The Chariot and The High Priestess

The full moon in Cancer corresponds with the Major Arcana card The Chariot. Cancer is ruled by the Moon which is associated with The High Priestess.

The Chariot (Cancer) is usually depicted as a Romanesque figure driving a chariot drawn by two horses, sphinxes or other powerful creatures. Plato, in his dialogue Phaedrus (sections 246a–254e), also describes a charioteer driving a chariot pulled by two horses. Plato uses the chariot allegory to explain his view of the human soul through the dialogue of the character Socrates where he says that the soul is like “the composite nature of a pair of winged horses and a charioteer.” In this analogy, the human soul steers a chariot drawn by two horses of different natures. One horse is white, well behaved and of noble breed, and represents the rational, moral and positive part of passionate nature. The other horse is black, troublesome  and badly bred, and represents the soul’s irrational appetites and desire nature. The charioteer represents reason, the part of the soul that must guide the soul to truth, and has to steer the chariot forwards by preventing the horses from going in different directions. The Chariot card asks us to control inner conflicts between intellect and animal instinct so that we, like the charioteer, may proceed towards enlightenment.

The chariot is also central to the myth of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries. In this myth, Hades (Pluto) uses his chariot to abduct Persephone while she is picking narcissus and transports her to the underworld where she becomes his consort and the goddess of the underworld. Her mother Demeter, the goddess of the harvest and controller of the seasons, is distraught and threatens the world with famine due to an eternal winter. As the crops begin to die Zeus convinces Hades to release Persephone, however as Persephone had consumed some pomegranate seeds in the underworld she is allowed to return to her mother only during the warm seasons and must return to Hades in the winter. Demeter commissions a charioteer to reseed the earth so that new crops can grow.

In some decks such as the Mythic Tarot, The High Priestess is portrayed by Persephone, descending a staircase into the underworld. She holds a pomegranate and white flowers. The High Priestess is often shown between two pillars. These are the pillars of Solomon’s Temple. The left pillar is the black pillar of severity. The right pillar is the white pillar of mercy. Boaz signifies ‘strength’ and Jachin ‘to establish’. The pillars are representative of the concept of duality and polarity, of positive and negative, good and evil, masculine and feminine. The High Priestess sits as a mediating force between them.

Cancer’s keywords are ‘I feel’ so it is no wonder Cancer is ruled by the moon. The Moon (The High Priestess) governs the emotions and also intuitive behaviour. The High Priestess asks us to get in touch with our intuitive natures by temporarily withdrawing into ourselves in order for us to gain inner wisdom where secrets can be revealed to us. Through reflection we can gain intuitive understanding of ourselves and of the problems and situations we may encounter.

With The Chariot alongside The High Priestess we see they both share the concepts of duality, represented by the sphinxes in the Chariot and the pillars in The High Priestess. With the two cards together the Tarot is telling us that by embracing the qualities of The High Priestess and seeking intuitive guidance from within we may find clues to ways that we may harness and reconcile our inner conflicts. When we are still and go within we are able to go beyond the veil of consciousness and gain insight, understanding and enlightenment.

Stella Luna © 2012 The Tarot Reader. All rights reserved.




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