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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Chariot - A Closer Look

The divinatory meaning of The Chariot is almost always associated with movement, and in a mundane reading you might be told that you're take a trip, moving on from a job, or even getting a new car. Of course this makes perfect sense when you hear the name 'Chariot' and even when you look at some Chariot cards, such as the Druidcraft. But when you study the Rider Waite Smith or Thoth Chariot cards (and many other decks), you realise that the Chariot is not moving at all. Couldn't move if it wanted to.

You can see the Boudica-like figure in the Druidcraft driving the horses on. But the warrior in the RWS Chariot is buried hip-deep in a block of concrete, and his two sphinxes are not moving and in fact are not even attached to the chariot by reins or anything else. The Thoth Chariot looks similar, with the canopy, but instead of sphinxes there are the 'four Kerubic beasts', and they are not attached to the Chariot, either. The charioteer is even less interested in driving, being seated in the lotus position and holding a big serving platter (the handles extend over his wrists).

Now, I don't want to get too bogged down in all this but I am doing a One Deck Wonder with the Thoth, so let's take it from the top:

The Chariot is topped with a blue canopy on which is embroidered 'ABRACADABRA'. Some writers make reference to stars on this canopy, but I don't see any at all (though there are some on the RWS Chariot). Under the canopy is a big crab, which is actually sitting on top of the head of the charioteer. He is wearing a suit of golden armour. A red cape falls behind him from the shoulder, billowing out to reveal a white or pale blue lining. On his chest and shoulders are ten green gemstones. Before and behind him,close to his body, are the four posts that hold up the canopy of the chariot. The bottom of the chariot, on which the charioteer is sitting in the half lotus position, is a very large upturned blue crescent moon. He sits as if he is perched on a very high meditation cushion, and it looks like part of his cape is tucked under his legs, or maybe that's a red cushion. He holds a shiny blue and red serving platter, tilted up to face out toward us. The handles of the platter extend over his wrists -- it is definitely a platter. The very large red wheels of the chariot are pointing out,so there is no way this conveyance could roll, either forward or backward. Behind the chariot I see pale blue rings, some sort of energy pulse, which makes me think Dr Who's about to appear there in the Tardis or something. The Chariot sits on a yellow brick road. The four Kerubic beasts are arrayed in front of the Chariot, suggesting that they are drawing it, but they are not connected to the chariot and appear quite static and aloof.

So other than the wheels and the road, there's nothing in this card that would make you think of movement, except the name of the card, Chariot.

Now, I'm in no position to be able to explain any of this to anyway, so please consider this post to be my own pondering of the images, with input from other sources. The canopy over the four posts represents the four conquered elements (Paul Christian, 1870). The word ABRACADABRA is a curious one. You can read a lot of rigmarole about it here. Apparently it's some sort of Big Powerful Word, but to be honest a lot of this Grand Pooh-Bah ceremonial magic stuff just strikes me as silly. The platter is meant to be the Holy Grail. He's got a crab on his head because the card associated with Cancer. The four little beasties hearken back to the four creatures mentioned in the book of Ezekiel. They took on deeper meaning to the Golden Dawn folk, becoming mixed up in all sorts of cardinal directions and quarter calling and all sorts of stuff. They also appear to correspond to four Egyptian gods. This is the thing with hermeticism. Just because something 'corresponds' doesn't necessarily mean they're connected. So there are 22 Hebrew letters and 22 major cards, so what? So there are 10 fingers and 10 toes and 10 sephira, so what? I don't care how many 'matches' a hermeticist shows me, I remain unconvinced that there's some sort of Cosmic Truth in it. Especially when people start getting messages channeled by beings called 'Aiwass', and drawing circles and triangles on the floor and running around shouting 'Abracadabra' (or in Al's case, 'Abrahadabra'.)

But I digress. Let's look at some of the helpful tips I was given by generous ATers:

'I find it useful to focus on the chariot itself, and its posts/pillars connecting to the roof of the chariot as the first or main 'meaning', which is echoed elsewhere.

The body of the chariot is red, the colour of Mars. This represents Geburah, the 5 (which relates to movement. (1 the dot, 2 the line, 3 the triangle, 4 the square and 5 for movement or outgoing energy. Also the 5th power of the Sphynx is to go, note the sphinxes in front of the chariot). The roof is a starry canopy, which reminds me of Nuit the sky goddess, who is Binah (sephira 3, who receives all). Check out the Book of Law threads is this makes no sense, especially the first few originals ones from Chapter 1.

