The Chariot is the Tarot card associated with my own Zodiac sign — Cancer, and I found the card resonated with certain aspects of my personality. I am ambitious, with a strong drive and willpower, however I am constantly conflicted and fighting with my inner self. I suppose this could apply to most people but isn’t that how Tarot cards work? Broad insights on the human condition with enough ambiguousness to be left up to interpretation.
As a side note, U.S. elections are happening today and I hope Americans are voting. Invoke the Lovers card to make a decision based on morals and consequences, and use the Chariot card to drive to the polls. The rest of the world waits with bated breath…
7. THE CHARIOT
What you see: A man in armour stands in a chariot drawn by two sphinxes — one black, one white. On his head he wears a laurel wreath and a crown with an eight-point star. He has crescent moons on his shoulders and a white square on his chest, while he holds a wand in his right hand. Above him is a canopy of stars and on his chariot the coat of arms is made up of the Hindu yoni and lingam symbol, and a winged sun. In the distance behind the chariot is the city and a river flowing across the card.
What it means: The chariot and the charioteer stand for victory as they move away from the conquered city. The sphinxes represent opposing forces, moving in different directions with the prince steering them with his wand (dominion similar to the Magician). The canopy of stars signify celestial influence, while the square on his chest represents the earth. The waxing and waning crescent moon is often associated with feminine intuition, but could also stand for setting intentions and rest. The laurel wreath is another sign of victory, while the eight-sided star in Islamic art (khatim sulayman) often denotes life, from birth to death. The coats of arms signifies the feminine and masculine coming together, under a symbol of divinity.
The story: As a character, the chariot card stands for the victor — triumph over the forces of nature (earthly life), guided by intuition and spiritual influence. As an event, it signifies success and control, the ability to unite opposing forces and steer them. As a relationship, the card denotes self-control and willpower over “animal” passion, a purely spiritual relationship. As a sign, it symbolizes success and associated confidence and strength.
As part of the Fool’s Journey: The Chariot is independence and individuality; leaving home and parents and the freedom of “driving”.
Reversed meaning: Reversed, the card represents failure or loss of control. It could also mean giving in to desires, and being weak-willed.
In mythology: The charioteer could be compared to Helios, the Greek Sun God who rode across the sky in a golden chariot. The story of his son, Phaethon who attempted to ride his father’s chariot across the sky but was killed by Zeus could be a cautionary tale symbolizing the reversed meaning of the card — what loss of control could result in. Plato also references a wagon pulled in two different directions by horses, in Phaedrus, standing for the dichotomy within humans: our divine nature against our animal nature. Nike, the Greek Goddess of victory, famously rode a chariot in the Titan War.
Potential insights: Where the Lovers was about making choices, the Chariot is about taking action. To be successful (in life or for a specific goal), we often need to corral opposing forces — consider both sides of a story or listen to our inner voices, while using intuition and spiritual direction to guide us and sheer willpower to keep us moving forward.
I find that a lot of the cards are starting to blend into each other, with repetitive themes of duality and opposing forces, harmony through body, mind and spirit, and passive vs. active states. With two-thirds of the Major Arcana left to go, I can’t wait for new themes, insights and darker cards!
My research sources:
A Complete Guide to the Tarot, Eden Gray, 1970
Tarot Card Meanings, Biddy Tarot
Deck: The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck®