The Chariot is the seventh trump card in the Major Arcana, its spectrum of meaning spanning positive aspects from success and victory in the material world to spiritual transformation, as well as darker, more negative aspects when the card appears in its reversed position.
When the Chariot appears upright, it is a good omen, a sign of overcoming obstacles or of uniting opposing forces in our lives, generating success and confidence. When the Chariot appears reversed, however, it indicates that you are letting obstacles erode your self image and deter you from following through on your dreams and ambitions.
What does the Chariot mean in Tarot?
The Chariot is one of the most complex cards in the Tarot’s Major Arcana and can be interpreted in numerous ways.
In its upright position, the Chariot is usually a sign of taking a positive step forward on your path. Sometimes this leap forward can be understood literally – it could, for example, mean that a significant move or a road trip lies ahead, but it can also be understood in a metaphorical sense. Sometimes, the movement that the Chariot card brings is simply a sign of new motivation, or of finally getting a stagnant situation moving.
In its reversed position, the meanings are inverted and opposite. The positive motivating force that the upright Chariot brings is replaced by inertia, lack of focus and general malaise. Conversely, the Chariot reversed may also signify an ego that is out of control, the charioteer no longer able to restrain and direct the two sphinxes that pull the chariot.
Is the Chariot the most powerful Tarot card?
As a Major Arcana card, the Chariot is exceptionally powerful – it is the first trump in the Major Arcana where we essentially see the querent as the central protagonist, self-possessed and in charge of the direction of their own life. Whether the Chariot is the most powerful Tarot card of them all is impossible to say; but when it appears in a Tarot reading in exactly the right context, addressing the central issue in a unique and empowering way, it is.
What Tarot deck should I start with if I’m new to Tarot?
Start with the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, or one of the many newer decks that are based on it.
Beginning with the most common Tarot deck will make your learning process smoother and faster, as most Tarot card descriptions you will find in online resources and book refer to its symbology and meanings.
The Chariot Tarot card symbology
There are differentiations between depictions of the Chariot Tarot card between different decks, but they all usually include the following symbols.
Central to the Chariot Tarot cards is the armored warrior, the brave charioteer. He is clearly a man in his prime, golden-haired and powerfully built, with a determined expression on his face. Everything about the charioteer radiates confidence, power and vigour.
The charioteer is standing in his chariot – he has found his throne inside and is expressing this through his energy and presence. He is standing alert, open, ready for what life brings.
The armored warrior is linked to the Cancer zodiac sign. This is evident both in his protective armor, his protectiveness over the city he defends, and in his core meaning as a symbol of new motivation and new beginnings. Cancer is the sign of nurturing and motherhood, and although the warrior does not express these qualities in a very literal sense, he is still a nurturer and a fierce protector. Without his willingness to defend the city, it would perish.
The warrior is riding in a golden chariot, decorated with crescent moons and other alchemical symbols. The crescent moon is a sign of something new coming into being, of cresting power. As a result of his battles and experiences beyond the city, the warrior is undergoing an alchemical process within, moving closer to his true path and destiny through what he is able to achieve.
A winged shield marks the front of the chariot, serving as a sign of both of protection and godspeed. Engraved on the winged shield is an encircled rod or wand, suggesting willpower and magical ability tempered by focus and self discipline. These are some of the warrior’s primary values and they help ensure his victory on the battlefield.
The laurel and star crown
On the warrior’s brow rests a crown of laurels beset with six-pointed stars.
The six-pointed star is a prevalent symbol, appearing again and again throughout the Tarot deck. It the seal of Solomon, a powerful and protective magical talisman. The symbolism of the star itself is also a powerful Tarot symbol, signifying inner guidance and refined intuition. The laurels traditionally mean victory and were used to crown the victorious returning home from battle.
The warrior is directing his chariot by the force of his will alone – he holds no reigns.
He does, however, hold a large wand sizzling with magic in his right hand. Wands are one of the primary symbols related throughout the Tarot and symbolise willpower, control, magical ability and manifestation. The charioteer uses his wand instead of reigns to direct and keep his chariot in line.
