Force Majeur: Strength
This week, we come across one of those Major Arcana cards that holds a lot of meanings, depending on which way you're looking at it. The Strength card is incredibly rich… looking at it on a surface level can already provide a lot of insight. Going deeper with it offers an endless wealth of meaning too.
Two things come to mind whenever the Strength card comes up, whether I'm using a traditional deck or going for something a little more contemporary and fresh, like the Holly Simple Tarot pictured above. First, I think of Strength as a purely physical thing—it's muscle, it's brawn, it's outside appearance, endurance, and power. Second, comes a subtler, more hidden meaning of Strength that is often masked by all the outward stuff we focus on. Inner strength isn't something that comes in plain view. Looking at the heart depicted in the Holly Simple Tarot, you see the many layers you have to go through before you get to the heart of strength. Inner strength is placid and serene, unlike the thunderous force we associate with outer strength. When inner strength manifests itself, the external world falls silent.
This card is a perfect one to meditate with because I feel it resonates with so many people on so many occasions. When Strength shows up in readings I do for myself, I'm immediately transported to a time where I was questioning my own strength—literally. I felt as though my physicality was put in question and it riled up so much power inside me, I was determined to prove to the world exactly how strong I could be. I worked out, I watched sports movies and identified with the underdog (I highly recommend Rocky) and while I may have gotten physically stronger, my inner strength was at an all-time low because I had become insecure, relying on others' judgement of me to shape the way I looked at myself. The tables turned and I realized how little attention I was paying to the strength inside.
Pretty Standard Stuff About Strength (check out the Tarot Mucha, Pagan Otherworlds and Dreaming Way depictions pictured above):
- The classic Strength card puts together a lion and a woman. In both the Tarot Much and Dreaming Way cards, you see the woman looking unperturbed and calm despite the fact that she's with a potentially dangerous creature. The Strength card confronts us with the question of where strength truly lies? Is it in the beast or in the woman who's able to tame the wild animal?
- Instead of a lion, the Pagan Otherworlds has the woman paired off with a bear. This is by no means a lovable Winnie the Pooh type creature—you can see that this grizzly has the potential to tower over the woman. But she's got him under control, poised strongly from her hands down to her bare foot. You can kind of tell that this bear's not going anywhere under her watch.
- We often focus on the woman when the Strength card comes along, but I think it wise to check out the animal too. Does he look playful, angry, or peaceful? Is he submitting himself willingly or is there some tension present between him and his "master"?
But what about cards that go off the beaten path?
- The Black Lilly Tarot's woman is naked, which I feel makes a very strong statement about the definition of Strength. Much like the Holly Simple's heart drawing, it could represent peeling the layers you protect yourself with until you discover true inner strength.
- She and the lion also look like they're just hanging out. Together, the wild beast + the bare-faced woman make a very powerful pair that can take on anything.
And if you're not used to reading cards that stray from the classics, here are prompts to ask yourself: [You could practice with the aforementioned Black Lilly Fool).
- What does the lion's stance tell you? Is it similar or different to the woman's position?
- Get your eyes off the foreground and check out the surroundings depicted in your Strength card. What part does the environment play in the story that Strength tells?
- What beasts need taming in your life?
May the Strength card provide as much insight to you as it does for me. This is just one of those cards that continues to inspire me, no matter how many times I pull it. If you've got any other questions about the Major Arcana, send me a message or hit me up on Instagram @practical_magical so we can have a conversation. Next week, we move on to my personal fave (and also my birth card), The Hermit.