An Interpretive Approach to reading tarot.
Symbols, colours, numbers in reverse, taken both independently and collectively can often imply existing, potential or arising difficulties. My experience of reading tarot, is that a reverse card offers considerable value to the seeker by pointing out what is missing or incomplete, delayed or misunderstood or even important to beware of, about a situation, relationship or desire. Reversed cards simply offer warnings like a give-way or stop sign. It suggests that one looks before they leap; to double-check that one’s assumptions about are valid and authentic.
The Chariot VII of The Tarot of Marseilles, considered when upside-down or in-reverse provides clues to potential or underlying difficulties – for example – to successfully achieving their desired goal or making that big move forward in their plans. As we will look at later, the vibration of the Major Arcana Seven is primarily a spiritual one. Our endeavours in life are founded to how we employ our spirit; the physical or worldly progress we make is unavoidably tied to our spiritual journey and soul purpose.
My understanding of The Chariot VII is the need to have the courage to face difficulties and challenges in order to achieve personal objectives and goals; but to do so with our honour and dignity intact. Upright, The Chariot VII gives a sense of the reflective, anticipatory and stationary. There is wonderful tension in this image as the charioteer, in full regalia, awaits the start of the race, the battle or the challenge. The preparation involved to meet his/her quest, is clear and evident. The charioteer has positioned her/himself for a most important personal crusade.
The charioteer presents as a princely (crown) and military (armour) figure standing proudly in a glorious chariot; which symbolises the physical body. The the charioteer’s upper body represents human intelligence, thought, strategy, self-knowledge and self-direction. In front of the chariot stand two horses – red and blue – that paw the ground with their hooves to indicate their vitality, power and enthusiasm. The horses are not controlled by any harness or reins, for this the charioteer uses his mind. S/he is undivided in his/her purpose even though the circumstances difficult.
When we look at the upright image of The Chariot VII: Marseilles we get a real sense of balance, control and organisation. But viewed upside-down, what do we see? How do the obvious changes in the placement and relationship of objects and symbols affect the card’s overall symmetry? What extra or different information do we glean from the now ill-defined colours and from the shadow-side of its numerological associations? What important information and insights does this reversed image now convey?
In The Chariot VII: Marseilles, the chariot is upside-down; no if’s or but’s. If the chariot represents the vital and purposeful body and the vehicle for progress and victory, the structure being relied on to achieve success is clearly not in a position to do so. The up-turned chariot has its wheels in the air and its canopy dragging on the ground. In this position, the vehicle is not going to take you anywhere; and may imply organisation that remains inadequate or vague or impractical. The inference is that, if you persist, you may well be setting yourself up for failure or injury.
If we are looking at the overall image of The Chariot VII reversed, the ground is now at the ‘top’ of the card; and at the ‘bottom’ of the card the is canopy. Both of these things appear as barricades that impose significant limitations on the charioteer. My immediate and overall impression of the charioteer is he is currently positioned “between a rock and a hard place.”
When reversed, the charioteer’s whole torso is beneath the horses with his/her head and crown appearing at the very bottom of card; This upside-down charioteer at once suggests a couple of things – that the charioteer may be undermining his/her own success by not using his/her fine intellect to make decisions and choices. Rather, the charioteer’s emotions are uncontrolled and unbalanced; and his/her intention, the driving force in this situation, is now divided.
The horse is the symbol of a balance of wisdom and power. It represents personal drive, passion and an appetite for freedom. Thus horses, when reversed, offer a warning to control physical passions, vanity and ruthlessness which may jeopardise plans or pre-empt defeat, in a battle or in competition. Not only do the horses appear upside-down but they have changed their relative positions; the feminine and masculine are now switched around suggesting there is confusion between wants, needs and desires.
Additionally, the charioteer’s facial expression has changed; showing perhaps some uncertainty or slyness. There is almost a hypnotic look in the face of the charioteer. The golden sceptre dangles loosely from the charioteer’s hand and, with the ‘power-ball’ pointing towards the ground, the sceptre appears as a large swinging pendulum. The pendulum is also used to help us make ‘yes-no-maybe’ decisions.
Martha Adams © 2017
Part 2/2 next posting; see you then!