The canopy of six-pointed stars
Suspended above the warrior’s head is a light blue canopy beset with six-pointed stars. Again, the six-pointed stars are a symbol of magical potency and of connection with the higher self.
The presence of the many six-pointed stars in the Chariot suggests that the warrior is receiving guidance from the divine source.
The black and the white sphinx
In front of the chariot, pulling it, are two black and white sphinxes. They represent the opposing and often conflicting forces that drive and inspire us, often pulling us in different directions.
The black and white sphinxes are our darker, more animalistic impulses versus our higher aims and better intentions. We all have both dark and light forces inside, always trying to pull is in opposite directions.
However, in the upright Chariot card, we see a harmonious integration of both. It appears that the warrior has tamed both sphinxes and is able to draw on their powers by putting them to work, making his chariot move forward. He has learned how to direct and control them, rather than have them direct and control him.
In the background of the Chariot Tarot card is a flowing river. It can represent travel, relocating to a different home or job, or simply moving forward in any area of life.
Another meaning of the river flowing through the Chariot Tarot card is the importance of being in flow and in tune with the cycles, energies and forces that surround you.
Universal meanings of the Chariot Tarot card
The primary meaning associated with the Chariot Tarot card is victory, success and accomplishment.
The very scene depicted in the Chariot Tarot card is that of a victorious homecoming, the successful warrior riding through his hometown and being celebrated.
The Chariot Tarot card can signify victory of any and every kind. It could represent accolades on your career path, a significant new development in your love life, or any other scenario where you achieve or are being celebrated for something you have been putting your focus and efforts towards.
Willpower, determination, control
The Chariot card oozes restrained and controlled power. The warrior himself, standing tall and relaxed, carrying his heavy armor with ease. Becoming an accomplished warrior requires quite a lot of discipline, determination and sacrifice.
The Chariot Tarot card is a powerful reminder of the importance, and the power, of willpower, determination and self-discipline. Everything the warrior in the card has achieved, he has achieved because he lives these values.
The warrior in the Chariot card is a man of action. You can talk all you want, but when the Chariot card appears in a Tarot reading, it is time to walk the walk.
The Chariot tells you that true achievement can only be attained through the action – lots and lots of action You will only be able to rest on the laurels once you have shown up on the battlefield.
The Chariot card signifies confidence as a natural byproduct of the accomplishment, achievement and skill that the warrior has developed.
When the Chariot card appears upright in a Tarot reading, it always speaks of confidence that has been forged in the fire and earned on the battlefield of life.
Universal meanings of the Chariot Tarot card reversed
The Chariot Tarot meaning is inverted, reversed and blocked when the card appears reversed in Tarot readings. Whereas the upright Chariot means victory and success, the reversed Chariot means the opposite – failure and defeat.
The areas and reasons for the inability of the querent to manifest what they desire can be difficult to pinpoint without the context of more Tarot cards, but it often comes back to an energy blockage or difficulty relating to the qualities that the Chariot represents.
Lack of direction, lack of self-control and sovereignty
The reversed Chariot is often a sign of a lack of direction or poor self-control. Where the warrior in the upright Chariot card controls and directs his two sphinxes – his opposing inner drives – through the power of his will and his ability to focus on his goals, in the reversed Chariot he looses control of his vehicle and of the powers that drive it. Instead of being in charge, he becomes fraught with doubt and struggle to unify and give direction to his wishes and desires.
The Chariot card reversed signifies inaction. A lack of action is often where our plans fall short of accomplishment. No amount of preparation, planning and researching can make up for even one brief moment on the real battlefield, in the real arena or on the real stage.
The reversed Chariot card ask you to take action on your dreams. After all, there is only one way of getting there, and it is by going there, one step at a time. Action is often the only thing that can get a stagnant situation moving.
Poor self image
no reversed Chariot Tarot card description is complete without talking about self esteem.
The upright Chariot card shows a confident, competent figure. The Chariot, when reversed, tells a different story. The Chariot asks you to rebuild and rediscover your sense of power and potency.