The Chariot and the Nodes: an Excursion

I am not by any means an expert on Tarot, but a whimsy prompted me to look at the card depicting the Charioteer in respect to the Nodes of the Moon. I will present both the Waite and the Marseilles card for comparison:

If you compare both cards you will notice that each is divided into an upper and a lower half. The Upper part contains a crowned figure under a canopy of stars. The legs are concealed. The lower part of the image shows the corpus of the ‘chariot’ and two creatures in front, in one case a dark and light sphinx and in the other Siamese-twin horses. The ‘charioteer’ carries a sceptre in his right hand but seems otherwise to look into the distance (at the viewer in fact). He holds no reigns and so cannot steer the chariot unless by word or by waving his sceptre. At the very top of the card is a Roman 7.

If we look closer at the sceptred figure we see that he wears epaulettes formed by a smiling and a frowning Moon. In the Waite card the Charioteer also wears a belt in which the symbols of Leo, Cancer, Gemini?, Aquarius? and the Moon are embossed. He also wears a tunic printed with alchemical symbols. On his breastplate there is a square. The Marseilles card is simpler. The breastplate, belt and tunic are more ornamental. The breast plate itself has two discs with a nine-rayed ‘solar’ motif, the right side turns clockwise and the left side counter-clockwise. The tunic is more differentiated, the left arm is blue with a red puff, the right arm is plain blue.

On the front of each chariot is an emblem. There is either a top emblazoned on a shield surmounted by a winged solar disc or a shield with the initials L.M. surmounted by a set of wings.

The card is said to be associated with the sign Cancer. What is interesting is that both solar and lunar imagery is present. I would expect lunar and Jupiterian imagery (domicile and exaltation) for Cancer. And in puzzling over this it seemed to me that along with the solar and lunar imagery that the Nodes are also woven into both images.

We have already discussed in previous articles how the paths of the Sun and Moon are essential for the existence of the Nodes. So where there is Sun and Moon they too must be present. The Waite card is the more detailed. If we view the image as being composed of an upper and a lower square, then the upper square is solar with its kingly, Apollo-figure (appointed with lunar symbols). The lower square is lunar with its dark and light sphinxes, who can represent both the new and full Moon but also an eclipse and perhaps also the ascending and descending Nodes. The epaulettes on the king’s shoulders may also refer to the ascending and descending Nodes. The top, whose nature it is to spin may refer to the movement of both Sun and Moon. It is surmounted by a solar disc so the ecliptic is a good possibility.

The Marseilles card also supports the representation of the Nodes. It too has a square on top of square composition. The right and left shoulders of the king also have a smiling and frowning Moon. On the side of the frowning Moon the disk on the breast turns downwards, while the disk on the smiling and more opulent side turns upwards. In my estimation this is a definite reference to the descending and ascending nodes. The Siamese- twin horses call to mind the double loop of both the south and north node symbols.


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