Celebrate the Sunrise

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop! An international group of tarotists are all writing on the same topic and then linking to each other so that the reader can hop from one blog to the next, seeing all the permutations and facets that the topic inspired in different writers. You can hop back to Courtney Weber. Or read ahead here and then hop forward!

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The topic of today’s Tarot Blog Hop commemorates the sunrise at Stonehenge on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Stonehenge is the Neolithic stone circle designed to indicate the astronomical phenomena of the equinoxes and solstices, among other significant celestial events. The summer solstice marks the cusp of the sign of Cancer. Cancer is considered to be nurturing, compassionate, and intuitive.  Some say that Cancer’s glyph  looks like two eggs in a nest, and this sign is often associated with mothering and maternal qualities. I see in the glyph two arms of a spiral galaxy swirled together; perhaps a stellar nursery where darkness broods over hatching stars. The tarot card assigned to Cancer is the Chariot.
The Chariot as Cancer is the Major Arcana correspondence I had the most trouble understanding. We usually think of the Chariot as movement, transportation, cars and all things related. On a psychological and emotional level, the Chariot represents being pulled in different directions – often the contrary beasts harnessed to this vehicle seem to be headed opposite ways. We often say it’s time to take the reins and exert leadership over these disparate forces.
But the Chariot as Cancer gives a different impression. In kabbalah, the Chariot is assigned the letter cheth, meaning fence. Like the nest encircling the eggs, this fence is protecting and confining; it establishes a perimeter of safety. Many of the ancient sites honoring the sun’s movement were built in a circular pattern. This circle, demarcation, fence, or stellar playpen becomes the Cancerian womb that receives the strong bright light of the solstice.
The most recent archaeological research and theories suggest that Stonehenge was paired with a wooden version about two miles northeast at Durrington Walls. The wooden version had evidence of living quarters and feasting, and so was associated with life. Stonehenge, on the other hand, was associated with death and is considered the largest cemetery of its time.
Woodhenge is oriented towards the midwinter sunrise and Stonehenge marks the midwinter sunset. Likewise, Stonehenge marks the midsummer sunrise and its wooden partner the midsummer sunset. The research suggests that the midwinter agenda consisted of feasting in the wooden henge followed by depositing ashes of the deceased in the river Avon and then processing along the banks of the river, where bonfires flared, to Stonehenge in time for sunset to honor the ancestors. In summer, the procession was from Stonehenge to Woodhenge, from the world of the deceased to the world of the living.
Archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson says, “I think this is why these two monuments are set up together, because they are actually to do with not just the life passage but the world passage ….” He goes on, “And I think what that has to do with is they are using the stone to actually symbolize immortality, permanence, and the wood is to do more with the human condition in life.”
In The Tarot, Paul Foster Case makes note that the gray stone cube that forms the car of the chariot is the wise (color gray, Chokmah, wisdom) union of father and son—the Hebrew word for stone is ehben (ABN), composed of abba (AB), father and ben (BN), son. If we were to stretch so far as to include the symbolism of Stonehenge into this qabalistic interpretation (certainly heresy, but curious to consider), it might suggest that the stones of the ancestors are immortal because they represent the transition from father to son.
When considering the archetype of the Chariot and its astrological correspondence Cancer in comparison to this ancient summer solstice ritual, we can see the tarot vehicle as an ability to move between the worlds, from life to death—and perhaps back again—symbolized by the opposing black and white of the harnessed steeds. Perhaps these beasts are not representative of forces imbalanced, but show the even portrayal of light and dark in an ongoing stability of recurring cycles.
There is one more symbol that the Cancer glyph reminds me of: the yin yang, in which each half circle swirl contains at its fullness the seed of its opposite. Like the sunrise on the longest day of the year, the circle reminds us that this extreme is but a turning point of the cycle.
On this day we celebrate the sunrise. We honor the stone circle that reminds us of limitations that protect us. We embrace the safety of the nest even as we ride the chariot away toward adventures. And on this longest day of the year we revel in the light while acknowledging that this extreme is the turning point as the darkness begins to grow again.

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Hop ahead to Harmonic Spirit, Honoring Yourself and Your World, or visit the master list of all the blogs.
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Joy Vernon is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and Reiki Teacher in Denver, Colorado. Her specialty is the Empyrean Key Transformational Guidance, which combines energetic and esoteric modalities to help her clients break through blocks and align themselves with their higher purpose. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please visit JoyVernon.com.
© 2012 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

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Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.
Articles: 306

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  1. Thank you Joy for weaving so many fascinating facets into the sunrise we are celebrating. Thoroughly enjoyed this history lesson.

    • Hi Marilyn! It was so interesting to research all this and then find all the unusual ways it connected with the card of the season. I’m glad you liked it!

  2. Your weaving together of symbols and attributions from different traditions yeilds great wisdom. The train of ideas from Chariot to Cancer (a correspondence I struggle with) to its symbol to the Ying Yang and back to the Chariot’s horses is rich. I love your heresy!

    • Thank you Carolyn! To me there is something magical and enlightening about seeking connections where none are evidenced to exist. I’m glad you like my logical labyrinth!

  3. Love it, Joy! You really flesh ot and express the integrated opposites of the antinomy in the Chariot where duality falls away as bush-league, amateur, or simply preamble-y. Thanks for expanding my notion of The Chariot and Cancer. Hits close to home in aHA ways.

  4. Intriguing, in-depth approach, Joy. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I have learned loads from this post, such a lot of information in there. Many thanks – it must have taken you ages!
    Ali x

    • After my first couple blog hops, I realized I needed to work ahead or risk last minute late night stress. So yes, I did start early which gave me time to do some research, which I really enjoyed. 🙂 I’m glad you found it useful! Thank you for commenting!

  6. Wonderful post. I saw the documentary on the two Stonehenge bound by the path…very cool. I think from reading your blog I do understand Cancereans a little better, and the Chariot.

  7. Great post! I really enjoyed reading your take on finding a balance between the boundaries that keep us safe and/or provide structure in our lives, and the necessity of sometimes traveling beyond those boundaries in order to gain wisdom and experience. Very well though out 🙂

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