Tarot 101, My Way – Major Arcana: The Lovers and The Chariot

The Lovers and the Chariot together signal a departure or a new phase, an opportunity leading to decisive movement that brings optimistic tidings. The Lovers is one of the most misrepresented trump cards in modern tarot art, with many artists seeing only “ecstatic love” in it, a kind of “soul-mate connection” (or is that “twin flame” these days?). But the French version was titled “the Lover,” singular rather than plural, and showed a man apparently trying to make a difficult choice (not necessarily romantic) between two women, one of whom might be his mother. We have A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith to thank for the present excess of bliss, although to his credit Waite was trying to convey an esoteric principle – the Soul or Subconscious Mind (the Woman looking heavenward) and not the Intellect or Conscious Mind (the Man gazing at the Woman) as the gateway to the Divine, or Superconscious, Mind (the Angel). Overactive imaginations with no grasp of occult subtleties went to work on the image and came up with suggestive scenes of entwined lovers in various stages of undress. I prefer to hew closer to the Tarot de Marseille model and simply consider it as meaning a fork in the road or crossroads. (I know, I have no poetry in my heart.)

With that in mind, the Chariot can be seen as the conveyance that carries the seeker away from the crossroads bearing the resolve to make the best of the decision. Earlier interpretations of this card emphasized the idea of “Victory” or “Triumph” (in Waite’s view it was of the purely physical kind), but in today’s atmosphere of infinite relativity it has been reduced to the notion of “movement,” especially away from an uncongenial situation. For Elizabeth Hazel (author of The Tarot Decoded), the number Seven represents a step in a new direction that demands preparation in order to avoid a misstep, thus suggesting an imminent ordeal or “trial-in-the-making.” In an earlier post I talked about the Lovers and its chauffer, the Chariot, embarking from the crossroads onto either a hopeful “high road” (Strength and its “numerological counterpart,” the Star – 1+7 = 8) or a despairing “low road” (the Devil, which shares a numerological convergence with the Lovers – 1+5 = 6); the Chariot doesn’t care which path is chosen, it will deliver what the seeker wants, even if it is a descent into self-destructive temptation. On the plus side, the Chariot relates to the astrological sign of Cancer, which can be the very soul of caution, so it is more likely to lead on into its successor, Leo (Strength) than to its hostile opposite, Capricorn (the Devil).

The Major Arcana : Trump 6 – The Lovers


Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

Inspiration, Motive, power and action, arising from inspiration and impulse.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

Attraction, love, beauty, trials overcome.”
The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

Openness to inspiration, intuition, intelligence, second sight, childishness, frivolity, thoughtfulness divorced from practical consideration, indecision, self-contradiction, union in a shallow degree with others.”


Although “love-struck” seekers are fond of seeing this card as an indication of meeting the “love of their life” or “soul-mate,” in more realistic terms it shows reaching a cross-roads in life and having to make an important decision. This duality is reflected in its astrological association to the sign of Gemini, “The Twins.” Older versions of the card are titled “The Lover,” and depict a man between two women, looking indecisive, like he can’t make up his mind which to choose; he has his hand covetously (and perhaps lecherously) on the younger, prettier woman, but is looking toward the visibly older, more matronly one who seems to be commanding his attention. He appears to be saying “I really want this sexy one here, but I would probably be better off with that sensible one over there.” Some authorities see the older woman as his disapproving mother, suggesting the cautionary “pull” of a stable home life over the stimulating uncertainty of taking up with enticing external attractions. The RWS version is more about the role of the subconscious mind (the woman) in mediating between the conscious mind (the man) and the super-conscious realm of spirit (the angel). This esoteric aspect is somewhat at odds with the divination meanings of physical attraction and love that Waite ascribes to the card. In practice, the idea of a choice to be made is usually the most reliable interpretation of the imagery.

Here are a few more thoughts on the Lovers:


The Major Arcana: Trump 7 – The Chariot


Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Triumph. Victory. Health. Success though sometimes not stable and enduring.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“Succor, providence; also war, triumph, presumption, vengeance, trouble.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

“ Triumph, victory, hope, the ‘die-hard,’ ruthlessness, obedience, faithfulness”


Contemporary readers often seize upon the idea of “rapid movement” implied by the wheeled chariot and ignore the one of triumph over obstacles. However, the trials this overlooked state of conflict portends are usually of a physical and rational nature rather than challenges leading to a more exalted type of self-mastery. The chariot is basically a mobile fortress carrying the Emperor’s urge for conquest forward into battle in the person of his lieutenant, the Charioteer. The sign of Cancer is connected with this card, and the crab’s hard carapace is another symbol of a portable defense. The concept of “stability through motion” is a good analogy for the Chariot, as well as the more combative aphorisms “The best defense is a good offense” and “It’s harder to hit a moving target.” Staying loose, remaining alert for major opportunities and “striking while the iron is hot” are all suggested by the Chariot as a figurative “battle-wagon.” The notion of “impermanent success” is also an unavoidable consequence of the Chariot’s crusading nature, which can drive it forward to the next encounter while leaving unfinished business behind.

A little background material on the Chariot:


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