22 Lessons from the Major Arcana Part 1: The Fool - The Chariot

 22 Lessons from the Major Arcana Part 1: The Fool - The Chariot and Major Arcana Tarot Cheatsheet!

When learning tarot card meanings it can be immensely helpful to think of the people in the cards as real living beings with stories to tell. The major arcana represents our journey to enlightenment and fulfilment, told through the eyes of the Fool.

The Fool is you setting out on the journey of life. The Fool's Journey is basically divided into three stages:

  • The Fool - The Chariot: The material plane
  • Strength - Temperance: The mental plane
  • The Devil - The World: The spiritual plane

You may have read about the Fool's Journey before and you may have a lot of different tarot books in your personal library but at some point, you end up with a sort of mental fatigue reading the same bland descriptions of symbols and divinatory meanings.

I love creative writing and bringing things to life! Reading the Fool's Journey as a story makes it seem so much more alive, involving, and interesting. I think of the Tarot almost like a fantasy land of archetypes as well as four material kingdoms representing the four suits.

Across a series of posts, I'm not only doing to dramatise the Fool's Journey through the major arcana, but I'm going to write short stories exploring each of the minor arcana and court cards as well to really help bring the tarot to life for you!

Posts in this series will include:

Keep reading to get your FREE Tarot Cheatsheets!


The major arcana represents our journey to enlightenment and fulfilment, told through the eyes of the Fool.

The Fool


The Fool's Lesson

The Fool teaches us to look upon the world with the wide-eyed innocence and open heart of a child. Be positive and welcome the adventure before you. As the Nike slogan famously says, “just do it”.

 The Fool Tarot Card Meaning

It was a beautiful day, you thought to yourself as you walked along the mountain path with a spring in your step. The sun was shining on the day you had chosen to start your new life. You had packed all your belongings in a small pack and left your home to begin a life of adventure.

You had always dreamed of leaving your home town and becoming an adventurer. Perhaps they would write stories about you. Stories like the one you grew up listening to. You couldn't suppress the smile on your face as you practically skipped all the way down the path, smelling a rose you had picked just moments ago. You didn't know exactly where you were going but you were filled with a sense of possibility and optimism. 

Your faithful companion started to bark frantically behind you. You turned around and smiled at the silly dog. "This is not the time to play" you said and kept walking, sniffing the rose merrily as you did. The dog kept barking, however, and you looked up.

You started as you came to the realisation that you didn't feel the ground beneath your feet any more. Then, you looked down. "By all the gods!" You had stepped off the cliff and you were floating in the air. It was a miracle! Then, for some inexplicable reason you began to laugh at the miraculous absurdity of this situation. You could have died but you didn't The gods had chosen to spare you this day.

With an optimistic smile you stepped back on to the cliff slide. You had lived, after all, and it was still a glorious day. You knelt down and petted your canine friend. You smiled as he licked your hand enthusiastically. "Well, Snowball, are you ready to begin the journey of a lifetime?" The fluffy white dog barked in response and with that, you stood up again and went on your way.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE TAROT CHEATSHEETS!

If you're having trouble remembering the card meanings and want a quick reference to look them up when you need to, download my free printable cheatsheets for the majors, all four suits, and the court cards to help you learn!

The Magician


The Magician's Lesson

The Magician teaches us that we already have all the tools at our disposal. We are all of us powerful conduits and conscious creators. If you can dream it, you can do it. Take action, take initiative, and use your inborn talents to to make things happen.

 The Magician Tarot Card Meaning

It had not been long since you left your mountaintop home and descended into the lowlands. You now found yourself in a forest in the foothills of the mountains. The sun shone through the trees and the birds chirped peacefully. You soon heard chanting in the distance. Curious and excited you followed in the direction of the sound. Snowball followed faithfully behind you. 

After a few minutes of walking you approached a clearing. Not wanting to be seen just yet you hit behind a tree and observed what was happing. In the centre of the clearing was an ancient stone table carved with runes you did not recognise. On the table rested a sword, a cup, a wand, and a large gold coin.

