The Chariot: Looking for King’s Meaning

Maori Tattoo Tarot Deck The Chariot card

Nowadays the Tarot system is under development (we can also write ‘underdevelopment’ because we don’t use its full potential). A few people believe in cards interpretations at a superficial level and accept reading results as a sentence of higher authority, but consider Tarot as a roadmap of the life path with signs, indicating potential pitfalls and problems. Instead of memorizing of cards’ meanings borrowed from different books – there are some meanings, often contradictory – a modern reader learns how to find out valid interpretations relying upon both logic and intuition, old Tarot tradition and new findings. Sure, to read the life path roadmap accurately, ‘Meaning is King.’

Let’s try such an approach with the Chariot card. To elicit a new meaning, we use several different Tarot decks. First, we take the oldest Sola Busca Tarocchi. With no doubt, it is authentic, but its Major Arcana cards look unfamiliar for the contemporary Tarot community. Second, we use Le Tarot de Marseille (Alejandro Jodorowsky supposes it as an authentic deck). Third, we choose the modern Maori Tattoo Tarot deck. It is curiously enough to check and compare the Chariot card meanings in a couple of old decks and the new one.

The seventh trump in Sola Busca Tarocchi is Deo Tavro. Opening the Mauro Chiappini’s book ‘I Tarocchi Sola-Busca’, we can read about the character of this card. It was a real person: Deiotarus, the king of Galatia, and ally of Rome. On the card, he depicted sitting on a triumphal egg-shaped chariot, and holding in his right hand a scepter as a symbol of power. In 44 BC the king was falsely accused by his grandson of plotting the murder of Caesar, but great Cicero defended him, and Deiotarus kept his life and position successfully.

Michel Morin in his book ‘Le Tarot de Marseille’ provide a reader with broad meanings of the Chariot card, briefing as the young king (see a golden crown on his head), riding a chariot with a sceptre in his hand, and with images of the sun and the moon on his shoulders. A golden table separates the lower worlds (matter) from the top world (the spirit). We omit other details as insignificant ones (such as “canopy over his head protects him from cosmic radiation.”

On the Chariot card of the Maori Tattoo Tarot deck, a young Maori king (to be precise, the Maori called this position a ‘chief’) rides a shark, balancing himself. It is a reminder about the mythical lost civilization of Maori ancestors, probably Atlantis, where humans and sharks live in harmony. Sharks hold a spiritual status as a god that keep and guide sea voyagers and fishermen.

The Chariot’s generally accepted meanings include victory, triumph, success, self-control, confidence, commitment, and so on. All these definitions seem today rather superficial, talking nothing about psychological driving forces behind the terms. To discover them, let’s try to analyze designs, a historical background and other factual contents of cards more carefully. Deiotarus undertook no efforts to defend himself (Cicero did). King sits in the egg-shaped chariot (as if he inside a protective shell) without any horses to ride. He does nothing, following a natural flow of events.

The Chariot in Le Tarot de Marseille does not hold the reins and the horses run free, symbolizing the idea that they are not restrained (a natural flow of events again!). The golden table, four poles, and the canopy over his head form together some kind of protective space around the king. In the Maori Tattoo Tarot deck, the Chariot restrains his impulses and maintains self-discipline to follow the path on which the shark drives him.

Carl Jung’s in his ‘Red Book’ explained this phenomenon. According to Jung, the ‘Self’ archetype, the central point of the human psyche, needs some space to protect internal thoughts, emotions, and feelings from external information and events. Being protected, a person can track a stream of happenings. Let say, “We’re the masters to navigate through life.”

By Dr. Paul, The Rising Sun Publishing House

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