A woman dressed in a white flowing gown tames or pats a lion on the head, the other hand on its jaw. Around her head and waste are garlands of leaves with the sign of infinity over her head. The background is a golden sky with forest and mountains in the distance.
The eight card of the Tarot (in some decks, this card is in the eleventh position) and at first glance the meaning can appear obvious. Strength to tame obstacles that stand in our way, to overcome danger and difficulties and even subdue the lions that would do us harm.
On a deeper level, the card is more concerned with the strength of character within us rather than physical strength. It is not a muscular superhero that wrestles the lion but a gentle woman, her face placid and serene, almost as if she knows her strength comes from a higher realm. That ‘divine’ strength is hinted at by the sign of infinity (a lemniscate) displayed over her head. It reminds us of the card of the Magician – the lemniscate appearing over the magician’s head also. It is a timely reminder that we are all on a journey that never really ends, that possibilities are endless and our ability to grow and master ourselves never ceases.
The white gown she wears along with the garlands around her head and waist is reminiscent of the High Priestess and Empress. This card in an upright position is concerned with our good traits and characteristics. It emphasises the positive strength in our lives, that inner strength that sits quiet comfortably with nature and knows that it is right and proper.
In readings, this card can suggest that our control of our environment has grown to a level where even difficult challenges do not overly disturb us. We should take strength in our abilities. Be full of confidence and be assured that upcoming challenges are another opportunity for us to grow. I often think of this card as akin to a master craftsman. After years of practice he is master of his craft and challenges that to others are insurmountable fade away in his presence. Yet the same craftsman will not be so arrogant as to think that he has nothing more to learn – his journey always brings him to another level but that challenge is set and created by himself. It is him that drives his journey, it is him that desires to know and master everything about his craft.
The lion in astrology is representative of Leo, who rules the fifth house which is concerned with pleasure, romance, fun, passion and creativity. In a sense, the card of Strength may indicate that we have self control of our own temptations and desires.
The previous card (the Chariot) was also concerned with Strength, but it was strength derived from physical strength and determination. The warrior riding out on his chariot, his strength came from his status and abilities in a very wordly way. His ability to wage war and defeat his opponents is based on his physical might and ability to command men. The current card of Strength is an inner, sublime strength, one that transcends our physical abilities and status in this world.
It is interesting to note that the woman in this card does not punish the lion. Perhaps having threatened her, the woman is not interested in killing the lion, harming it or punishing it. It is very much a scene where the lion recognises the authority the woman carries within her and becomes obedient to her. Mother Earth would not harm one of her own. In readings, we should not seek revenge nor punishment on those that challenge us either.
When this card appears it is time to look within us for answers. Spiritual and emotional reflection can be beneficial in calming us down from the wild ruggedness of the lion. We need to understand that our lives always have a higher purpose and to learn of it we will face many challenges along the way. Getting caught up in the day to day grind of life, the battles we face, the obstacles, the worries over money, children, jobs and the ten thousand other things that consume us, this card is a timely reminder that within us is a strength that is waiting to tame and control our environment.
Reversed: The card of Strength reversed can warn us of several things. First, our environment or obstacles are controlling us. Instead of taming the lion, it is snapping and snarling at us, chasing us around and upsetting our command. In real life, we may have succumbed to temptations, given up or thrown in the towel. Perhaps we have been attempting to deal with our obstacles in a physical way instead of relying on inner strength to overcome them. Instead of physical confrontation, we should seek to understand why things happen and how they help us progress in a spiritual way. Look inwards for stength for a moment and forget about physically overcoming your obstacle. A kind and courageous heart can be better than the mightiest sword.
Strength reversed can also suggest that we are abusing our abilities. The card is very much concerned with the qualities we might expect from Mother Earth – confidence, serene, protective and nurturing of us, even when we are bad. In a reversed position, we need to ensure that we are not using our abilities for evil, that we are not seeking revenge on others.
The final consideration of Strength reversed is that of failure of confidence in our abilities. We may be going through a time when we question our beliefs, values, abilities or determination. We are somehow wondering if we are good enough, for the team, relationship or even life. It is one of our low points when we wonder why we bother. Reversed, Strength reminds us to turn the card around.