VII. The Chariot



Meaning:  Simply for being in the right time and place, you will be rewarded.  To make the use of fortune, take a part of what you’ve been given to share with others.

Reverse:  Selfishness, uptightness, poor reception of others.  Self isolation and limitation, fear of ordinary situations.  You must face the crowd, and you must play your part.




The Marseilles ‘mis-spelling’, Charior in Latin means Dearer.  The idea of a Chariot seems to have a more ordinary, cart in a procession appearance in the cards.  Though a chariot might first lead to the idea of the Sun moving across the sky, there is a card for the Sun later in the deck, and though taught in mythology as a common belief, it is better to call it a folk symbol, like the stork which brings newborns down the chimney.  This card is not the solar chariot, by design.  A regal male or female may be found riding in it, or rather are being presented in it.  It may have two or four steeds, they may be horses or other animals.  The Chariot may be drawn like a blocky alcove, or depict something realistic, but it is usually moving towards the viewer.

From early times and still part of life in the Renaissance, a Triumph might easily be understood as a parade.   These parades went on for various reasons – old costume carnivals and processions that couldn’t be put down and were thinly disguised, for the public display of sacred objects, for the display of a victorious athlete or general, for the introduction of a new royal, and for the funeral of the same.

Going on a long, winding walk through town is a risky affair for nobility, especially when times are hard and there’s dissatisfaction.  So for PR purposes, whether to gain support for new leaders, to quell the angry mob, or to just attract a good crowd in the first place, such processions were frequently accompanied by the act of someone tossing something nice into the public.  New coins with the new monarch are a classic tradition.  Candy for the kids, as occupying soldiers employed in modern times when rolling into a new town in Iraq.  Loaves of bread.  Something from the brewery.  The Chariot then, is a card about charity, the act of those with more securing their relationship to the people through giving.  And Charity is a Humanist ideal to which no one should object, a safe ethic to champion without ruffling feathers.

In the Paris tarot we have another amusing notion, with the Chariot portrayed as some swan drawn vehicle of Dionysus, together with a flail bearing Eros.  In that formulation, to be sure the Chariot is the labor of Love, and represents the procession of Delight, the scene carved into the sarcophagi of Bacchants.  In this procession, the viewer is drawn in by gifts, of wine, music, and the freedom to let your hair down.

Triumph of Bacchus.  Any parade carved in stone is likely to be referred to as a Triumph.
Triumph of Bacchus. Any parade carved in stone is likely to be referred to as a Triumph.

The Chariot then has a great deal in common with the modern parade float, it is a public presentation, and can be an announcement.  It’s interesting to note that in the

A Chariot in english describes a very specific thing, the tool of war we’ve seen in movies.  It might help to know that in the Romance languages the word doesn’t have this sharp distinction.  Chariot, Char, Carre, Car, and Cart all are interchangeable, it’s really just a word for something with wheels that you can ride in.  So the sense of conquering and such that sometimes appear in interpretations is our own addition.

The Triumph of
The Triumph of Archduchess Isabella, Brussells Ommeganck, May 31, 1615. 


As floats in a Parade, made with sumptious materials and artistry to wow the people on the streets, the Carts in a Triumph will also carry miniature dioramas of myths, reenactments of the saints, and relics of religious import.  The Chariot is instead the image of moving theatre, traveling stages that can shape public perception.

Triumph of Archduchess Isabella, Apollo and the Nine Muses
Triumph of Archduchess Isabella, Apollo and the Nine Muses
Triumph of the Archduchess Isabella, DIana and her Huntresses
Triumph of the Archduchess Isabella, DIana and her Huntresses
Triumph of Archduchess Isabella, Annunciation of Mary Float

Seeing a visual in the form of an exciting parade, one can imagine better how a game imitating such spectacles could be popular.  Hidden in plain sight, in entertaining color and composition, stories old and new transform an ordinary day into a chaotic, carnival atmosphere of beauty, meaning and ideological transmission.  The Tarot, like the Triumphs of old, is a media technology that aims to deliver a certain worldview.  In the excitement of Humanist times, these were the radio and television of the day.