Then Saul said, “O LORD God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant today? If this guilt is in me or in my son Jonathan, O LORD God of Israel, give Urim; but if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.” And Jonathan and Saul were indicated by the lot, but the people were cleared. [1 Samuel 14:41, NRSV]
In the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD; thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the Israelites on his heart before the LORD continually. [Exodus 28:30, NRSV]
One of the keys to understanding The Chariot is a somewhat hidden Jewish symbol. According to Arthur Waite “On the shoulders of the victorious hero are supposed to be the Urim and Thummim.” I had never heard of these terms before but I did some digging, and here’s what I found: Rabbi Richard Elliott Friedman, whose scholarship I trust wholeheartedly says the following in his Commentary on the Torah: “We have pondered for centuries what these are. They have something to do with inquiring God for an answer to a question. They may contain letters that can spell out long answers, or they may provide only a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ or they may also provide a third option of ‘no response.’ It is known as a practice only in Israel’s earliest era.”
The Urim and Thummin were some kind of divination device. They may have been stones or sticks that were placed in a special pocket that was sewn into the breastplate of the High Priest, near his heart. They were clearly used for divination or cleromancy. Urim is translated into English as “lights” and Thummin means “perfections.” Later Greek translations of the Old Testament chose to use the words “revelation” and “truth,” in keeping with their purpose rather than their appearance. The breastplate itself is an emblem of compete truth.
With this symbol decoded, The Chariot is a card of great power that shows a victorious hero in a chariot throne. With the help of the Divine Presence, he has discerned a clear path forward. It’s time to take the reins and seize the day! This card speaks of triumph, success, control, mastery, overcoming obstacles and journeys to be taken. The black and white Egyptian androsphinxes on the card reinforce this theme as symbols of abundance, power, wisdom, mysteries and truth. He also has a staff/spear in his hand which corresponds to the suit of Wands. This also speaks of spiritual knowledge, enlightenment and divination.
The DruidCraft version of The Chariot simplifies the symbolism quite a bit, with horses replacing the white and black androsphinxes, and a wheel of the year replacing the ancient Jewish symbols. The card still speaks of the same themes as the Rider Waite version. When The Chariot appears in a reading it is telling us we have the skills and wisdom required to master a difficult circumstance and/or be able to discern the correct path forward. The Chariot tells us it’s time to move forward in a way that is strong and decisive. The wisdom of the Divine Presence is with us so we have nothing to fear.
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