A tall and dignified looking man stood beside the table with one hand pointing up and the other pointing to the ground. He chanted in an unfamiliar tongue and as he so the runes began to glow! Magic! You gasped. This man must be one of the famous magicians. You felt excitement bubble up in your belly. 

Evidently the dog felt the same because Snowball yipped and ran out into the clearing. "No! Snowball! Come back here!" you called out. Well, it was no use, you were discovered. You walked into the clearing with no small amount of trepidation. The magician ceased his chanting and smiled at you knowingly. He looked young and had a certain commanding air about him. He had deep penetrating eyes that looked far too old than they should.

"I was wondering when you would come out" he said.

The magician bent down and offered Snowball a treat, much to his delight. As Snowball chewed on it with satisfaction the man stood up and looked at you. 

"How did you do that?" you blurted out suddenly. He seemed so powerful and capable. You burned to know the secret.

"Magic, obviously" said the man with amusement in his eyes. He paused for a moment as if lost in thought and then looked at you as if he had come to a decision. "I can teach you if you'd like"

"Yes!" Your heart leapt in your chest at the prospect of commanding all the elements. "Where does the power come from?"

The magician smiled. "Why, it comes from within you of course. You already have all the tools you need" he said. "I sensed it within you the moment I saw you. You and I were both born to be bidges between this world in the next. We can harness the power of the elements to manifest, to bring what is in the higher realms down into the physical. Are you ready to learn how?" he asked.

"I've never been more ready" you said with all your heart.

The High Priestess


The High Priestess' Lesson

The lesson in the High Priestess is that you are your own best guide and your intuition will always point you in the right way. Learn to recognise the hidden signs and meanings all around you and you will find that guidance is always at hand.

 The High Priestess Tarot Card Meaning

Having learned all you could from the magician you bid him farewell and continued on your way. You and Snowball were now at the coast.

You felt the cool sea breeze on your face as you walked along the beach. The sun hung low in the sky and it was that mystical time of day where the sun was not at its full strength but dusk had not come yet.

They say that it was in this twilight that the veil between this world and the next frayed at the edges and let in ancient powers. You wondered if that was true or merely old superstitions.

Almost in answer to your thoughts, a temple appeared on the horizon. You approached the temple and walked up its cool marble steps.

As you went in you saw an enchanting, dark haired and dark eyed, woman sitting in between a black columns and a white one. She word a circlet in the shape of the three phases of the moon and held a scroll in her hand.

This must be the high priestess of the moon that you had heard so much about. 

The high priestess' gaze fell upon you and beckoned you closer. Curious about what she had to say, you obliged and approached silently. Her eyes had a far away look, as if she were seeing things that no other mortal could. 

"What can you see?" you asked, finally, breaking your silence. 

"I can see your past and your future. I know all and I see all" she said, in an eerie booming voice. "I am your intuition, your subconscious, your inner knowing" she continued. You realised that it was not the woman before you who was speaking but that she was channelling a higher force, the goddess of the moon herself!

Overcome with awe you knelt at her feet. "Will my journey be a success? How can I know that I'm on the right path?" you asked.

"Learn the language of symbols and look for the signs. Trust in yourself. Trust in your own intuition and inner knowing for it will not lead you astray" she said. As she completed the message the high priestess' shoulders slumped and her body relaxed as she came out of her trace. The audience was over.

The Empress


The Empress' Lesson

The lesson in the Empress is to nurture your creative gifts and talents. Share your gifts with the world and create all that you desire in your life.

 The Empress Tarot Card Meaning

You followed the river upstream from the coast, trusting your intuition to guide you. You had passed by a couple of villages along the way, asking for directions to the capital, but you never stayed in any one place for long. It didn't feel like what you were looking for.

You couldn't explain it but you had a feeling that you were about to come across something important. 

Soon, you heard a soft feminine voice singing a very comforting and soothing melody. You stood transfixed, moved by the voice. It reminded you of the way your own mother used to sing to you as a child. 

