Unlike the card of the Lovers, The Chariot represents full control over our emotional faculties and sexual impulses, portraying a mature self.
The card depicts a Charioteer dressed in noble clothing and golden armour. The abundance of red in his clothes represents power and courage, symbolising control through the strength of his determination. He has the posture of a victorious lord who overcomes his obstacles and returns triumphant – his solar halo and laurel crown confirm it and suggest his spiritual evolution.
In his shoulders are two golden suns related to the Sun in Splendour in his glory, and also Sol Invictus, the unconquered Sun. The Sun also means brightness of consciousness, the active principle who fertilises the Earth (the subconscious mind). In alchemy, the Sun is the living potentiality of wholeness that dwells in every individual.
Under his red cape we can see a pendant with a polygon that represents the element Earth and his control over the physical world.
His right hand holds a golden sceptre – his active side leading the Chariot and his own future.
The Charioteer stands bigger than his horses as he makes the vehicle move forward, taking total control of his actions and knowing exactly where to go. He demands dynamism, motion, to put into action body and mind, knowledge, and intuition.
The face of the Charioteer looks firm and calm, while he tames the horses with stoic tranquillity so they get balanced and symmetrical.
The darker and lighter horses describe the opposing forces the Charioteer needs to control. Two of them are wilder than the others and represent his instinctive desires. Finding the balance between heart and mind is the key to a glorious outcome.
The pillars on the back side represent the harmony between consciousness (the red pillars) and subconscious mind (impulses).
If we observe the Chariot itself, it looks unmovable. However, it is merged with the Earth and it mirrors the movement of the planet, implying the motion of a personal development.
“Know the self is the rider in a chariot,
and the body, simply the chariot.
Know the intellect is the charioteer,
and the mind, as simply the reins.
The senses, they say, are the horses,
and sense objects are the paths around them…
When a man lacks understanding,
and his mind is never controlled;
His senses do not obey him,
as bad horses, a charioteer.” – Katha Upanishad, Adyaya I Valli III, 1.3.3-1.3.5.
Upright Meaning and Interpretation
Success, Determination, Willpower, Control.
When you get The Chariot in a spread, it is a sign that you feel inspired and ambitious. This is a perfect time to focus on your goals. Some obstacles may pop up in your way but if you trust in your abilities, you will be successful. The card points the movement in the right direction.
The key to your triumph is to keep motivated and determined. Your efforts will see fruits if you advance with calmness and confidence – keep your focus and put worries aside.
The card could also signify travel, both literally and figuratively, meaning you are walking along the path of inner progress.
Reversed Meaning and Interpretation
Lack of Direction, Aggression, Powerlessness.
The reversed Chariot may indicate that you are feeling powerless and lacking direction over your life, and this could drive you into frustration or uncontrolled anger. Victory is not certain in the current path you chose.
You may feel unmotivated and uninspired, but do not let other people drive your Chariot.
This card in reverse could come as a wake-up call to remind you that you need to stand up like the Charioteer and concentrate on your personal goals to recover control.
The card itself represents the water in motion, the energy produced to move the watermill, or the strength and determination of a waterfall. When in reverse, the opposite is revealed, meaning that water energy is stagnant or dammed up like a swamp.