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TotOP - VII - Mastery

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Two of Wands 
TotOP - VII - Mastery

“VII. MASTERY (The Chariot)... a Charioteer with Pentacled crown and Crab (sign of Cancer) breastplate, flourishes a Hazel Whip, standing a forth his Chariot, pulled by four horses of four colours. This is a card of motion, motion of Self. Our transitory life's travel is the moving chariot. The forces which act upon us, and to which we react, are the four elemental horses of Water, Air, Earth, and Fire.”

Den Elder,

Before looking at the Old Path’s Mastery card, I want to briefly discuss and consider some of The Chariot card’s imagery throughout the known history of Tarot. Early Visconti Decks (1400’s +), such as Cary Yale and Sforza, and Marseilles Decks (1500’s +) depict an armoured Charioteer standing upon a stationary ornate Chariot with two horses in front. He is enthroned in the chariot rather than driving it. The earliest decks that I have seen tend to show the two horses as being the same colour (although some Marseilles show a red and a blue horse, but I’m not sure exactly when this first appeared). The Charioteer is never holding the reins. This is also true of the Deo Tauro (VII) card in the Sola Busca Deck (late 1400’s) and the Mars card of the Mantegna (mid 1400’s), although there is a Charioteer galloping across the sky, firmly holding the reigns, in the Luna and Sun cards of this deck.

In the 1789 Etteilla deck, the Chariot begins to move, and the Charioteer is now holding the reins, although the horses remain the same colour. Later versions of “Etteilla influenced” decks draw more and more upon Egyptian themes and the horses are replaced by a black and a white Sphinx.

The Rider Waite/Smith and The Crowley Thoth decks continue with the theme of different coloured Sphinxes during the 1900’s, although they return to the image of the stationary, enthroned Charioteer who is not holding the reins, and, in fact, the Thoth deck shows four sphinxes in the guises of a Bull, a Lion, an Eagle and a Man.

Nowadays different aspects of the card appear in different decks. Sometimes the Chariot is moving but the Charioteer’s hands remain free of the reigns, other times he/she is seen clearly brandishing them.

If you want to browse different 1900’s versions of the Chariot, click this link showing 49 different depictions, including the Old Path version:

Exploring the different interpretations of this card through the years, the Charioteer is often said to represent strong will power, symbolised by his ability to control the horses without reins. I have heard the two different colours of the horses/sphinxes, usually black and white, to mean night and day, conscious and unconscious, past and present, masculine and feminine.

But now we come to the Old Path card, a fast moving, four-horse- drawn vehicle, with the Charioteer grasping the reins firmly in the one hand, and each horse a different colour; so what does this card mean, what does it symbolise and how should we read it?
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Two of Wands  Two of Wands is offline
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A Closer Look!

The man wildly pushing the Chariot forth is almost definitely the Emperor of this deck. His hair does appear rather redder, but in all other appearances he is identical to The Emperor. I think this is one of the reasons why this deck was able to reflect upon The Emperor’s thoughtful, intellectual, fatherly, and peaceful qualities in the actual Emperor card, as it goes on to show his determined powerful nature, driving force and leadership abilities in this card.

The card is called Mastery, not The Chariot. And its main meaning is Mastery Over the Elements. The four horses, and the colours of their individual reigns, represent one of each of the elements. The opaque horse with the flowing mane and the blue reins: water, the blue horse with the stars and moon upon its face and the whispery mane: air, the green horse with daises upon its face and platted corn main: earth, and the orange horse with red rein and flaming mane: fire.

The Achi-type of what Mastery should be shows a man in full control of the elements, with an equal balance of each. However, I do not think that this is really the message of the card, as this is symbolised more by the Temperance (or, in this deck, The Guide) card. I think what this card is reminding us is that we need to take hold of our lives, drive things forward by grabbing hold of each of the elements in our reach, in order to succeed in what we want to do.

For me, The Guide (Temperance) card is a message for life, a reminder to try to keep a balance in our lives, and to continue to take stock of how we approach life and the things we do. Mastery (The Chariot), on the other hand, has a much more immediate, possibly short term message: that of determination, the will, and the confidence to move things forward, and to move others with you, in a particular situation. In this deck it certainly conveys a sense of urgency, the need to take what recourses you have and give it your best shot. Things could definitely go wrong though, and, as strong and impressive as the Emperor looks in this card, I would definitely say he is testing the limits, and his full concentration will be needed to keep this up, as these are wild horses/elements that he is calling upon.

“The fact is that although you may well feel empowered under this influence, remember that to a greater extent than you may realise, your position depends upon the continued good will and co-operation of other people who are also involved in the situation with you.”
Terry Donaldson, Step by Step Tarot, 1995.

In this card he is most certainly calling upon his mastery and symbolic authority to make things happen and keep control. This is fine until those he seeks to control rebel, because, in his drive and determination, he has forgotten to connect with them on a personal level. It is interesting that the next card is Strength. The Charioteer calls upon great physical strength, but there is more to be learnt about this virtue in the next card!

The good elements, suggested by this version of the card, are a drive to do what’s right, a drive to get things done, a drive to keep going in the face of adversity, a drive to fulfil commitments, and driving the will, and confidence, of others. Bad elements of this card scream out pig headedness, anger, ruthlessness, action without any type of thought, war, cruelty – stepping on others, and only thinking of one’s self.