Snowball was the first one to react. He barked a few times and then ran off towards the voice. You quickly followed him to the singing woman. The woman sat by the riverside, leaning down to pet Snowball. Snowball wagged his tail happily and jumped up to lick her. The woman laughed.

She was good with animals, you thought to yourself. And beautiful too, you added.

The woman was dressed in a long, regal, dress. She wore a crown of stars and was dressed in warm, inviting colours. Her face was bright and open and she had a comfortable ease about her. She also had a golden sceptre. This must be the empress of the land! 

You walked towards her a knelt. "My empress" you said. She smiled and gently gestured for your to rise. "Forgive me, Majesty, but what are you doing alone by the riverside?" You hoped that she wouldn't be offended by your insolence.

She didn't seem bothered by the question. She had a relaxed and open manner about her. "I like being here among nature. When I'm not caring for the young ones, I spend my time here tending to the flowers, painting, and coming up with creative new ventures for our empire" she said. 

"Creative ventures?" you asked.

"Did you think the emperor came up with everything entirely on his own?" she asked with an amused smile. Before you could respond, she continued. "The truth is that I feel as if I am the essence of creativity itself. My mind is always full with ideas that need to be manifested. It brings me great satisfaction" she said. "Self expression is so vital to personal fulfilment. Have you found what you wish to bring into the world, dear traveller?"

The way she asked that question, so gently and warmly, made you feel comfortable. You felt like you could be open with her. "To tell you the truth, no, not yet"

"Well then, I must teach you" she said with a wide grin. "I will help you nurture the creative gifts within yourself. And when we're done, you can spend time with my husband the emperor. He would love to meet you"

DOWNLOAD THE FREE TAROT CHEATSHEETS!

If you're having trouble remembering the card meanings and want a quick reference to look them up when you need to, download my free printable cheatsheets for the majors, all four suits, and the court cards to help you learn!

The Emperor


The Emperor's Lesson

The lesson in the Emperor is that in order to be effective at our tasks, we sometimes need to keep control of our emotions and embrace logic and reason. We need to be ordered, organised, and assertive in order to execute our ideas.

 The Emperor Tarot Card Meaning

The emperor sat not far from his wife, just slightly further up along the river. The moment you saw him you were struck by how confident and commanding he seemed.

He held a globe in his left hand, a sceptre in his right, and wore a crown on his head. His gaze held a certain worldly hardness to it that the empress lacked. His commanding authoritarian air reminded you of your own father.

Snowball seemed to think the same. He didn't run towards the emperor like he had done with the empress.

You approached the emperor and knelt before him. "Your Majesty" you said, formally. 

"Rise" said the emperor in a deep, firm, tone. You did as instructed. "I have heard that my wife has taught you how to be creative and bring ideas to life. She's rather fond of you" 

You nodded. "I have learned a lot from her"

"Well, she insisted that I grant you an audience and teach you whatever it is you wish to know. You have my ear. It is a privilege some have killed for"

"I am deeply honoured, Your Majesty" Killed for? Court seems like a dangerous place. How does he keep his nobles in control? You knew what you were going to ask him. "How is it that you seem to be able to command all the land and its people with such ease? How did you get where you are?"

The emperor nodded as if expecting this question. "You are a smart one, young lad. I can see why my wife likes you. In general, I rule the empire by forming a strategy in my mind, delegating it to the right persons, organising my assets, and executing my plans with order. Logic and order are the foundations of the universe, dear lad. It would do you well to remember that"

"What about leadership? I have heard that your men would follow you to the ends of the earth"

The emperor smiled. "That knowledge comes with experience but here's what you need to know. Do not waver in your decisions. You need to give off an air of confidence and be assertive. The best way I can teach you is by example" he said.

You sat with the emperor for hours, listening intently to his stories of battle and courtly intrigue. The more you heard the more impressed you were by his natural organisational and leadership capabilities. You weren't sure that you would be exactly like him but you walked away armed with some useful knowledge that you could put into practice.

