Understanding Tarot: The Chariot

understanding chariot tarot
Tarot card art from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot Deck
This article is written by Tarot Reader, Claire Chilvers. You can find out more about her insights and readings at @ClaireChilversTarot

The Chariot – Keeping Faith During Turbulent Times

As I am sure you remember, my articles are written about the Major Arcana cards in their number order, and are showing how they relate to The Fool (number 0), as he progresses through his life’s journey.

He started with meeting The Magician, and his other mentors, The High Priestess, Empress, Emperor, and The Hierophant, and his last challenge was to battle with his choices with The Lovers as his guide. 

The time has now come for our Fool to make a journey with The Chariot.

This card is number seven, and is only a third of the way through his journey of self-discovery. The last card, The World (number twenty-one), seems a very long way away. 

The Fool is now on his own and a young man, trying to be brave and courageous as he proves himself in the big, wide world.

We all understand this feeling, I have been there myself many times and I’m sure you have too. You may recall the first day at a new job – when you were trying to make sense of what you are supposed to be doing, but, in reality, didn’t even know where the toilet was!

Or, the first few scary months of university or parenthood, where we are catapulted into a new way of life and feel like we are scurrying to catch up with our brand new reality. 

Of course, the situation we are all in now seems very relevant to this card too.

We have all been catapulted into a new reality and we are all doing our best to steer ourselves in the right direction, but, none of us know where the journey will end and many of us are feeling a little out of our depth.

Yes, once again it seems, that this Fool’s Journey that I am describing is playing out in real time for us all.

So, let us look a little deeper at the card and its messages.

The man riding The Chariot is often depicted as Phaethon who, in Greek mythology, was the son of Helios, the Sun God.

He was brought up by his human mother and when he was old enough, he visited his father and marveled at the job he had.

Every day he would move the Sun around the Earth in his chariot, pulled by his two horses. Desperate to prove himself, he persuaded his father to let him carry out the task which was, of course, far more difficult than he had imagined.

He rode the horses too high and froze the earth, then too low and scorched it. Things did not end well for Phaethon and, according to the myth, he was last seen falling out of the chariot and into the River Po in Italy. 

So, when we see this card, how does this help us? If we only remember this story and its unhappy ending we would never try anything.

But, remember, every Tarot card does not just have one story, they are an intricate and (sometimes downright confusing) multi-layered lesson.

The story of Phaethon is a warning about the ego, if we let our ego into the driving seat (without the necessary skills to back it up), we can get ourselves into an awful lot of trouble. 

Another message in this card, is two sphinxes that drive The Chariot, one black, one white, depicting the polarity that we have to live in every day as we move through our lives.

Conscious and sub-conscious, yin and yang, our confident ego versus our quiet intuition, our human self with its limitations and our limitless, all-knowing soul.

This card is also linked to the astrological sign of Cancer. Being a Cancerian myself, I know how difficult it can be to balance the tough exterior I often portray with the ultra-soft intuitive interior that I hide away from most people.

And the symbol of Cancer is the crab, who has to walk sideways to get where he needs to be.

There are reminders everywhere on this card, that it is possible to achieve great things, but, it can be immensely challenging too.

With all challenging and difficult journeys however, there is a chance of real growth, knowledge, and understanding.

We can see this in the card too. Our charioteer (like our Cancerian crab) has a tough armor and is protected. He has a wand, but unlike any others in the Tarot, this one is blue.

Blue is the colour of the throat chakra and is linked to communication. If he can communicate with his sphinxes well, then they can all move in the same direction.

His armor is adorned with the crescent moons and his headdress has a victory laurel wreath and a beautiful star. The canopy of the chariot also a pattern of stars that are surrounding him.

These are the comforting messages of the Universe and remind him that this journey is necessary. Reaching the destination will bring rewards far greater than first imagined, as in the most difficult and troublesome challenges, there is much spiritual enlightenment to be gained.

I often look at The Chariot card and wonder what he is thinking at this moment. If you look behind him, he is not too far away from the safety of the city walls that he has left behind to go on his quest.

He could turn round and go home and forget about this perilous journey (a bit like the people who queue for hours to get on a rollercoaster and then back out when they get to the front). But, to give up, or not try, or hideaway is also letting one side of us steer our path – fear and anxiety.

And once again, there is a reminder that although those aspects are always within our life, we cannot let them determine the journey we take or the safe city walls will soon become a prison that confines any further growth.

For us at the moment and the situation the world is in, I think it is fair to say that we are far outside the safety of our city walls. We are all, collectively, riding this chariot into the unknown.

The two sphinxes are a daily struggle for a lot of people between fear and anxiety versus compassion and love. None of us know how long this journey will take, where we will be or how we will feel when it finishes.

The message that I feel this card is giving to us all at the moment is that we are all experiencing turbulent times, but, as we try to struggle and gain control of our lives and emotions, we should also be aware that we are not alone.

As we all struggle together remember The Charioteer’s unique blue wand of communication. Talking to others may well be the key to us all staying on the right path. 

And, of course, let us notice throughout all the turmoil that every night the moon and stars and the rest of the Universe is looking over us and guiding and supporting us.

We have all chosen to be here at this moment. The world is shifting and we are all shifting too. And the Tarot is a good reminder that whatever happens, our ultimate destination is depicted in the last card of the Major Arcana – the beautiful, complete and perfect World.

Read More:

Understanding Tarot: The Lovers

Understanding Tarot: The Fool’s Journey

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About the author

Claire Chilvers

Claire Chilvers is a writer and tarot reader and lives in Essex, UK. She offers tarot readings to clients in the UK and around the world via video calls (Skype usually), if you would like a reading please contact her at clairechilverstarot@yahoo.com. Claire also has a Youtube Channel where she shares daily readings- https://www.youtube.com/@dailytarotwithclaire