Discussion: The Chariot

After a brief hiatus, C&C is back! This week, we follow the Fool as he departs from his lover and strikes off yet again on his own, now less a boy and more a man than he was when he began his journey. Seeking direction, he takes counsel from a strong and victorious-looking charioteer, and finds that life’s challenges are still only beginning.

The Charioteer is a proud and noble warrior, and his life revolves around the battle between two opposing forces. His own chariot is a testament to this opposition: the carriage itself is incapable of movement; the steeds are disinclined to stillness. Only through knowledge, skill, and dexterity is the charioteer able to combine these two unlike things into a whole unit, a weapon of incredible power. From AeclecticTarot:

The Chariot tarot card

The Chariot

“First, you must armor yourself,” the Charioteer strikes the chariot and then his breastplate with a gauntleted fist, making both ring out. “Next, you must focus on your goal, where do you mean to go, what do you mean to do.” The warrior nods to his beasts. “Your steeds keep the wheels turning, but it is your control and direction of them that gets them to their destination. Dark and light, they must be made to draw in harmony, under your guidance.” The Fool nods. That makes sense. “What if an someone or something gets in your way?”
The Charioteer coolly meets the Fool’s gaze. “You run them down. Your aim is victory, and to be victorious you must have unwavering confidence in your cause. Never question, never doubt what you’re trying to achieve. Never lose your focus or your motivation.”

As we can see, The Chariot is about claiming victory, no matter the cost, but it takes dedication and mastery to drive a chariot.

The Chariot frequently depicts two beasts—sometimes horses, sometimes sphinxes or other creatures—often of opposite coloring. These represent the two halves of a whole, or two opposing forces to the Universe: dark and light, sun and moon, good and evil, inhale and exhale. These forces pull in two different directions, and it is up to us to find a way to exert our control over these energies. In a way, Tarot reading and other forms of divination are a method of controlling the forces of the universe, allowing us to see things that are otherwise hidden.

As the seventh numbered Major Arcanum, the Chariot is sometimes associated with the Mesopotamian myth of Inanna and her descent into the underworld. In the myth, Inanna is required to pass through seven gates of Hell to reach her sister, Erishkigal, the goddess of the land of the dead. The two sisters represent a duality between life and fertility (Inanna) and death and decay (Erishkigal). Everywhere we look in this card, we see this same dualism. Many variations depict a yoni/lingam symbol painted on the shield at the front of the Chariot. Often, the charioteer is wearing pauldrons representing Urim and Thummim: guilt and innocence.

Apart from the dualism aspect, this card bears other meanings as well. It can indicate forward motion, much as the Knights of the Minor Arcana charge ahead on their coursers. It can also be said to represent approaching an issue not head-on, as would be expected, but from the side—think Ben-Hur and the famous chariot race. Much like the Hanged Man, we should perhaps seek to view a problem from a different perspective.

Ultimately, the Chariot is a very complex card to interpret, and can often indicate that a querent is beset by contradictory impulses, pulled in opposing directions by the forces of the universe. Frequently, the seeker can find the solution to his or her problem through deft manipulation of the surrounding energies, putting those dualities to work rather than letting them pull away like wild horses. Again, from Aeclectic Tarot:

The Chariot is a card of contradictions. It’s about sidewise battles, yet also about full-speed ahead. It’s about the hard exterior and the soft interior, the light and dark, the water and the shore, moon and sun. It is the Sphinx, which is also often a symbol of Cancer, the lion and the man united, a mystery.
Yet the Chariot says all these can be united.
The querent who gets this card is likely dealing with a lot of contradictions in their life. Maybe arguing people, or a variety of different feelings. The card says that they must become the driver of the chariot. They must decide on a goal, take control and get all the contradictions to ignore their wants and go where the querent wants.
How can the querent do this? By being confident. The one who has unwavering faith in their convictions is the one who can make others put aside their differences and do as asked. Likewise, such a person can overcome their doubts and uncertainties and achieve victory.

Confidence, skill, and the desire to take control: these things will help the Fool find his way. Of course, winning the battle is often not the end of things, but rather a beginning.

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