I know we’re not supposed to have favourite Tarot cards, or least-favourites, but we’re human after all and it’s our nature to put things in categories – especially categories that hint of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or at least ‘good’ and ‘better’. The Chariot is a card that I wouldn’t really have put in any category because it’s never really engaged me very much. It looks like a card full of obvious symbolism and meaning and for that reason it didn’t feel like a card that needed much examination. I was blinded by the science. There is so much going on in this card, my mind just blanked it all out. So let’s take some time here and really dig deeply into this vastly important and mystical card.
The whole image of the Thoth Chariot is static, even more so than the RWS version because the Thoth Charioteer is clearly sitting with his legs crossed (i.e. he’s not standing). His legs form a solid, three-pointed base, as we need to do when we sit on the ground to meditate. We need both knees and our bum to be touching the ground. Adding in the circle of his arms and head, we have a pyramid, the first 3-D solid. The circle of his arms reminds me of the loving embrace of The Empress, holding something precious: Life. In this case, Life is a red and blue platter reflecting six rays of light.
This is the Grail. In Grail legend, it is described sometimes as a cup and sometimes as a platter, coming from the original ‘Hallows’ four holy items: the cup, the platter, the spear, and the sword. Sound familiar? The ‘Grail’ is less a specific item and more a concept, and although usually people are referring to the cup of Christ, we can have a look at what difference it makes here to include a platter – Disks – rather than the Cup that we see in another card ruled by Cancer, the Knight of Cups. A platter is about food and nourishment, and the Grail makes it about Spiritual nourishment.
There are ten, five-petalled flowers on the Charioteer’s armour. The five-petalled flowers refer to Geburah, the 5th Sephira which the Chariot is travelling to; there are also five blue-white rings behind the Chariot. (If you look at the Knight of Disks, you see that there are three rings surrounding him and his horse – they are heading into Binah, the 3rd Sephira. In fact, the Chariot originates in Binah, so I would read a connection there between the Knight of Disks and the Chariot. I do read the Knight of Disks as a Grail Knight and the Charioteer is his more directed, earth-bound counterpart.)
Why ten of these flowers? Ten is a special number for several reasons, but here I think the point is that it corresponds to the Hebrew letter Yod, which itself represents the Name and the Word of God. The Charioteer is bringing us a Grail, and the meaning of the Grail is the Word of God. These blessings are there to nourish and fortify us so that we can go further on our Spiritual quest.
The card includes the colours of three of the Elements: red, blue, and yellow, for Fire, Water, and Air. The dressed stone floor the Chariot rests on is made of Air, not Earth, because it is a heavenly chariot, not an earthly one. The order of the colours is important. Looking at the platter, our eye is drawn first to the centre: red. Moving outward, we then see blue, then six yellow rays. That is the order of the Elements in the Four Worlds: Fire first (Atziluth), then Water (Briah), then Yetzirah (Air). Is there any Earth at all in the card? The first three elements combine to make Earth, after all. So, maybe a little, in all the circles, and maybe especially in the Grail itself as it relates to the suit of Disks. Something being brought to us, in a form we can understand and take in. The six rays of light on the Grail platter remind us that after Geburah we are heading to Tiphareth, the 6th Sephira: Christ-consciousness, the awareness that you are already Divine.
I’ve saved the creatures in front of the Chariot for last because they’re quite special. There are four of them instead of the usual two, and their faces are that of a bull, an eagle, a human, and a lion. Do those faces sound familiar? They are the same faces that we see in the RWS World card, but here they are a team of fully realised creatures sitting – they are upright, rather than the lounging sphinxes in the RWS, but they are still not going anywhere. Their stillness is potential, and it’s the point: they can go anywhere – in any of the four directions.
Here’s where it gets real. These four creatures and the Chariot are illustrations of the Throne-Chariot of God from the famously mystical vision of Ezekiel:
And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. (E 1:4)
Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. (E 1:5)
As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. (E 1:10)
And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. (E 1:26)
The four creatures in Ezekiel each have all four faces, so they each individually face all four directions. On the Thoth Chariot card the creatures have one face but their multiplicity is represented by the interchange of feet – the bull has a lion’s paws, the eagle has a human’s feet, the human has an eagle’s claws, and the lion has a bull’s hooves.
On the opposite pillar of the Tree of Life, the Hierophant connects Heaven and Earth to bring down Spiritual teachings. His Hebrew letter, Vau, means ‘nail’, the image of nailing two worlds together. The Chariot’s letter is Cheth, meaning ‘fence’ or ‘enclosure’ and since we are heading into the clearing and destructive energy of Geburah, we know that it is the Chariot that will help us knock down any barriers to our Spiritual quest for understanding. The blessings of Divinity are here: the Grail, the Word of God, the four ‘living creatures’, and a soldier – a Grail Knight – who are all prepared to move in any direction to help us overcome misunderstandings and hesitations as we work our way back to Spirit.