also available to the Magician, and if he accesses that power as well and uses it for the good of all, he can be unstoppable. He is indeed the “bridge between” that connects As Above to As Below. However, he has a hint of the traditional about him. Is that a power to be relied upon, or blinders that prevent us from seeing all segments of the issue at hand?

The Chariot represents enlightenment through discipline. The Chariot provides opportunities to regain balance and a sense of stability in our lives. Here we are given a plan for dealing with conflicting energies through the application of discipline, of learning to focus and concentrate, and of applying determination and hard work to a situation. The challenges that appear in our lives are like the two beings pulling the Chariot in different directions. Dealing with them successfully allows us to recognize that we have made progress already, even though we can’t yet relax our guard. The Chariot can bring us to enlightenment, but only by focusing and by trusting in the skills we have learned, even if these efforts are not accessed via the mainstream path. Take a moment to look at the Rider Tarot Chariot card; notice that there are no reigns connecting the Charioteer to his steeds. How does the Charioteer control these steeds? He does not drive and he is not driven but rather, he is in tune with all the forces and energies around him, no matter how outlandish or unexpected they are.


About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding on Amazon