The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork of Harry on his Firebolt belongs to Art of Spiris.
Traditional Meaning of The Chariot
The Chariot is an interesting card in the Major Arcana. In it we see a man standing in a stone chariot. He is dressed as a nobleman or high-ranking warrior, with fierce looking soldier’s uniform. He wears a diadem of sorts with a bright gold star. Above him is a light blue canopy, also covered in stars. In his hand is a spear, and on the front of his chariot is a symbol that is connected to solar energy and chariot mythology. The sphinxes at the front of his chariot are black and white, reminiscent of the pillars in the High Priestess card, and also representing the four elements. The background of the card boasts a city with many tall, wealthy towers, and the sky, ground, and wheels of the Chariot are the same gold as the star on his headpiece.
The Chariot is a card that speaks to us about direction, travel, control, movement, and making choices. It also talks about success and victory, or a hurdle overcome so to speak. The charioteer stands strong and sure, denoting that he is secure in the choices he has made and is sure of where he is headed. He is off in a new direction, but he hasn’t made the choice willy-nilly; he has used his past experiences to help him in the decision. The stars above him relate to the Star card, which not only propose happiness and fulfilled wishes, but also astrological guidance, like sailors who used constellations to sail around the world on new adventures. The card tells us to be confident in our decisions, walk boldly in new directions, and take the reigns in our own lives to steer them to where we want to be. Choice, direction, and control are keywords of this card.
The Firebolt (and Nimbus 2000) as The Chariot
I think you can probably start to see why I’ve chosen Harry’s broomsticks as the best representations for the Chariot card. If we zoom out and take an overview of Harry’s life there is only one place he feels completely free, alive, and in control, and that is on his broomstick. In all other settings, Harry is controlled or restrained somehow. He is being ‘directed’ by others or priorities that are expected of him. At Privet Drive it’s the Dursley’s, at Hogwarts it’s classes, friends, and Dumbledore, in Grimmauld Place it’s the memory of Sirius, and even at the Burrow, as comfortable as Harry is there, he is still a guest and often has outside concerns weighing on his mind. But on a broomstick, especially on the Quidditch field, Harry is completely free. He directs his own actions and speed, and he can focus on his singular goal which is finding the Golden Snitch.
In The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry flies on a broom for the first time. Harry and company are at their first flying lesson with Madame Hooch. Nothing much happens until Neville loses control of his broom and gets injured. That’s when Malfoy snatches Neville’s Remembrall and begins talking *ish. Despite never having been on a broom before, Harry jumps on and chases Malfoy. It is a feeling Harry has never had before. He has complete control over the broom – it goes exactly where he directs it, he even ‘tells’ us that it seems like the broom can read his mind. He catches the Remembrall in a fantastic nose-dive, impresses McGonagall, and is given a place on the Gryffindor Quidditch team as the youngest Seeker in a hundred years.
If we look at the illustration of Harry on his Firebolt, we can see many similarities with the Chariot card. Although they are in different proportions, there are similar blues, reds, and golds. Like the charioteer in his armor, Harry is dressed in his Quidditch uniform, putting him in the goal-oriented mindset. Both Harry and the charioteer have determined looks on their faces and they are both using their means of transport to achieve their goals. Each of them is in complete control, the charioteer of his stone chariot and Harry of his broom stick, directing it where they want it to go. There is clear movement in each picture as well; both of them are in motion, actively seeking their target. And let’s not forget the ‘gold’ motif – the colors in the Chariot card and the Golden Snitch in Harry’s picture.
We can’t discuss Harry on his broomstick without talking about some of the connections between Quidditch and the Chariot card. One interesting thought is that Quidditch is played in a stadium. If we think about the idea of a Chariot or charioteer, we probably think of the Roman chariot races in the colosseum.
The Quidditch stadium and the matches that take place there reflect this association. There is action, violence, and victory there. The times after his victories are the times that Harry is treated most like a champion – it is the time he feels most ‘normal’ and not like ‘The Chosen One’. So, much like a chariot racer in Roman times would be cheered like a star athlete, Harry is cheering and adored after playing Quidditch. We also see this in Goblet of Fire, when Harry uses his Firebolt against the dragon in the first task. His skill on the broom shows just how in charge he is when on the Firebolt, and he is cheered for his performance afterwards.
