The Chariot stands in readiness with the stars on a veil behind him, as well as on a crown of stars on his head representing liberty, independence, and personal truth. (Fieberg & Burger). Rachel Pollack states that the 8-pointed star-crown symbolizes a halfway point between the material and spiritual worlds. He exudes victory, self-confidence, and a strong will. The Chariot is the 7th card in the first row of the major arcana, the row of consciousness where the task of all 7 cards focuses on the development of identity.
The Chariot achieved the tasks of the cards before him, discernment in decision making in the card of Lovers which enables the Chariot to go forth with the wisdom of experience and self-confidence. Other details that reflect the previous cards are evident in the Chariot, referring to the veil behind the High Priestess, the wand of the Magician and the crown of the Empress. He takes these lessons with him as he moves forward with a mature, take-charge personality.
Like the Chariot, I feel ready to go forth in this new phase of my life, as an aging woman who has had many life lessons along the way, all adding depth to my character. I am an independent strong-willed woman, and the life lessons of my 71 years helped me become more confident and peaceful.
As a person with cancer (though currently in remission and who knows how long this will last?) I am learning to accept what comes my way because as an old friend once said, “Everything is grist for the mill.” Living with cancer is like a crash course in life skills. Everything is more dire and real — reactions like anxiety about feeling inadequate doesn’t hold the same weight as “will this treatment work” or “when is cancer going to win the battle?” So, like the Chariot I feel like I have a different, more realistic set of coping skills that I take with me on my life’s journey. I feel stronger so the erect stance of the Chariot appeals to me but like the black and white sphinxes representing opposing feelings, it reminds me that nothing is 100% this or that. I vacillate between courage and fear, wanting to move forward but also wanting to retreat. In Jung and the Tarot, Sallie Nichols states, “The outer journey is not only a symbol for an inner one, but also a vehicle for our self-discovery.”
So, life experiences help us move forward from an inner and outer perspective, as Rachel Pollack would say, and whether we like it or not the degree of our openness in facing new challenges has significant impact on the depth of the lessons we learn.
In the Mythic Tarot, The Chariot is depicted by the war-God, Ares known for his “brute strength and lack of refinement.” Ares represents our own aggressive drives. Instead of sphinxes, Ares has 2 horses who pull him in opposite directions and refuse to work in harmony.
On an inner level these aggressive drives represent our own aggressive and competitive impulses when we become immersed in conflict. The task of the Chariot therefore becomes the need to exercise balance and control in order to survive in the “jungle of life.” It’s important to note that according to the myth, Ares survives all the humiliations and defeats, and emerges as a stronger heroic figure, an important life lesson if we can put aside our ego in order to face challenges. We too can evolve and go forward, like Ares, with a stronger personality.
On an outer level, reading about Ares at this point in our lifetime is significant given the war between Israel and Hamas, Russia, and Ukraine and on a smaller, more personal level, domestic violence, gang wars, school shootings, and the list goes on and on. Violence becomes a first reaction and so often peacemaking — if both parties are interested — is accomplished by a third party which means that those perpetuating the violence do not have the capacity to reign in these impulses without outside assistance. Working toward a peaceful resolution where balance is restored is the task of the Chariot and it is sad to say that at this time, the entire world seems stuck in a dark place.
We hear about violence in the news on a daily basis leaving us with a feeling of helplessness and despair. How much of a difference is there between violence in the world as opposed to violence in the family? The feelings of despair are similar and as a victim of my own father’s tendency toward violence as a solution I can say on a personal level that it never solved anything. He would hit first and never get to the part where he would ask questions later. It left me feeling afraid of my own frustration and anger. As a result, I learned to repress my anger and for a long time felt unable to deal with conflict on any level. The inner and outer perspective on violence is entwined, especially watching the news, and seeing little boys and girls cry at having lost everything. How does that get resolved? Will they grow up to be peaceful human beings or perhaps “identify with the aggressor” and learn to perpetuate violence as an adult. In psychoanalytic terms it was called “the cycle of violence.” Whether it’s’ in a family or between countries it is the same agonizing pain, making the task of the Chariot that much harder.
The ability and desire to move forward, having compassion for ourselves, becoming attuned to and aware of forces beyond the conscious level, subscribing to life with a set of morals and values, having rules to go by and the ability to assess a situation and react with inner strength are all skills we learn on the conscious level. These are not only the tasks of the first 7 tarot cards, but it is our life journey as well. As we learn and grow with different life experiences, we realize that there is not always a perfect outcome or solution but when we can self-examine honestly and without judgement and look at every experience as a learning opportunity, we automatically move forward with the continuous challenges that life offers.
The belief in Buddhist philosophy is that we first work on ourselves so we can in turn help others and so it is my hope that somehow there is enough inner change among us to make outer change possible.