Finally, I think the card in this deck suggests mastery over one’s self. In order to work hard at something, be it work, exercise, a relationship, etc, we have to draw upon all our strength, we have to be disciplined, and we have to fight the inner daemon’s within us which are suggesting not to bother! The Chariot is being driven along by the four elements, representing different aspects of the Charioteer’s personality, over which he must remain strong enough to keep them facing in the same direction.

I like the fact that this Chariot is moving, it makes the card so much more alive than the static ones. Tarot should take advantage of the Chariot as a moving force, in contrast to the many static images of the other cards in the Major Arcana.

I want to end with a quote from Thornsons Principles of Tarot, by Evelyne and Terry Donaldson 1996, because I think it pertains to the Old Path Card very well.

“The Charioteer knows where he is going. Many people who walk around depressed or bored with their lives are in that condition because they literally ‘have nothing to look forward to’; in other words, they have lost their sense of direction and don’t know where they are going in their lives. The Chariot card is getting us to define our goals, focus upon them, rather than thinking around them. Look at the gaze of the Charioteer. In which direction is he looking? Where is his future? Straight ahead! Where is his past? Immediately behind him!”
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VII - Mastery

Astrological Influence - Cancer
Element - Water
Month - June, July
Contributor - Kim Tracey

The strange thing about this card, to me, is how much it doesn't look like the rest of the Major Arcana. By that I mean the lack of a background. All of the Majors, with the exception of Mastery and The Wheel of Fortune, have nearly fully coloured backgrounds. Mastery and The Wheel both have backgrounds that are mostly white, resembling the Minor Arcana. I think this might be done as way to draw your focus into the figure. The meaning of these two cards come from these figures, and perhaps would only be confused by including a background that has no really bearing on the meaning. That's not to say that there isn't a background that wouldn't be appropriate. Perhaps the artist could not think of one that wouldn't have taken away from the meaning or the figure.

The plant in this card is hazel, shown as the wand in the Charioteer's hand. Hazel wands have a long tradition in magical working, but I don't think this is what it is meant to symbolise. I think it is meant to mean luck, protection, and mastery. (Imagine that! )

I like the replacement of two sphinxes/horses shown in most cards with the four horses representing the elements. They certainly do bring to mind the idea of uniting and controlling all the diverse elements of one's life. I think it is interesting that the air horse and earth horse both seem to have one ear pointing towards the Charioteer. I wonder why those two elements and not the others. Cancer is a water sign, so it would seem to me that the water horse would be one of the ones that was easier to tame.

I can also understand how Two of Wands sees this figure as the same one in the Emperor. The signs they represent, Taurus and Cancer, have some personality traits in common. Both are protective, loving, and moody; as well as being feminine signs. I can see this figure as an older Emperor. He has grown out of the stubbornness (and passive sign) of Taurus, and into a more active role with Cancer.

As for the meaning of this card, as I said already, I see it more as pulling together different threads of your life. But you are doing this while moving forward. There is no retreat to regroup, you are learning as you go.
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Two of Wands 

I agree that this card is devoid of background, which did worry me at first, I thought I was going to have nothing to say. But no such luck there!
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Moongold  Moongold is offline
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The Chariot is my Soul/Personality card and I love this version of it.

Both of you have given really full, energetic descriptions of it. In fact, I respond very much to the energy in this image. There are actually four horses drawing the chariot, and the Charioteer actually looks alive .

The Chariot is on the 18th Path of the TOL between Binah (Feminine/Understanding) and Geburah (Severity), Binah holds the spiritual purpose and Geburah translates this into action.

The Chariot is known as Lord of the Triumph of Light and it's a really appropriate name for this image. This Charioteer exemplifies the individuality and self-mastery of the archetype.
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I'm very glad you are joining in, Moongold. I know very little about the Tree of Life, and it is great to have you supply some information about it. And it is always wonderful to have yet another point of view.
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zagone  zagone is offline
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What a well done, well researched thread! I like Two of Wands theory on this being the Emperor.

Just to round out the list of interpretations I've seen elsewhere, the Chariot can also mean:

a) A win in a win/lose situation. Definitely a positive, but perhaps a win-win and a little finesse would have been better.

b) A brash, charging-around young man in your life. Confident and strong in his abilities, but not yet tempered by wisdom or loss.

c) Charging off (perhaps foolishly) before really thinking. I even have one deck somewhere where you see the BACKSIDE of the Chariot bouncing off at break-neck speed on some mission.

These options fit this TotOP card not well to not at all. I think you already have the best interpretations for this Chariot nailed down.

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northsea  northsea is offline
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This is a really cool Chariot card (and I always look at the Chariot card before buying a deck). I agree with zagone's idea about a win-lose situation. The charioteer thinks it's always a zero-sum game, and strives for victory. The warrior-like Mars aspect versus the Lovers' Venus aspect.

(Also, since it's traditionally the only Majors card with man-made implements as the main feature, I think it symbolizes technology, invention, and manufacturing though I don't think that's what's being conveyed in the Old Path card.)
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