The Hierophant


The Hierophant's Lesson

The Hierophant teaches us to have faith and to seek spiritual guidance and education. He urges us to study, seek out the knowledge that we desire, and to act in accordance with our beliefs.

 The Heirophant Tarot Card Meaning

After you left the emperor you continued on with your travels. It wasn't long before you came across a monastery. This one, however, looked completely different from the temple of the high priestess.

This place looked rather more austere. The walls and columns were all well proportioned, orderly, and all white. You entered the temple and noticed that a service was being held.

In the front of the room between two white columns stood a priest dressed in red and white robes holding a golden three-tiered cross in one hand and held the other hand up. This must be the hierophant.

A crowd of monks and novices bowed before him quietly chanting. The hierophant had his eyes closed and was leading the prayer. At his feet were two crossed golden keys. 

Curious, you stepped closer, bringing Snowball with you. Snowball was quiet this time, sensing the solemn devotion in the air. 

The heirophant, having heard your footsteps, stopped chanting and opened his eyes. "Welcome to our monastery, my son. The gods have clearly sent you to us for some great purpose. What is it that you seek?" he asked.

He had a certain magnetism about him. All eyes in the room were on him. Clearly these monks revered the hierophant and were eager to learn from him. What mysteries did he hold? "I know not exactly what I am seeking, Your Holiness, only that I am driven to seek it" you said. The hierophant seemed very satisfied with this answer and nodded.

"That is a very wise answer, my son. I believe I can offer you the keys to what it is you truly seek" said the heirophant.

"The keys to what? What can you teach me?" you asked, now intrigued.

"I hold the keys to the kingdom of the gods" he began. "I am the gatekeeper of spiritual and material knowledge. I ask you to tarry here with us for a while and learn our ways. I shall educate you in the ways of both the outside world and of the godly kingdom. I can help you learn and offer to act as your mentor"

This man seemed so wise and so knowing. You longed to be as knowledgeable as he.  There was no doubt in your mind as to your answer. " I accept" you said, eager for knowledge and learning. 

The Lovers


The Lovers' Lesson

The lovers card teaches us to always make choices that honour the truth that lies within our hearts. It teaches us to go out and seek that which completes us and fills our hearts with love and joy.

 The Lovers Tarot Card Meaning

You stayed with the hierophant for weeks, learning all that he had to teach you about the spiritual realm. You discovered an immense sense of peace and understanding within yourself at that monastery.

The hierophant was so impressed with you that he insisted that you dedicate yourself to the service of the gods and become a monk. The idea bothered you and suddenly the monastery began to feel claustrophobic.

It was then that you met her. She was a fellow traveller come to seek spiritual guidance from the heirophant. From the moment you saw her you felt a tugging from deep within your soul. You could have no more avoided her than a moth could the flame.

She was not only beautiful but fierce and kind all at the same time. You spent hours upon hours talking with her. One day you worked up the courage to tell her how you felt and when she said she felt the same your heart soared. 

The monks resisted your union, of course. The heirophant wanted to claim you for the gods. You had to choose. Do you choose freedom and true love with the girl of your dreams or a life of servitude to tradition? The choice was clear. You were going to run away with her today.

Early in the morning, before the monks awoke, you took her hand in yours, picked up Snowball, and stole away in the dark. You ran and ran for what seemed like hours until you reached a clearing. The sun had risen by now and the leaves were moist with morning dew. This was a magical place for here were the famed trees of knowledge and life. You decided to stop here in this enchanted space.

You turned to look at your lover and felt a rush of emotion as you looked at her. She was the fire to your ice, the sun to your moon. You were so different in nature but yet so perfectly in sync as if the gods had taken one soul and carved it into two.

You held her hand in yours and stroked the back of her hand with your thumb. "You complete me, my love, and I choose to spend the rest of eternity with you" you said. 

