Shadowscapes study: Chariot



Achieving victory, focusing intent and will, establishing an identity, self-confidence, maintaining descipline, assuming the reins of power and authority.


I am really impressed by this Chariot. The female driver is unusual; the companion book describes her as "winged victory, the goddess Nike or Maeve". There are no reins, only those ever-present red ribbons, harnessing the unicorns to the chariot.

What the artist describes as "the unicorns of the sea" remind me of some representations of the Chinese Ki-lin (Ki-rin, Qi-lin, Qi-rin). This creature, who is only outranked by the Dragon and the Phoenix, is described as "a deer with one horn, the tail of an ox, the hooves of a horse, and a body covered with the scales of a fish." ( Although there are no fish-scales in this image, the water connection is still there.

This description, from wikipedia, is very interesting.

Although it looks fearsome, the Qilin only punishes the wicked. It can walk on grass yet not trample the blades and it can also walk on water. Being a peaceful creature, its diet does not include flesh. It takes great care when it walks never to tread on any living thing, and it is said to appear only in areas ruled by a wise and benevolent leader (some say even if this area is only a house). It is normally gentle but can become fierce if a pure person is threatened by a sinner, spouting flames from its mouth and exercising other fearsome powers that vary from story to story.

The idea of purity in these descriptions, combined with the lack of reins, suggests to me the idea of mental rather than physical control. This is a concept that I usually associate with Strength, but I am pleased to see it here as well. Control of one's environment comes not from hauling on ropes, but is more subtle, arising from wisdom and self-confidence. There is also an expression somewhere between joy and serenity on the driver's face.

The other animals that I see are sea-turtles with spirals and suns on their shells; and a crab holding a sunlike symbol between its claws. I'm not entirely sure what meaning I can take from these. The crab is usually associated with the Moon card, I was surprised to find it here, in almost the same position. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about astrology to comment on any Cancer connection. The other thought that comes to me is that the crab and the turtles are creatures of water (emotion) while the winged charioteer is a being of air (thought). So the message would be one of staying above emotional influences.


another view

For me this woman doesn’t control the chariot. The chariot is being carried away by the waves, (The Woman’s feelings). She doesn’t know where she goes, but she seems confident and open her arms to the unknown.

Underwater turtles represent for me wisdom but also slowness, perhaps an incentive to the woman to slow down and reflect on her purpose. Cancer for me represent the moon, her intuition who can guide her through her journey.


I feel that while some Chariot cards seem stationary, this Chariot is certainly about movement. Behind her in the air is where she is leaving, perhaps her past, or even dreams unrealized. She is able to balance the world of air and the world of water, intellect and emotions, and she does so delicately. The crab (cancer) is once again holding a sun symbol. It seems that most of the beginning major arcana cards hold some sort of symbol of the sun, maybe representing how to fully achieve and harness the meaning of the first cards, you must follow your intuition and creative center.

Once again the red ribbons appear, this time restraining the unicorns. This could show how you must harness your fantasies and dreams, and use them to propel yourself forwards.

The Charioteer in this card is also heavily armored, protecting herself from the unknown future, but fully embracing what is to come.


The shadowscape Chariot certainly is very different from those in other decks. While in most decks the rider holds tight the reigns smybolizing control over circumstances (in many decks the horses seemingly going off in different directions); this particular Chariot seems more about internal control and balance. The rider seems very confident of taking on the future and seems to be telling the unicorns...go on, nothing to be nervous about.

The unicorns seem a bit confused though, one looking abck and seems to be asking where the rider wants to go?


tarotfaith said:
The unicorns seem a bit confused though, one looking abck and seems to be asking where the rider wants to go
I noticed this too. The unicorns are barely holding it together.

The Shadowscapes companion book identifies the rider as Nike, goddess of victory. She has the power to still the waves underneath the path of her chariot. Impressive power indeed! But this isn't a comfortable triumph. The ride is rough and the unicorns aren't clear where they are going.

If I were a passenger on this chariot, I would be checking that my lifejacket was secure, because it seems like it could go over at any moment. This fits with my conception of the Chariot card -- a superficial, worldly success, but not mastery of the situation.

Meanwhile, the crab and the turtles are nearby but in a different world, a much easier and more peaceful place.

I love the castle rising out of the foam and clouds, and Nike's aqua wings.


if the creatures are of east asian influence, then it makes sense they would have red ribbons around their necks. a red ribbon in east asian belief system means 'destiny, fate'.
like Liam pointed out,
the Charioteer in this card is also heavily armored, protecting herself from the unknown future, but fully embracing what is to come.
meaning: whatever happens, happens [usually for a reason]. and in more plain speech, if it is meant to happen, it will.
this charioteer also keeps her eyes closed - she doesn't know what comes her way, her future [does she even know she's riding on water?!] and likewise, we also don't know our future.