Cancer Season and the Chariot Card: Balancing Inner Stillness and Outer Movement

By Hannah Green, Core Teacher in the Land of Verse School of Tarot Certification Programs

In my study of Jungian theory, I’ve found that an archetype cannot be contained by simple definition.

It’s beautifully evocative for us to relate to archetypes as living denizens of the imaginal realm.

As a depth therapist, I feel it’s all about our relationship with the archetypes. In my work, I consider the imaginal realm as “real” as any other.

Countless hours in the Sand Tray, with the Tarot cards, and with my wonderful clients has made this so. The following ideas are meant to inspire your own exploratory relationship with astrology, tarot, and corresponding archetypes.

Let’s start with what’s currently going on in our skies.

From June 22 - July 22, the sun will be in the sign of Cancer

Cancer is metaphysically connected to the Chariot card in Tarot

Cancer is related to the symbol of the crab, as you can see in the Thoth Deck with the crab perched atop the charioteer. 

Thoth Tarot Card - The Chariot
Image: Thoth Tarot Deck, 1944 

In tarot, The Chariot card is the change agent who balances stillness and movement to ride and catalyze waves of transformation. Cancer is the deep diving crab who nurtures wisdom by exploring and withstanding the  pressures of the depths.  

I am fascinated that both possess a vehicle that moves, protects, and holds them as they travel through the realms traversing the far reaches of consciousness. As an archetypal symbol, vehicles are defined as “a thing used to express, embody, or fulfill.”

How does the chariot and the crab shell express, embody and fulfill transformation? Both vehicles empower Chariot and Crab to survive 

their far-flung explorations and to return home to catalyze transformation  with wild foraged wisdom. 

My husband is a skateboarder. He grew up in Sausalito and as a young  budding mystic he was surfing the land like an earth fish.  

If you have your own sensuous experience on wheels, dancing or moving  your body, call up that felt experience now. See what you notice. Can you feel a still point or a center place inside?

Rider Waite Smith Card - The Chariot
Image: The Chariot Rider Waite Smith Tarot Deck 1909

My husband developed a strong center though deep connection with his  chariot-like vehicle. This strong center made him one with his vehicle and  enabled incredible speed, movement and freedom.

Notice the spinning top in the center of the chariot in Pamela Coleman  Smith’s illustration. The spinning top reminds us of Chariot’s deep internal  balance that allows them to travel so far and with such agility.

Author Angeles Arrien, also from Sausalito writes that Taoist philosophy  states “change is successful when the great rooted tree by the flowing river  are combined within a natural setting.” 

This metaphor is a reminder that during times of change it is necessary to incorporate in equal proportion the qualities of quietude (the great rooted tree) with activity (the flowing river.) The chariot depicts a figure in contemplation or quietude sitting within a chariot ready for activity. (Arrien, 51) 

While I am not a skateboarder, as a depth therapist and Tarot reader I am  pretty nimble. I’ve spent decades connecting with my own still point in order  to navigate and traverse all kinds of psychic and emotional terrain. 

The Crab Art Work Image
Image: Cancer, illumination from a book of hours, Italian 1475 <br>

The Chariot reminds me: the stronger my still point - the further I travel. Inner stillness nurtures outer movement. Change requires a balance of  stillness and activity, of being and doing. The Chariot invites me to find my center place within movement, connection and transformation.

As I start to move around the world more after a long period of hermitage, Chariot calls to me more than ever. Chariot reminds me to make my  quietude portable and to look for depth and essence in the heart of the  Mission SF, not just in my fantasies of country living. 

Crab’s shell, like a bathysphere, is a strong and protective container that  allows it to descend into the deep emotional waters of the Unconscious.  This bathysphere must strike a profound balance. It must be strong enough  to protect Crab and comfortable enough that they can freely do their work.  Hermit Crab must also be willing to discard the shell and find a new one  when the old defenses become restrictive. Crab wears their skeleton on the  outside, protecting vital tenderness and this skeleton is always expanding and growing.

Crab reminds me to find the balance between protection and vulnerability, that self protection and releasing pressure will help tolerate depth of feeling and to discard old defenses when they become too limiting.

What do the chariot and the shell symbolize? 

What are the vehicles for  transformation that both protect and nurture change in our own lives?

Chariot and Crab both protect and nurture radical transformation.  

They remind us to protect our energy and care for our nervous systems. Chariot and Crab are deeply supporting to tune into your nervous system through body awareness. For me and many of my clients, recognizing the signs of dorsal vagal shutdown and learning to shuttle out of overwhelm and into parasympathetic or safe states is crucial. This ‘shuttling’ supports change and transformation at the roots. Too much overwhelm can send us backwards into old coping mechanisms. Old coping mechanisms can keep us stuck. Creating safety in the body keeps us in the chariot and moving forward on the path. 

Myself and many people in my community are navigating profound change.  Our values, perspectives, work, and relationships are in flux. Many of us are stepping into the unknown like never before. Developing a survival  mentality that both creates safety and prioritizes change is an extraordinary  art! Chariot and Crab can help. Both inspire us to find balance between  safety and transformation, to consult the depths and to find the still point no  matter the circumstance.

Crab reminds us that in times of radical transformation we can and must live in the waters of the Unconscious and on the dry land of the material. Crab invites us to go underneath the noise and visit our own depths for guidance and soothing.

Carl Jung explained that if we align our spiritual depths with our work in the  world we will be like Chariot, propelled along the road to individuation. (Nichols 140)

In her wonderful book Jung and the Tarot: An Archetypal Journey Sallie  Nichols writes:  

“The charioteer is the one who goes out into the world to learn about the  Self. We learn about ourselves through our involvement with others and by  meeting the challenges of our environment. Every journey offers numerous  opportunities for new awareness and also exposes us to the risk of  disorientation. To be alone in a strange land with no support from family, neighbors or friends, creates a certain type of truth where the hero must discover who she really is or be destroyed by the experience. Like Odysseus on his long voyage home, the journey of self discovery which finally leads back, after many trials and confrontations with strange humans, monsters, gods, and giants to the center where one really  belongs.” (Nichols, 140)

These words and the archetypal energy of Chariot and Crab fill me with fortitude. They inspire me to keep exploring, caring for myself, caring for others and to stay the course of transformation. Chariot and Crab support me to keep exploring the edges and the depths and to trust the process of change.  

Sending love to all. 

Download Hanna's affirmations to support connecting with Chariot and Crab (pdf)

Further reading and sources: 

Arrien, A. (1997). The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient  Visual Symbols. Penguin. 

The Section on the Chariot 

Nichols, S. (1980). Jung and Tarot: an archetypal journey. Weiser Books. Chapter 9: The Chariot: It Carries Us Home 

Forrest, S. (1984). The Inner Sky. Seven Paws Press.