A Platonic Connection to The Chariot: The Tarot’s Seventh Major Arcana Card
(Based on the representations found on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.)
The Chariot is said to appear when you need encouragement. After making a choice to pursue something (as spurred by Mercury in The Lovers card), willpower and control are suggested prerequisites for achieving your desired aims.
In the ancient world, the two-wheeled chariot was akin to a tactical military vehicle that carried archers into battle. The archer’s success rested on their ability to access the four corners of the chariot, shooting in all directions, while a steady driver maneuvered the vehicle. While the archer needed to hit the mark, the chariot driver kept a laser-focus on the direction in which the vehicle was headed. This required a certain facility with the reins, steadying the course for the ultimate victory.
In traditional astrology, one of the mitigating factors for debilitated planet within the beams of the sun is the notion of “chariot.” For example, a planet within fifteen degrees of the sun is said to be burnt up by its rays: it fails to express its usual beneficial characteristics, if otherwise unafflicted, unless in some mitigating circumstance. Venus under the beams in Pisces would receive such mitigation by virtue of being in the place of her exaltation. The chariot thereby protects the occupant from the harmful solar rays — something Icarus might have appreciated had the course of mythology allowed!
Several accounts of this card emphasize the dominion that the charioteer holds over the two sphinxes. Citing Plato’s dialogue, Phaedo, the charioteer’s primacy over the body and the mind, which each sphinx respectively represents, reminds us that triumph rests in our ability to transcend our more shadow qualities. It could very well be yet another depiction of the Jungian-inspired approach of holding the tension of opposites, for through this balancing of the polarities, a new third pathway can emerge.
Less obvious is Cancer’s rulership over this card. The cardinal water sign, typically associated with home and family, defensiveness and deep emotions, appears to have little connection to The Chariot card’s symbolic representations. I have seen tenuous linkages made to the charioteer bringing elements of home with them wherever they go — certainly an interpretation I’m open to considering, but one that does not necessarily align with the themes of action, agency, and potential achievement symbolized by this card.
Cancer season ushers in the summer solstice — the day of the year where light and dark are equally balanced, not unlike the balance the charioteer is thought to exhibit over the two sphinxes. The summer months are associated with the hard work of tending the fields so that the seeds sown in the spring reap a bountiful harvest come the fall. Through this lens, the card may be asking us to be mindful of how we tend our soils, since the work we do now — in the summer of our creative endeavors — can impact what we reap later.
Another potential connection with Cancer may be the meanings of the fixed stars that are found within the sign. The charioteer, after all, wears a crown of stars, similar to the Empress, suggesting a connection to the celestial bodies. The fixed stars of Sirius, Castor, and Pollux are all found between 14 and 23 degrees of Cancer. Sirius is thought to be of the nature of Jupiter and Mars, “[promising] fame, honors and riches,” while the fixed stars of Castor and Pollux guarantee fewer benefits: Castor is said to be of the nature of Mercury and Jupiter, conferring strength of character (though its Venusian streak can lead to indolence, if one is not careful), while Pollux is of the nature of Mars, giving a “subtle, crafty, spirited, brave, audacious, cruel and rash nature.” Perhaps the charioteer is Sirius, over whom all the Jupiterian benefits of fame and riches await, so long as they are able to balance the dual natures of Castor and Pollux?