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The Meaning of
"The Chariot" Tarot Card

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What is the inverted meaning of
"The Chariot"?

The Meaning of "The Chariot"
Tarot Card

The Symbolism of The Chariot

On The Chariot tarot card we see the spectacular image of a gilded warrior rising above a chariot, being pulled by two sphinxes.

The charioteer is surrounded by astrological imagery of stars and moons: A blue valence above the charioteer's head is covered in white stars. His shoulders bear two golden crescent moons, symbolizing transition. A single, large star rises from the crest of his helmet, symbolizing divine guidance and destiny.

Below the waist, the charioteer's armor is covered in alchemical symbols, suggesting transmutation, transformation and power.

A closer look at the card reveals something surprising: Below the waist, the charioteer is encased in a solid block of stone.

A closer look at the card reveals something surprising: Below the waist, the charioteer is encased in a solid block of stone. While his upper body is completely free, it is as if the alchemical symbols below his waist have contributed towards his transmutation into something massive and impenetrable.

The chariot itself is in fact, the charioteer's own massive stone body. He is his chariot, and the Chariot is him.

In his right hand he clutches a wand, which bears a tip similar to the wand held by The Magician. The lower half of the wand also disappears into the massive stone block of the chariot.

On the front of his chariot / body, we see the classical spiritual image of the winged sun — a symbol of divinity throughout ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Below the winged sun we see the red, blocky symbols of lingam and yoni from ancient Hinduism — the conjoined symbols of male and female sexuality. The combined lingam and yoni suggest combination and transformation, reinforcing the concept of transformation — but also suggesting mutable gender.

In front of his chariot are the two sphinxes; one white, one black. The sphinxes represent mystery and transformation. Throughout history, sphinxes are often portrayed as being both male and female, having a man's head and female breasts. Sphinxes were also positioned outside of Egyptian temples to signify divine protection.

NOTE: Observant tarot readers may notice that the two sphinxes mirror the colors and relative positions of the black-and-white pillars of Jachin and Boaz in The High Priestess card. Both the pillars and the sphinxes in their respective cards share the concepts of duality, polarity, good and evil, and masculine and feminine.

How to Interpret The Chariot

The surface meaning of The Chariot tarot card is conquest and triumph — and a reminder that willpower and mental focus can combine to achieve the impossible.

The card reminds us to maintain our focus on a goal, and to remember that through force-of-will and determination, all things can be accomplished.

... a more subtle interpretation of The Chariot references the strong transformational symbolism ...

But a more subtle interpretation of The Chariot references the strong transformational symbolism which appears on the card:

Consider the duality of the sphinxes; the alchemical symbols; the crescent moons, and the flesh-to-stone transmutation of the charioteer's lower body — All of these suggest that outward victory is accompanied by an important inner-transformation.

Furthermore, the square symbol, which is centrally located on the breastplate of the charioteer, and represents the massive cube below — suggests that the charioteer fights in the name of transformation.

The message of The Chariot is that success and accomplishment are transformative by nature. Simply put: Success changes us in unexpected ways. Transformation can be positive and enlightening, or it can be negative: Success can breed wisdom and learning, but power can also corrupt.

When The Chariot card appears in a reading, it carries a dual message like the duality of the sphinxes below. The simplest message is a very positive one: The card indicates success through willpower and determination.

But the card also asks what then? What will the inevitable transformation that accompanies success bring? Positive and negative internal transformations are both possible results of victory.

If the card references a past event, it may point to a time in the past when victories led to personal transformation. If the card references a still-unattained victory, it asks us to consider how we will emotionally and spiritually adapt to future successes.

The Chariot Inverted

There are several possible interpretations of the reversed Chariot tarot card.

In most cases, when The Chariot appears in an inverted position, it indicates a lack of willpower or inner drive. A sense of inner purpose may be lacking, which is necessary to complete a task or accomplish something.

We all know what it's like when our heart just isn't in something; There's no joy of accomplishment or motivation to do the job well.

We all know what it's like when our heart just isn't in something; There's no joy of accomplishment or motivation to do the job well. We may go through the motions of work — but everything can feel like a slog.

In other cases, the inverted Chariot may indicate that we are allowing something to be an obstacle — when it really shouldn't be an obstacle at all. Our minds sometimes convince us that we can't do something, when in fact we can.

The inverted Chariot may be asking us to review our current insufficiencies and ask ourselves if in fact, they really are insufficiencies at all.

Lastly, the inverted Chariot may be pointing to a specific person whose past successes have caused them to act differently. This may refer to someone who has received a promotion or a windfall of some kind — and let their success negatively alter their behavior in some way.

Generally speaking, the reversed Chariot card has a negative meaning, but it may also offer a gentle encouragement to look within ourselves and improve.

Common Symbols Found On the Chariot Card

Tarot cards often use a language of symbols to visually communicate information about how each card should be read. The Chariot contains at least three common, repeating Tarot symbols. Each of these symbols can add additional levels of meaning to the card.

The symbols which appear on the Chariot card are:

  • Water

    Water symbolism appears on the Chariot card:

    In Tarot illustrations, water comes in multiple forms — ranging from rain, to sacred pools, to winding rivers and streams, to expansive seas and oceans. While each of these representations of water may carry a more specified meaning, water in the most general sense references emotion, nourishment and our intuitive nature. Interestingly, water is more prominent in the Minor Arcana cards, and is more often (but not only) associated with the Suit of Cups.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Water" in Tarot  

  • Moons

    Moons symbolism appears on the Chariot card:

    Aside from The Moon Tarot card where one would expect to find Moon symbolism, the symbol of the Moon makes an appearance on several additional cards throughout the Tarot deck. The Moon is a symbol of intuition, psychic energy and emotional depth. The Moon is also symbolic of cycles of all kinds, and reminds us of the ever present cycles which make up our Universe.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Moons" in Tarot  

  • Alchemy Symbols

    Alchemy symbols symbolism appears on the Chariot card:

    Alchemical symbols appearing in a Tarot reading represent an association with a particular element — or the ideas of change and transmutation from one spiritual, emotional or physical state to another. It's worth noting that in the Rider Waite Tarot, all three of the cards with small alchemical symbols also symbolically and visually reference the idea of two opposite, or different states of being.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Alchemy Symbols" in Tarot  

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