The pillars connect the red chariot (Geburah) to the starry sky (Binah). The Chariot is associated with the path of Cheth in hermetic qabalah, which connects the outgoing Geburah to the receptive Binah. The path of Cheth also crosses the Abyss. You could think of the abyss as the separation between us and godhead, which is bridged by Cheth.

Along the canopy is the word ABRAHADABRA. 5 vowels and 6 consonants, or a word indicating the joining of us (5, man the pentagram) with the 6 (godhead, the hexagram). 5 + 6 = 11 the number of magic or union with godhead.

In the amethyst cup Crowley describes sexual alchemy or the mingling of male and female sex fluids. An act of sexual magic, which develops in later trumps (13, 14 etc..)

I guess the theme is a whole lot of joining going on, movement, protection, strength.'


'I see the chariot as the vehicle or methods that helps one accomplish The Great Work (or what one 'wants to do' as some prefer). The four Kerubic beasts I relate to the four parts of my psyche; Individuality and inspiration, the 'feeling body' (including intuition), the mind and (hopefully) rational thought processes, and the body or abilities to bring the first three into manifestation or grounding. If one gets out of balance or off course the Chariot goes off the path (or royal road as they say). Yeah ... the four powers of the sphinx as well (to know, to will, to dare and to STFU about it { the 4 part oath of the III* degree - DOH! I wasn't supposed to say anything about that!} ) , a handy formula for doing many things but often attributed to what’s needed to travel down that 'royal road'. The 'dish or platter' I see as the grail but tilted forward so now (for a change) we can see into it. And I like to think that I have something to offer there (as a crab) but I am a lot older now and don’t have the reputation I used to .

The pillars, another four that remind me of my connection to the sky and Nuit (reflected in the cup). The armour; crab shell is protection (emotional?) but there is a way in (I used to cop a lot of complaint about the emotional significance but to 'let it all hang out’ seems a little .... hippy dippy?)

Yeah ... what G. said about the abyss and the word.

The sexual fluids? Errrmmmm a little 'old hat' now in terms of medicine of metals, elixirs etc. now that we have stem cell rejuvenation. '


'The Chariot image is derived from the description of the Merkaba (the chariot-throne of God) in Ezekiel, Chapter 1. It's kind of confusing but worth a read (or two or three or four ) if you have a Bible handy. It almost reads like a description of a sci-fi space ship of some sort. When it moves, it always faces in the same direction, as if it's some kind of gyroscope (which is further suggested by the configuration of wheels within wheels).

The Chet ח enclosure symbolism is all over the place: the exoskeleton of the crab, the chariot itself, the armor of the charioteer, and the Grail. P.F. Case interprets the charioteer as the Inner Self.

It has always seemed to me that Ezekiel's description of the Merkaba is especially hard to understand because it is a projection onto our three-dimensional world of something which actually exists in a higher dimensional space, and the almost instantaneous motion of the four creatures is as if they are moving from one location to another through a space warp. It is if we are able to see only the tip of the iceberg, as it were, because our spatial perception is dimensionally limited. (Yes, I used to read a lot of sci-fi.)

This is very, very strange stuff, but its very strangeness somehow convinces me that it's not merely a hallucination in a mushroom trip, although that's still a possibility. '


Now, if you're still with me, here's what Rachel Pollack says in her book, 'Tarot Wisdom':

'For many [the will is] the primary quality of the Chariot. But what do we mean by will? We also describe the Magician with this term, so are they the same? In my view, the Magician demonstrates the principle, or ideal, of focused will, and the Chariot shows the person who has learned to use the will to deal with the challenges of life. By strength of will the Charioteer makes his way in the world. By strength of will he holds together the contradictions of his life.' 

I like that. The Chariot is my Year Card for 2013. I like the idea that this is the year I use my strength of will to effect change. And I particularly like the card that fell in The Chariot position on the 'Chariot Reading.' More on that when the time comes. sic? I see it as a bit of advice that appears in many cards (like the 4 of discs.)

It’s a way of looking at how to maintain your interface with the outside and other people as you progress along a path led by balanced forces of your psyche. Finding the one in control of yourself and bringing something special and valuable forward and displaying or sharing it with those worthwhile.


  1. Lately I have been getting the Chariot come up a lot for me in my readings, so it is interesting to read your musings on the card Carla. Perhaps I should work out what card is for this year!

    1. I'm sure you know how to do it. Just take your date of birth for the year and reduce them down. Example: 27 January 2013 is 27+1+2013=2041=2+0+4+1=7. Chariot.

  2. So with you on the grand-poo-bah stuff ;D Quite like the idea of him holding the Holy Grail, though. Like saying that success is seeking and finding what is most important to us...