From the Old Notebook: The Chariot

Hola, gente. These are my old notes from 2008–resurrecting my first tarot notebook. New notes are added in purple, and deep thoughts are added at the end 🙂

Pamela Colman Smith  The Chariot

Chariot–major journey, willpower, confidence, may symbolize the mind, construct of willpower made to enact specific goals.

Stasis–not being rebellious (as in Kn sw) again suggests he or his chariot is a concept

No Reins–the mind is in control of opposing forces of life

Castle walls--known world, foundation proceeding success, experience/education, comfort zone

White Sphinx–joy, positive, ideal self helps chariot rise to heaven (This goes back to the Lovers and the realm of ideals!)

Black Sphinx–suffering, negative, appetite–earthly desires drags chariot down to earth.

Both–facing away from each other, opposing forces, Charioteer’s will holding them together

Laurel Wreath–victory

8-Pointed Star on Crown–8 paths to spiritual perfection.

Staffwillpower, internal dominion

Veil–mysteries of unconscious, divine knowledge, divine purpose

Water–he is coming from (passed through) the land of subconscious–the first step away from his known home.

Faces on Shoulders–Uren and Thummin, joy & sorrow, revelation & truth

Square on Chest–dedication to work within the limitations of phys. world

Belt–signs of planets, reaffirms divine knowledge, also working with the hand you’re dealt

Skirt–covered in sigils, ceremonial magic

Circle With Wings:* (More on this later!) Egyptian symbol for “logos” or divine world, seen on Ankhs and at the top of a Caduceus

Red Thimble–Hindu lingam (male) & Yoni (female)

Thoughts from the future!

When studying these cards, even when intentionally picking the symbols apart, it’s important not to get frantic. On one hand, if there is a symbol that is supposed to refer to something very well-known and well-established, obviously I want to know. It depends on the author and artists’ intentions. Was this symbol meant to be something obvious, like the rose from the Rosicrucian cross? Or was it meant to be a little enigmatic so that the student would have to search?

A lot of understanding these cards is just spending time staring at them, contemplating, pulling the strings of your own mind instead of looking elsewhere for an immediate answer. Well, I’m about to contradict myself a bit here, so let’s just say I am puzzling over this seal on the front of the Chariot and I did both–I meditated on it, but then I also opened up a book and found something interesting.

So let’s start by just pulling some strings. We’ve seen wings in this deck, usually on Angels. Maybe only on Angels? So there is a relation to heaven, spirituality, the mind reaching higher planes. And the circle usually represents infinity or wholeness–the wholeness of the entire universe.

A shield? Must be protection. Left to my own devices, I would look at the red symbol in the middle of the shield and think of a dreidel. But I was told it is the male/female balance, which makes sense–it looks like a rod going through a cup or disc. Hey! A rod–willpower, or even a flash of lightning–an epiphany! And a disc–Earth, physical existence–reality as we know it. This is the Charioteer forcing… or, er, exacting… his will on established existence. The shield is protecting him in his mission, and the circle with wings is raising him up… giving him the blessing of heaven? Well that’s the seal of a magical spell if I ever saw one.

What did I find in my book? Well I happened to flip to Farohar (or Favarahar,) an ancient symbol of Zoroastrianism. It shows Zoroaster, a prophet, atop a circle with wings extending out on either side. The disc represents the sun, and the notion of eternity. The wings, in three layers, represent teachings of Zoroaster: good thoughts, good words, good deeds. He also has two banners–white and black (!)–to show the duality of nature, and how our challenge is to bring balance between opposing forces.

The sun + wings also brings an Icarus element: a warning about getting ahead of yourself, aiming too high. Is it the ambition of the Chariot who builds the Tower in the first place? They do share the same reduced number (The Tower is 16, 6 + 1 = 7.)
With the Charioteer, the question is: Is his mission truly just and based on virtues other than self-interest? Notice this is only card isn’t the finale of the entire Major Arcana, it’s only #7. It may be a high point, but there are many challenges still to come.


From the Old Notebook: Rider-Waite-Smith

old notebook fool

I am dusting off my very first tarot journal from TWO THOUSAND AND SEVEN (sorry, had to be dramatic,) when I was 19 years old. I have all these old notes locked away: original layouts, ideas, philosophies, and notes from classes, that I always wanted to publish.

I want to start with my detailed notes on the Rider Waite Smith Tarot. Some friends and I created a study group where we picked apart every card in detail over the course of several months (This was actually late 2008.)

Mostly these notes consist of breaking down symbols or small details in the card. The leader of the group, Carl, gathered information from various sources (which unfortunately I did not write down) and put them all together for us. I’m going to publish these notes mostly verbatim, starting with the RWS Major Arcana. I might add some annotations and I’ll make it clear when I do.

From there, we’ll see where we end up! Maybe I’ll do all 78 cards, or maybe I’ll cover the minors with some broad strokes.

As a side note, for anyone who wants to start their own study group, after we all wrote down the meanings of the symbols, we took turns discussing the following:

  1. What the card meant to each person, and
  2. If the person had a memorable read on that card in the past (e.g. “The 8 of wands always comes up for me when the internet is involved.” or “I pulled this card for a lady who later found out she was pregnant.”)

I hear a lot of people say, even after many years of practice, there are cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith they just can’t connect to. After breaking down the symbols in each card, I was finally comfortable with the entire deck. I almost never got stumped. And if I did, I picked one tiny detail that was speaking to me and focused on that first. Piece by piece, the entire picture would fall together. So perhaps these notes can be helpful to others, too.

Anyhoo, cheerio! Onward and outward!