Basic Card Symbols
Triumphal "car" (chariot), armored warrior, sun/moon symbols, lingam & yoni symbol (the encircled rod on the winged shield), black and white sphinxes/lions/horses, sometimes at rest. A canopy of stars and sometimes a throne inside the car.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool is close to completing what he set out to create long ago, back when the Magician revealed those tools to him. But enemies are now standing in his way, devious human enemies, bad circumstances, even confusion in his own mind. There's no more forward momentum; he feels he is fighting just to stay where he is. Walking along the shore, watching the waves come in, he puzzles over how to defeat these enemies and get things moving forward once again.
It is here that he comes across a charioteer, standing in his gold and silver chariot, his black and white steeds at rest. "You seem a victorious warrior," the Fool remarks. "Tell me, what is the best way to defeat an enemy?" The Charioteer nods out at the ocean. "Have you ever been swimming in the water and been trapped in that tide which pulls you out to sea? If you try to swim forward, head-on, you go nowhere. You swim forward, the tide pulls you back and, if you tire yourself out, you drown. The only way to win without sapping all your energy is to swim parallel to shore, and come in slowly, diagonally. So, too, when fighting in a chariot. You win by coming up alongside that which you wish to defeat." The warrior nods to his beasts. "Your steeds keep the wheels turning, but it is your control and direction that brings victory. Dark and light, they must be made to draw in harmony, under your guidance."
The Fool is impressed and inspired. He thinks he now knows how to win his own war. He thanks the warrior, but before he leaves, the warrior stays the Fool, "One thing more," he says, "no victory can be won unless you have unwavering confidence in your cause. And remember this above all, victory is not the end, it is the beginning."
Basic Tarot Meaning
The chariot is one of the most complex cards to define. On its most basic level, it implies war, a struggle, and an eventual, hard-won victory. Either over enemies, obstacles, nature, the beasts inside you, or to just get what you want. But there is a great deal more to it. The charioteer wears emblems of the sun, yet the sign behind this card is Cancer, the moon. The chariot is all about motion, and yet it is often shown as stationary.
What does this all mean? It means a union of opposites, like the black and white steeds. They pull in different directions, but must be (and can be!) made to go together in one direction. Control is required over opposing emotions, wants, needs, people, circumstances; bring them together and give them a single direction, your direction. Confidence is also needed and, most especially, motivation. The card can, in fact, indicate new motivation or inspiration, which gets a stagnant situation moving again. It can also imply, on a more pragmatic level, a trip (usually by car), a vehicle - in the shop for repairs if the card comes up reversed - or a message.
The Chariot is a fascinating card, but also frustrating. Like the crab, it is armored, but also cut off - a charioteer fights alone. It moves from one plane to the next (water to land and back again) - conscious and unconscious, Earthly and spiritual. It succeeds by attacking from the side, rather than straight on.
On the one hand, the Chariot indicates loyalty and faith and motivation; a conviction that will lead to victory no matter the odds. But the chariot can also signal a ruthless, diehard desire to win at any cost. The Querent should be reminded to save his energy for what comes after. Victory is just the start of things.