Card Meaning: VII The Chariot

The Chariot
Element: Water
Zodiac: Cancer
Hebrew letter: Het, ה


    We have left the Garden of Eden and now we are in the "war zone" of life. As the card's name does suggest, main theme of the card is the chariot. Maybe a war chariot? In any case the charioteer seems calm, in control, we could say almost convinced in victory. There is some aristrocratic nuance about charioteer, he has the princely stature with signs of nobility all over his clothes and with some kind od crown on his head. The more that we look at the card we see that there is some sort of battle going on, the battle that would be won only through will power and endurance. The battle is external and it requires strength and impeccability, self reliance and conviction. Two sphinxes signifies external forces needed to control to conclude the battle victorious. The sphinxes are black and white, indicating battle of opposities. Both of them are oriented in a different direction suggesting that there is first some internal battle to win, a need to reach the focus inside us in order to win our external battles. The sphinxes must bring the chariot in one single direction before the outlines of victory can be seen. The Chariot tells us a story about overcoming life's adversities through self-discipline and continued effort. When we step into this world we acquire ego and The Chariot tells us about positive side of our ego, one that is full of control and preservance. Through union of opposites inside us, we gain control, strength and thus, the victory.


    In the Marseilles deck the sphinxes are represented by two horses. In Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck, instead of the charioteer, a woman is depicted seated on the large chariot drawn by two winged white horses. In the earliest known list of the Trumps Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis, this card is called Lo Caro Triumphale (The Triumphal Car).


    If you control your ego, willpower can accomplish anything. Be optmistic and achieve control, and than, you will be victorious. Conflicts will end in victory. Maybe there will be changes through travel or vehicles. A negative aspect of this card may indicate that force and power is not always best solution. Be aware of loss of personal power or discouragement. Inactivity and defeat is getting closer. One more time question your action, are you being a bully or arogant?

the chariot, the Moon, black and white sphinx, the canopy full of stars, city and river in distance, winged sun

   The charioteer, that could be either woman or a man, is standing still in the chariot. He is here to wage a war. There is a crown on his head with eightfold star pointing the eight main directions. There are waxing and waining moon on his shoulders, echo of astrological sign of Cancer that is connected with this card. According to Waite, those are the Urim and Thummim which were divinatory tools used by the Israelites for guidance during times of war. On his belt there are only five signs visible but if we project that on his sides and behind him we get twelve signs of Zodiac. The brestplate on his chest symbolically represents the piece of jewlery that the Israelite High Priest was wearing when he was entering in the Holy of Holies of Solomon temple representing his people. Upon the brestplate there was twelve stones upon which was inscribed twelve tribes of Israel. Thus, we have multiple hints that this charioteer represents all people. The left hand of the charioteer rests while the right one holds a staff. The staff can be interpreted as a sword, symbol of the tool for discernement and some other explanation can even connect it with the staff of The Magician. With that staff The Magician is contacting the divine mind, so we see that even if the battle is external and in the material world, connection and guidance with the divine is present. On the front of the chariot we see the winged Sun. Thus, our charioteer might represent Helios, the Greek god who drives the Sun’s chariot across the sky, bringing light to the Earth. Ra, the Egyptian sun-god also drives the boat of the Sun accross the sky.  The red phallic symbol beneath the winged Sun is from India and is known as the lingam. It stands for male creative energy that exhibits control and willpower. The chariot is dragged by two sphinxes each looking in its own direction. White symbolizing positive and black symbolizing negative forces that need to be tamed to have a clear direction and purpose. On the other hand the charioteer holds no reins. It is his willpower that directs sphinxes. It is that willpower that will attain the victory through effort. The sphinxes have human faces, distinguishing them from the animal kingdom, distincting them from animals by form of their foreheads. The Sphinxes are further symbol of confronting opposites of mind, of both joy and suffering in the material world. The sphinxes are here instead of the horses by no accident. In Greek mythology they would devour people if they don't answer correctly on their riddle. Once the sphinx would find someone with the correct answer she would have to destroy itself, there is no compromise here, opposites are strong and that is "life or death" struggle. The chariot is of cubical design, indicating order and its dominion over material world. On the top of chariot there is canopy full of stars, it represents sky above and surely echoes the symbolism of the charioteer's belt with twelve signs of Zodiac. It is interesting that there are four pillars supporting the canopy. Some say that these four pillars are four letters of God's name - YHVH. There is a certain belief that from these four letters we can truely know the God. The Chariot is very static card, even the sphinxes are cosily resting with seemingly no intention to move. The charioteer also is very static. Control over situation obviously dosn't come fast and easy, effort and willpower are paramount. But what about the wings infront of the chariot? This is indication that time to form decision for action is immediate but that time to bring our power from realms of spiritual to dense world is much longer. This is the first card in which we see some human built structures. In previous cards, pillars and altars were symbols and of divine origin, now, we see a real city in the background of the card with its towers and walls. We are now in the first form of civilization. We can sense that this city is maybe Jerusalem, the embodiment of Heaven on material plane. The river between the chariot and the city echoes the theme of flowing river that was introduced for the first time in The High Priestess card -  the subtle subconscious influence needed to control by the charioteer in order to reach the Heaven.

An erect and princely figure carrying a drawn sword and corresponding, broadly speaking, to the traditional description which I have given in the first part. On the shoulders of the victorious hero are supposed to be the Urim and Thummim. He has led captivity captive; he is conquest on all planes--in the mind, in science, in progress, in certain trials of initiation. He has thus replied to the sphinx, and it is on this account that I have accepted the variation of Éliphas Lévi; two sphinxes thus draw his chariot. He is above all things triumph in the mind. It is to be understood for this reason (a) that the question of the sphinx is concerned with a Mystery of Nature and not of the world of Grace, to which the charioteer could offer no answer; (b) that the planes of his conquest are manifest or external and not within himself; (c) that the liberation which he effects may leave himself in the bondage of the logical understanding; (d) that the tests of initiation through which he has passed in triumph are to be understood physically or rationally; and (e) that if he came to the pillars of that Temple between which the High Priestess is seated, he could not open the scroll called Tora, nor if she questioned him could he answer. He is not hereditary royalty and he is not priesthood.

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by A.E. Waite

← Card Meaning: VI The Lovers Card Meaning: VIII Strength →