On June 22nd we moved into Cancer season, whose card is number seven, The Chariot.
In this card, we see a handsome armored figure inside a decoratively adorned cement chariot. The perspective is square on. The city is in the background. The wheels rest on the water, the chariot sits stationary on the ground, and the scene is motionless.
The two sphinxes are imposing and seductive. In fact, everything about this card is seductive. From the magic wand held in the charioteer’s hand and the eight-pointed star on his crown, down to the lunar faces on his shoulder plates and the veil above and behind him.
This card is packed with the symbols from lessons learned in each previous card. We learned from the Magician that we’re equipped with all the tools our journey will require, and we see that magic wand again.
We’ve learned from the High Priestess, whose veil is repeated here, that our intuition and emotions come from source.
We know how to receive from The Empress, represented by the stars on the veil. We’ve stood up to stand out in The Emperor, demonstrated by the square on his breastplate.
The Hierophant has initiated us into a journey of discovery of Spirit on Earth, which is symbolized in both the lunar shoulder plates and the eight-pointed star on his crown.
Finally, the circle and peg symbol under the wings at the face is a modified version of the Hindu lingam and yoni, which represent the unification of male and female. This calls to the maturation of The Lovers card energy.
Everything in line one of the Majors has been in service to the creation of a self. When we arrive at The Chariot, we are ourselves. We have completed the 'I’ in "I am".
It is very important to recognize this stage of maturation and achievement. It is a graduation day. The persona we present to the world is pristine, successful, confident, admired, and in control. What’s not like?
Much of the discussion about The Chariot in Tarot communities is focused on how important it is to leave the physical chariot behind; however, to successfully depart, we must first take a victory lap. If we don’t honor this stage, we risk becoming stuck here.
Why? Because at this stage, the ego is fully formed and if we don’t learn to work with the ego and acknowledge it as a part, but not the sum of the self, the ego will run the show henceforth.
It’s important to point out that this card is not titled The Charioteer. In all the seductive imagery, it becomes our work to distinguish the vehicle from the driver, the self from the journey.
What follows in lines 2 and 3 of the Majors represent the journey of the self through life.
Life presents us with prestige and defeats, contractions and expansions, joy and despairs – so that we may be transformed.
Everything that takes place before we can identify the self is formational, everything that follows can thus become transformational.
To give an example, ideologues and authoritarians identify with what they can understand. Similarly, seekers identify with what they cannot understand. Each option a sphynx, each looking in different directions.
The charioteer seems to be anchored inside the poured cement of the chariot. If we identify the self as only our persona, the charioteer, we become stuck very quickly.
We all know someone whose wealth or success has become a prison. Self-control, self-will, success, and external acknowledgment are important, but they can only get us so far.
Alternatively, if we can identify the self as the chariot, the vessel that maintains in-between states of knowing and not knowing, then we can peacefully move into the next phase, and line two.
It’s not a mistake that sphynxes drive the chariot. Remember the riddle of the sphynx?
The answer if you recall, is a human. As an infant he crawls on all fours, as an adult he walks on two legs, and in old age, he uses a cane. The plague of Thebes was lifted when Odysseus answered this riddle. The answer came from understanding the nature of humanity.
My first Chariot memory took place when I was a very little girl. I had a pair of snoopy slippers that I absolutely adored. I mentioned to my mom one day that my toes were getting squished by them and she casually replied that I was probably outgrowing them. I immediately burst into a fit of tears. This was the first time that I was old enough to identify any clothing as 'mine'. I didn't know that it was natural and inevitable that I wouldn't fit into those slippers my entire life.
I remember encountering The Chariot again before boarding a plane from Seattle to return to San Francisco. I had just graduated college with honors. I imagined that that would be a perfect time for the plane to crash. I had completed everything that was expected of me scholastically, I was admired, and I had no idea what I was going to do next. What a tidy ending it might have been.
This is why The Chariot is aligned with Cancer. While the shell of the crab, like the armor of the charioteer, is strong and handsome, it can't grow with us. We cannot experience life as an adult by crawling on all fours as we did during infancy, and if we resist the aging process after adulthood, we are rejecting wisdom itself.
On a macro level, our addiction to fossil fuels is an example of a refusal to leave The Chariot. We know that our planet cannot sustain life - human and otherwise, at the rate of consumption and carbon emissions. We also know that there are alternatives that could have been implemented decades ago, but we lacked the courage. The gas-guzzling Hummer version of The Chariot will certainly deny any future generations of an inhabitable planet, and yet we resist change.
Resistance to leave The Chariot is completely normal. If we identify the self with the sphinx that says "I know, I'm in control", we can become arrogant, static, and ignore any information that contradicts that knowing. If we identify the self with the sphynx that says, "I don't know" we can similarly fall into despair, complicity, or nihilism.
Using the climate change analogy, the first sphynx supports climate change denial. Arguments that shifts into clean energy would rob coal miners of jobs make good sense in that case. Identifying with the sphynx of the unknown can similarly keep us stuck in The Chariot by suggesting that the problem is too great for any individual to make a difference.
When we leave Cancer and The Chariot on the 22nd, we will move into Leo season with the Strength card. Between now and then, I want to invite you to review where on the wheel of the year you are.
What have you achieved that deserves recognition? How can you honor and celebrate everything you have done so that you can identify and acknowledge whatever part of The Chariot you are ready to leave behind.
If you feel resistance to walking away from some known element that your self identifies with, that is a good indicator that you’re on the right track. If the invitation to leave something behind triggers fears of the unknown, that is also a sign that you’re onto something. The ego longs to keep us where we feel safe and what we already know, so much so that growth can feel like death, but trust. Trust that all your achievements, recognitions, and awards are not the sum of your true self. Crossing this threshold doesn’t need to be traumatic, but if grief does arise, that’s okay too.
In my last Full Moon ritual, I offered a “Chariot Bath” idea. There’s no need to wait for a full moon to use this ritual as a tool to honor and release the Chariot, you can do it at any time. Stepping out of a luxurious bath is very much like stepping out of The Chariot. It doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with the water, it is simply time to be reborn!