Continuing our series exploring the meaning of the Tarot, we pick up again this week with the Strength card. Representing courage, patience and, of course, strength, the Strength card is another one of those cards with many layers of meaning.
The card depicts a woman patting a lion’s head in a green field under a golden sky. Many people mistakenly assume that the lion is the symbol of strength here, but actually, the woman is. Her warm, patient, nurturing spirit is quite literally taming the beast. The lion is not only passive, but his outstretched tongue indicates his total submission to the gentle woman.
An infinity symbol representing her enlightenment floats above the woman’s head—similar to the Magician. She also wears a crown of laurels like the Chariot, symbolizing the crowning achievements of life, along with a belt of flowers symbolizing the fruits of her good work. They stand in a fertile green field with a mountain in the background—the same phallic mountain seen in the Lovers card. These symbols of fertility and action are used to show that the Strength represents action taken to achieve goals.
In this manner, the Strength card is similar to the Chariot, which is also about taking action to achieve goals. But the difference between the two cards is that the Strength card prefers the diplomatic, compromising and compassionate approach whereas the Chariot favors the independent, unilateral, and maverick approach to achieving goals. The Chariot charges forward into his battles, eager to conquer his enemies and fight to his victory. The Strength card patiently listens to all, turns enemies into friends and communicates to establish peace & harmony.
Together, the Chariot and the Strength card represent the masculine and feminine approaches to achieving results in life. Force balanced with diplomacy. Competition balanced by cooperation. Tenacity balanced by compromise. If the Chariot represents outer strength, the Strength card represents inner strength.
The woman uses her patience, sweetness and warmth to charm the lion into surrender. The lion, as the wild beast, represents the untamed passions of humankind. The lion represents man’s animal desires which the enlightened woman subdues with a divine love. Again, the Strength card reinforces the message interwoven into many of the Tarot imagery: mastery over our animal temptations is the path to enlightenment.
Of course, achieving enlightenment—transcending our animal self and ascending to our divine self—will require inner strength and overcoming attachment to the delights of the sensory world. The Strength card, then, does not represent physical strength, but the inner strength to resist temptation.
In readings, Strength means that you are courageous, strong and compassionate, but that your situation will require patience to persevere. The Strength card encourages you to take an approach that emphasizes compromise, diplomacy and cooperation rather than independent, self-interested, and unilateral action like the Chariot. The Strength card gives you a green light to pursue your goals, but urges you to do so in a diplomatic fashion where all parties involved can benefit, rather than only you. You will have to be patient, courageous and strong in the face of your struggles. Solving your problems will not be as simple as smashing them with a hammer. Rather, you will have to seduce your enemies patiently and turn them into genuine friends—like taming a deadly lion into a cuddly kitten.
In reverse, the Strength card represents weakness, self-doubt and a lack of confidence. A reversed Strength card indicates that you are lacking in courage, strength and patience. You may be lacking the discipline necessary to control your passions. Your emotions may be getting the better of you. Your desires may be controlling you, blinding you to reason. You may be filling with self-doubt and your self-esteem and self-confidence may be eroding.
A Strength card in a challenge position calls on you to demonstrate the woman’s qualities of compassion, compromise and cooperation, and could also suggest your opponent is a strong, patient and understanding person that may be reasoned with and befriended but not defeated through force.