words + photo + playlist: Zoë Madonna
Here we are, over a third of the way through the Major Arcana. We’re at the end of the first third, moving away from personal ego-level cards with people on them and onto larger concepts. Strength, Justice and Death all await us. And what’s going to take us there? We need a ride. We need to learn how to drive.
Enter the Chariot, the last card of the Major Arcana’s first line.
If you remove the Fool, the Major Arcana is divisible into three sets of seven. The first set of seven describes the concerns of society, and experiences that many people undergo in their first two decades of life, frequently while living at home with parents or other guardians. In order: doing, listening, creativity, structure, education, relationships with peers, and finally, greater independence. Motivation. Outward movement.
In the Rider-Waite-Smith, the Chariot is a literal chariot. Some decks have it as a car, others a winged creature. My favorite Chariot is my bicycle. I love cycling for fun - I had been doing it at home and at college for years, but in the time around my move to Boston, a lot of people were killed in bike crashes in the city. Combine that with the fact that I didn’t have a bike, and I procrastinated on getting one for a good while. Then the day I got one, I almost got hit. That bike sat, almost totally unused, in my basement for months.
I was lucky enough to live near a bike trail, but even the tiny stretches of biking on the road I did to get there would send my heart rate skyrocketing. I started being ashamed of the anxiety. I avoided biking.
One of the first big Tarot spreads I did was around the question of what I needed in order to feel comfortable on the bike. The final card was the Chariot, which I took to mean I just needed to get on and ride it. Stop making excuses. So I decided to make it as easy for myself as possible.
My new (at the time) partner had been biking around Boston for years, so I asked him if we could do rides together, and he treated me and my biking anxiety with amazing care and respect.
I decorated my bike with strings of colorful lights, because I am a flamboyant bird and if I feel like a moving work of art I’m gonna want to show off.
And then, once I became a little more comfortable, I picked up some speakers, attached them to my bike, and made biking playlists.
I was out of shape. I still am not as in shape as I’d like to be. But powering up the seven hills of Somerville was much easier with a beat behind me.
Slip Away - Perfume Genius
After using this song to get me out the door and onto my bike a few times, I can say this one is perfect for flying down a hill or over a straightaway with the wind in your hair. (The hair that comes out from under your helmet. Because you wear a helmet, right?)
Party for One - Carly Rae Jepsen
I heard this once and right onto my biking playlist it went. I can tell as soon as I hear it, I’ll be back on my beat.
Red Eyes - The War on Drugs
I said it better a year ago:
i'd like to thank adam granduciel for whooping in the middle of red eyes &thus enabling me to bike up clarendon hill in a headwind & traffic— Zoë Madonna (@knitandlisten) September 3, 2017
Libella Swing - Parov Stelar
Argon Refinery - Module
Paradise Warfare - Carpenter Brut
Electroswing, video game soundtracks, and retrowave are my jams when it’s midnight and I’ve got miles to go before I get home. When all my lights are shining and music is blasting,, I feel invincible.
The Girl in Byakkoya - Susumu Hirasawa
About six months after I started biking in the city, I fell in with a gang of colorful punks, dreamers and makers who ride around for the fun of it late Saturday nights, blasting disco and funk music from custom-built freak bikes and spreading joy (usually) wherever they go. I found a vintage kid’s bike frame on Craigslist for cheap and decided to see what I could make from that and the spare parts lying around the gang’s bike shop HQ.
It took months of trial and error and pushing through lack of motivation and anxiety, but at last I built my first little bike. When I asked myself what I wanted riding my new chariot to feel like, “this song” was the answer. It plays over the end credits to Satoshi Kon’s animated movie Paprika, which is a trip and a half
I named the bike “Paprika.” “The girl in Byakkoya” was just too much of a mouthful.
Tank! - Yoko Kanno
Facts: if I’m going fast and if I don’t hit too many inopportune red lights, it takes exactly the duration of this song to bike from my house to the nearest subway stop.