She looked at you with tears in her eyes. "I feel the same way and thinking about spending every day with you fills me with joy"

There was not much talking done after that, as you made love under the open sky. As you lay together on the green grass, holding hands, you gazed at the sky above. For a moment, you thought you saw an angel, blessing your union, and you knew in your heart that this was the best choice you could have made.

The Chariot


The Chariot's Lesson

The lesson in the Chariot card is that victory and success is the result of hard work, drive, and determination. It urges us not to give up and to keep moving in the direction of our goals relentlessly until we achieve them.

 The Chariot Tarot Card Meaning Soul Truth Gateway

It had been a few weeks since that fateful night that you made a run for it with your lover. You had decided to go far awak from that land and seek your fortune on distant shores.

Snowball, you, and your lover trekked across the desert. You almost died of thirst at one point. You were saved by the discovery of a nearby oasis and some kindly desert nomads who lived there.

They had pointed you in the direction of the largest city state in this region. It was located on the edge of the desert and they referred to it only as the charioteer's city. 

He had won so many chariot races here that his name was known all over this part of the world. He was now a rich man, you heard, and had estates of his own within the royal district of the city. 

The sun bore down on you heavily and you wiped the sweat off your brow. If you never saw a desert again it would be too soon.

You stopped for a moment to take a sip of water from your flask and passed it to your lover and then bent down to let Snowball drink some too. The poor dog really had a rough time of it out here in the heat. 

Your lover placed a gentle hand on your shoulder and pointed towards something on the horizon. "Can you see that too or am I hallucinating?" she asked.

There, on the horizon, was a walled city build entirely of sandstone. Praise the gods! You sighed in relief. "You're not hallucinating, love, it looks like we've reached" you said.

As the city drew closer you saw a commanding young man sitting on a chariot. This must be the famous charioteer.

He was dressed entirely in blue armour and stood under a cloth embroidered with stars and the moon. The effect was so striking that it appeared as if he was standing under a canopy of stars and the moon itself, not a mere cloth. He held a wand in his hand and looked forward with an air of complete confidence.

Sitting in front of the chariot were not horses but sphinxes! One was black and the other white. Snowball whimpered at the site of them. Sphinxes were notoriously difficult to control. For this man to stand there with ease beside these cunning and terrifying beings was quite something. 

You couldn't just walk by. You had to know. "Excuse me, my lord, but I must know how it is that you manage to control these creatures and how it is that you seem to have the whole city at your feet. I have come from far away and I have heard nothing but tales of your achievements along the way"

The charioteer looked momentarily surprised to be addressed so directly but recovered himself quickly. "Normally, I would not look kindly upon such impertinence" he said, with a haughty stare. "But, I am surprised and delighted to hear that my fame had spread far and wide" The charioteer smiled triumphantly.

"Consequently, I will answer your question just this once. You see, I came from humble beginnings but I never let anything stop me from my goal. What you need is drive, ambition, and passion for your goals. You need to take the reigns and hold them tight. Take control of your life, no matter your circumstances, and never give up. That is how you can reach where I am today" he said. He had a certain fire in his gaze as he said this, as if he were reliving all the hardships he went through along the way"

"I am grateful for your time and wise words, my lord" you said, bowing deferently. 

The charioteer smiled at you. "I like you. Go to The Two Sphinxes Inn in the royal district and tell them that I'll pay for your room" he said. Before you could express your gratitude he drove off into the desert.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE TAROT CHEATSHEETS!

If you're having trouble remembering the card meanings and want a quick reference to look them up when you need to, download my free printable cheatsheets for the majors, all four suits, and the court cards to help you learn!

Did you enjoy the story thus far?

Now that the fool has mastered the external, material, world he will now embark on the next leg of his journey to master the inner, mental, world and start to grapple with larger forces in life. 

In the next instalment we continue the Fool's Journey from Strength through to Temperance. 

Continue to next post >>

Tarot Card Images: Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot by Barbara Moore, Eugene Smith © 2014 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved, used by permission.