As a Seeker, Harry has one of the most important positions in the game. Even if the other team is ahead, when Harry catches the snitch it ends the game and gives his team 150 points, usually causing a win. To catch the snitch, Harry has to have complete control over his broomstick. He must swoop and dive, out-fly and maneuver against his opponents and through all the other action on the field. Just like the Chariot, he has to know where he is going and steer his broom to get there. When Harry is in control it is magnificent; however, when something happens to Harry’s broom to interfere with this, it causes chaos. We see this happen when Harry is subject to Quirrell’s curse in book one, when he breaks his arm in book two, and when the dementors attack in book three. These are the only time we see Harry struggle with his broom and each time is catastrophic for him. This matches up with one negative reading of the Chariot card in which we consider what happens when the chariot itself is thrown off course or tipped over.
Another ‘shadow side’ of the Chariot card is the way that the confidence of the charioteer can possibly lead to being overly confident, egotistical, or arrogant. Although we don’t see this with Harry, we do with other Quidditch players. Cormack McLaggen , most Slytherin players, and even Harry’s own dad fall prey to this theme of the Chariot card and each of them is like Harry in terms of his broomstick riding abilities.
One last element to consider ties into the tarot story itself. In the tarot deck, the Chariot card is sometimes considered to be the ‘youth’ aspect of the fool, meaning that the charioteer is the Fool, just more experienced and unlike in card 0, here he is making a calculated decision in where he wants to go and what he’s going to do. This play in perfectly with Harry’s story as the Fool. When Harry gets on the broom stick, and especially when he begins playing Quidditch, it is the first time he feels entirely at home in the wizarding world. He feels like he belongs on the broom, it is the first time he thinks he has found a natural talent and isn’t worried about not fitting in or knowing enough about being a wizard. He isn’t lost either, in terms of where to go, he knows his mission is to catch the snitch and that’s what he does. As he gets older, Harry even becomes Quidditch captain, showing his progression through the Fool’s journey, just as the Chariot card shows us progression for the Fool.
How the Firebolt as The Chariot Helps Us Read Tarot
The Firebolt as the Chariot help us read tarot because as we think about the way in which Harry controls and directs his broom, and how this makes him feel, we can think about the same themes in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about the Firebolt. They are asked with the broomstick and the Chariot card in mind:
- What sticks out to you when you think about Harry on his broomsticks? Name any emotions, sensations, or images that come to mind.
- Harry’s first broomstick is actually a toy one that Sirius gets him for his 1st birthday. According to a letter from Lilly, Harry zooms around the house and even knocks over a vase! What does this tell you about Harry’s innate abilities on a broomstick?
- What causes Harry to lose control of his broom and what are the consequences?
- Why do you think Harry likes flying/playing Quidditch so much? What about it does he enjoy?
- Why doesn’t Harry becomes egotistical or arrogant despite all of his skill and ability?
- We really only see Harry ride his broom during Quidditch, if he had been allowed to ride it elsewhere, where might he have gone? How might this have changed the story?
How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves
As we ponder the above questions about the Firebolt, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Chariot card comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Chariot appears in a tarot reading:
- When you think about grabbing the reigns and taking control of your life, what comes up for you? Names any emotions, thoughts, images, fears, etc. that pop up.
- As children, we are often comfortable being in the “Chariot” position, but it can become harder as we get older. What kind of child were you in this regard and how has this affected your ability to direct your life as you get older?
- What influences have caused you to ‘lose control’ or ‘steer off course’ in your life? What were the consequences of these moments?
- When are the times you feel most in control and/or confident about your decisions? What about this is enjoyable to you?
- Do you struggle with arrogance or pride in any aspect of your life – or do you have the opposite problem of lacking confidence or self-worth?
- Are there any instances in your life where you wish you’d been more in control or chosen a specific course of action? How would things be different if you had? What can you learn from this going forward?
This post should get your started thinking about the Chariot, Harry and his broomsticks, and the Chariot themes in your life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Chariot card in tarot!
Next week we will explore Luna Lovegood as card number VIII, Strength.
Listen to the podcast episode of the Firebolt as the Chariot :