Strength of a kind that's superior
because of its clever application.
The strength on the picture of the Tarot Strenght card seems delicate: A maiden pure at heart holds the jaws of a lion, making it harmless. That's real strength, far beyond what mere muscles can accomplish. It's so powerful because it has an ideal.
It's very significant that on the Tarot Strength card image, she masters the lion not by forcing its jaws apart, like any Tarzan would, but by keeping them together, hiding its teeth. The lion has become harmless and its tongue suggests that it enjoys this. So, it's the strength of neutralizing strength. A beneficial paradox.
Some would say that the Tarot Strength card is not about strength at all, but the path away from it. Maybe so. But strength is a force that tends to yield only to superior strength. Therefore, it can only be pacified by being defeated. That's the fundamental weakness of strength and the strength of weakness. What yields will prevail, what resists will break, Tao Te Ching has told us.
An expressive example of this is Achilles, the hero of great strength who had just one weakness: his heel. That's where his mother held him when dipping the infant Achilles in the potion that made the rest of his body invulnerable. This tiny weakness killed him. Every strength has one. Here's a Roman sculpture of Achilles, just when an arrow pierces his heel:
The lion has mighty muscles by which to close its jaws on a prey, but not nearly as much strength to open them. Evolution slipped on that detail. Real strength is to utilize such weaknesses. That way, little strength is needed and still not even the strongest in the world can resist.
If the Tarot Strength card refers to a person, it's someone who knows how to apply the resources to where they accomplish the most. Such strength is power. If the Strength card refers to an event, it would be one where victory went where it seemed the least likely. Strength, as most things human, is in the mind.
A. E. Waite's Texts
About the Tarot Strength Card
8. Fortitude [Strength]. This is one of the cardinal virtues, of which I shall speak later. The female figure is usually represented as closing the mouth of a lion. In the earlier form which is printed by Court de Gebelin, she is obviously opening it. The first alternative is better symbolically, but either is an instance of strength in its conventional understanding, and conveys the idea of mastery. It has been said that the figure represents organic force, moral force and the principle of all force.
The Inner Symbolism of the Tarot Strength Card
A woman, over whose head there broods the same symbol of life which we have seen in the card of the Magician, is closing the jaws of a lion. The only point in which this design differs from the conventional presentations is that her beneficent fortitude has already subdued the lion, which is being led by a chain of flowers. For reasons which satisfy myself, this card has been interchanged with that of justice, which is usually numbered eight. As the variation carries nothing with it which will signify to the reader, there is no cause for explanation. Fortitude, in one of its most exalted aspects, is connected with the Divine Mystery of Union; the virtue, of course, operates in all planes, and hence draws on all in its symbolism. It connects also with innocentia inviolata, and with the strength which resides in contemplation.
These higher meanings are, however, matters of inference, and I do not suggest that they are transparent on the surface of the card. They are intimated in a concealed manner by the chain of flowers, which signifies, among many other things, the sweet yoke and the light burden of Divine Law, when it has been taken into the heart of hearts. The card has nothing to do with self-confidence in the ordinary sense, though this has been suggested - but it concerns the confidence of those whose strength is God, who have found their refuge in Him. There is one aspect in which the lion signifies the passions, and she who is called Strength is the higher nature in its liberation. It has walked upon the asp and the basilisk and has trodden down the lion and the dragon.
Divinatory Meaning of the Tarot Strength Card
Power, energy, action, courage, magnanimity; also complete success and honours. Reversed: Despotism, abuse if power, weakness, discord, sometimes even disgrace.
The Tarot Major Arcana
- The Magician
- The High Priestess
- The Empress
- The Emperor
- The Hierophant
- The Lovers
- The Chariot
- The Hermit
- Wheel of Fortune
- The Hanged Man
- The Devil
- The Tower
- The Star
- The Moon
- The Sun
- The World
- The Fool