In the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, as well as in others based on the Tarot de Marseilles or Latin Tarot, the Chariot is a major arcana card rich with symbolism. This symbolism gives clues to the meaning of the Chariot when it appears in a tarot spread.
Symbolism of the Chariot
The image on the Chariot is of a flaxen-haired youth riding a chariot draped in a canopy adorned with stars. On his head he wears a golden crown of stars atop a laurel wreath, and on his shoulders he wears epaulets that are golden crescent moons. He wears a shield embossed with a square and carries a scepter in his right hand. He also wears blue robes with protective talisman symbols and a golden belt.
At the base of the chariot are two sphinxes: a black one on his right and a white one on his left. That chariot has on its front a shield embossed with a yoni-lingam topped by a winged sun. In the background are a castle, verdant landscape, and a golden sky.
The Chariot's Place in the Major Arcana
The Chariot is the eighth card in the major arcana, but it is marked as VII (seven) because the Latin Tarot starts the major arcana with card 0 (zero), The Fool. The imagery on the card mirrors each of the earlier cards in the major arcana, showing the Chariot is the end of a cycle created by the first eight cards and a beginning of a new cycle with the next cards.
- Like The Fool, the Chariot depicts the same golden haired youth, only now he is wiser and more mature from his journey thus far.
- Like the Magician, the youth in the Chariot wears robes and holds a scepter.
- Like the High Priestess, the Chariot contains images of the moon.
- Like the Empress, the charioteer wears a crown of stars.
- Similar to the Emperor, who sits on a stone throne, the charioteer rides in a stone chariot.
- Like the Hierophant, who sits between stone pillars, the charioteer rides in the chariot between two stone pillars.
- Like the Lovers in the Garden of Eden, the Chariot rides through a lush landscape.
- Like the card that comes after, Strength, the Chariot card is awash in a golden sky.
Numerology of the Chariot
Seven is a significant number in numerology because it is a prime number. It indicates seeking and the search for truth, and it also has associations with the seven chakras and seven days of the week, indicating a cycle of time and energy. In these systems, seven indicates the conclusion of that cycle and the start of a new one, reflecting the Chariot's unique position in the major arcana as ending the cycle of learning and seeking and moving into the next.
Symbols explored in the Chariot that don't appear on previous major arcana cards include the following:
- A chariot symbolizes victory and embarking upon a new journey.
- Sphinxes symbolize diversity, unity, and the coming together of multiple ideals, belief systems, or cultures.
- The square on the shield represents the four directions (north, east, south, west).
- The winged sun represents bringing light and awareness to a situation from a higher source.
- The yoni-lingam represents unification of male and female (or yin and yang) energies.
- The laurel wreath on the charioteer's head symbolizes victory.
The Chariot's Meaning in a Spread
When the Chariot appears in a reading, all of these symbols contribute to its unique meaning. It symbolizes victory or success in cycles of earthly riches and pleasure and indicates the querent is moving victoriously into a new cycle based in higher principles of spirit. It may also indicate upcoming travel, upcoming success, and progress in matters of relationships or business.
When reversed, the Chariot shows that ego has stepped in and is controlling the show. It may indicate ego is causing the querent to make poor decisions, or it may show personal avarice is taking precedent over the need to support greater good.
A Journey Ends, a Journey Begins
When the Chariot appears in a spread, it is like commencement in school. It indicates the completion of the first part of a journey, and it becomes the vehicle to carry the querent forward into new realms of higher learning and more spiritual values.