This was originally posted on the Archer Tarot blog on January 22, 2012.
Some thoughts on the Chariot, presenting an alternative view to that found in the companion books, one more suited perhaps to spread positions requiring a less positive slant.
The charioteer stands with arms open, victorious, triumphant. He says, “Look at me, I’m master of all I survey, I’m the victor, I’m the champion, I’m king of the waves.” And yet, he is protected from the waves by the enormous chariot – a man-made structure ploughing through the sea on giant waves.
And behind him, a fear he doesn’t face, that he is driving away from, in denial of its existence, because to acknowledge it would threaten his sense of self, his ego. He attempts to obscure it with technology and grandeur.
He is at sea yet completely safe – the waves barely touch him so distant is he, so raised above them on his mechanical podium. He has removed himself from the raw untameable power of the ocean and nature, which is also the raw, untameable power of the unconscious. And yet still he claims mastery over it.
The rune on this card is Hagall. Rachel Pollack explains this means destruction. It’s a reminder that victory is never absolute, that just because we can force our will on something doesn’t mean we have complete dominion over it. It’s a warning against arrogance.
The Hebrew letter is Cheth and the zodiacal sign is Cancer. Cheth means fence and Cancer is the sign of the crab, whose hard shell protects it from injury. Even Cancer’s glyph, shown in the bottom corner of the card, makes it look like it is curled into a ball to protect itself. Both of these things hint that the charioteer’s victory may not be all it seems. It’s not quite so impressive when you hide behind a safety fence and clothe yourself in thick heavy armour. It’s like a gladiator fighting a lion whose teeth and claws have been removed, then proclaiming how mighty he is for slaying the monstrous beast. Compare this with the next card, Strength, where we see a woman, naked and with both feet on the ground, holding the snake. It seems she is much braver than the charioteer.
The charioteer tries to escape the wolf-like animal following him, but it hounds him even in victory. We must be aware of the fences we construct around us and try to identify what it is we’re hiding from.
Seven is a challenging number. In the minor suits of the Haindl Tarot, we have Illusions of Success (Cups), Uselessness (Swords), and Failure (Stones). Only Courage (Wands) can bring us through these difficult times.