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(For a list of all card articles, open March 2008 on the sidebar).

Friday, 7 March 2008

The Chariot

blank eyes,
all my strength, power and this,

to be stood at the axle,
these beasts that tug towards the shadows

while I am stone
I am angry
I am the sun, the star of morning
I am the slowly-turning centre

And there is nought to do but wait and learn to be.

If only everything were as straightforward as the Chariot. I mean, you could draw it in 30 seconds in MS Paint. In fact, I think I will:

Guy in box on wheels, being pulled by two similar but different horses. That's it. Never varies. You can go home now.


Wait, this is a blog. Got to write about something.

So, guy in box. (More rarely, girl in box). That's generally you. The box on wheels is generally an ever-moving life that never stops, and which you can only control indirectly, with the reins which may or may not be in your hands, and if they're not they bloody should be. The Chariot is the deck's big green go button; either it takes you for a ride, or you're all dressed up with no place to go.

Would be easy if it weren't for the bloody horses. (Usually horses. Sphinxes, sometimes. I'd dearly love to see a Chariot drawn by two swans).

Since the RWS, there's always been a white one and a black one. Often they seem to be pulling in different directions, or maybe one of them isn't pulling at all, but if you could only get them both facing the right way and interested in moving forward then... Some just read the two differing horses as representing life's conflicting urges and responsibilities, but I go more specific; I think the white horse is all your conscious feelings, your settled plans, the things you understand and know about and want to have in your life. The black horse is everything else about you. The secrets you keep, the things you don't want to want, the truths you'll never see until years later, the dreams and forgotten things, and the things you don't yet know about yourself and your life. Nemesis lurks there, between the cracks. The gods guide the black horse along paths the white horse cannot see; sometimes it may reach the destination first, other times not at all.

To make them work together - now, that's something.

Images of the Chariot

A beautiful card from the Intuitive Tarot, one that pushes the horses to the border and focuses on the drive and power of the charioteer. He wears a solar mask, and holds not just the reins, but a morningstar; it's the white horse he seems to wish to castigate, and all...

The Visconti-Sforza Chariot is drawn by one rearing horse, as a man comes by on another, more sedate horse, seemingly to greet the lady charioteer. Here the card's little psychodrama is out to socialise; the lady's horse is startled by the newcomer, but this unpredictable other seems to mean no harm.

Amano's Chariot is fantastically energetic and flowing; the unnamable beasts that draw it are emanating from the charioteer's hands, but the black beast is already drawing away...

The Osho Zen Chariot is called Awareness, and is a lone breakaway from the guy-in-box-w/animals theme, instead showing a calm face, and a frightened shadow. This is progress, in Zen; to be aware in the moment, not a flailing shadow.

Now, a c/ped note from Agla, something she sent me back when I was playing Final Fantasy X:

D'you see yet what I meant that time about Yuna being the Chariot? It's *her* pilgrimage-she's the reason for it, the centre. Ultimately, it's up to her when they stop and when they go. She's the only one that can make a Guardian of friend or stranger, and she's the only one who could chuck someone out of the party. It's because of Yuna's choice-a free choice no matter what her father did, nobody *made* her say 'I'll do what my dad did'-to be a summoner that they are on pilgrimage at all-however, she is very definitely not doing things just because of what she wants. She's being buffeted by the winds on the edge, tugged at by Duty and Desire. The Chariot is a bit of a paradox, I think-remember that in the Waite the charioteer does not hold the reins. Once it gets going you are not really in control of the situation, you're picking up speed, heading for you don't know what...Choices are being thrown at you, and you don't have much time to deliberate. You make a choice and follow it and find out what it means-often it means nothing like you thought it did. When one horse is dragging you to darkness and the other wrenching toward the light, making the chariot go where you will can be pretty darn impossible. Often it's all you can do not to crash.

What I wrote about the Chariot in 2005

Oh, the Chariot. Its first puzzle is quite a simple one; you look at it and you see the horses and you see the charioteer and you talk about who they are and what they do but the card is called the Chariot. Those other things, wills and words maybe, but what it's about is that chariot. It's often suggested that that means the outer person, but I don't think so, I think it means life. Something like that, like the steady thing inside that races over the face of time... I do know that last time I drew this card, reading for myself, I was very sure that the two horses were, to me then, myself and M.

So here you are standing within your own life. I suppose this is the seat of 'this one', then; the inescapable fact and responsibility of your life. You're in the Chariot; you can't get out of it and if you don't take the reins, no one will. If you don't try to move, or you don't try to control those horses, you're still the charioteer and you can't escape that role. No one is ever anyone other than themselves, and no one ever has control over any life but their own. So take the reins, because if you don't, no one else will.

This doesn't mean that there's only one direction, though - there is choice here, control here, we're past the Lovers now. See, the other thing about the Chariot is that there's two horses. This is one of those Chariot things that only clicked for me earlier this year - that those horses are, in the most literal sense I am capable of understanding it, a matter of yin and of yang. They are the two opposing currents of life, the bright and heady steel and lightning, and the soft and quiet night and water. The Chariot has its own silence, full of purpose and reality, its own stillness, stillness because it is time to be still; indeed, patience, true purposeful nothing, is a virtue of the Chariot more than anything else in the deck. And yes, Moondance K'Treva spoke for the Chariot. To say that a choice to do nothing is still a choice is a line straight from the black horse's mouth.

I've always been amused by the fact that Taoism maintains that black is more virtuous than white - but that's the Hierophant's business, not the Chariot's. The Chariot doesn't care. The Chariot has no moral compass; either horse or neither will do. They're just there, the two horses, the chariot, the charioteer, and what you do with them is up to you. But if you ignore any of them, it's at your peril.

And it's still called the Chariot. I think that's because of what Hagbard Celine said about only the trip being real. It's not solipsism, the tripper isn't even important - it's about the trip.


Close to the end of The Manual by the KLF (professional Discordians; shame about the terrible music and the racist music videos) comes this description of the Chariot:

What has all this got to do with you and our supposed concise instructions on how to make that last leap to pole position?


Because it’s only through mastering the art of having complete control when you are at the same time totally out of control. You must hold the reigns tighter than you have ever held them before but let the chariot head over the cliff top. The abyss is calling.

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