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Meaning of the Tarot card Strength


Some frequent keywords are:

Self control ----- Being solid ----- Patience ----- Compassion

Composure ----- Stability ----- Perseverance ----- Moderation

Kindness ----- Gentleness ----- Slowness ----- Softness

Serenity ----- Comprehension ----- Discipline ----- Inner strength

The design of this card is fairly constant across decks. The key characters are that of a woman and a lion. The woman looks calm and gentle, and yet is dominant over the lion. Many cards, including that of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, have the woman clasping the lion's jaws. Another feature of the RWS deck is a lemniscate hovering over the woman's head. Other decks have the woman sitting upon the lion, or merely with one hand upon it. The occasional deck features just one of the characters. Flowers also often feature on this card.


The Strength card was originally named Fortitude, and accompanies two of the other classical virtues in the Major Arcana; Temperance and Justice. The meaning of Fortitude was different to the modern interpretation of the card: it meant moderation in our attitudes towards pain and danger; neither avoiding them at all costs, nor actively seeking them out. The older decks had two competing symbolisms; one featured a woman holding or breaking a stone pillar, and the other featured a person, either male or female, subduing a lion. This Tarocchi del Mantegna card (image, left), made in Fortezza around 1470, illustrates both. The modern woman-and-lion symbolism most likely evolved from a merging of the two earlier ones.


This section does not cite its references or sources. You can help Wikipedia by introducing appropriate citations. The modern interpretation of the card stresses discipline and control. The lion represents the primal 'id' part of the mind, and the woman the 'higher' parts. The card tells the Querant to be wary of the temptations of the flesh. As in The Chariot card, the Querant is fighting a battle. The difference is that in Strength, the battle is mainly internal rather than external. In the Crowley deck this card is entitled Lust, and there is a sun sign (zodiac) association with Leo, strength implying here a potency that is sexual, creative, and intuitive, all attributes of the element Fire, and with the other Leonine quality of generosity, mercy is also an aspect of this power or stength. There is further a connection with the heart chakra in kundalini yoga, the center of emotion, mammalian energy. If inverted, the Querant is in danger of losing control to impulses and desires. Pride and unwarranted anger are also often associated with the inverted card. An alternative reading of the card is representing a reliable friend.

Mythopoetic Approach

Hercules is the obvious example of the archetype of Strength. Hercules was a son of Zeus, The Emperor. He is a Solar Hero, as shown by his archetypal 12 labors - each one standing for one sign of the Zodiac. Strength can manifest itself in unexpected ways. One of Hercules's adventures was to clean the Augean Stables, which had been filling with horse excrement for as long as anyone could remember. Heracles diverted a river, washing the manure into the surrounding fields, renewing everything. It is also the strength that tames the lion; not brute force, but understanding. It is also brute force. What ever is needed. It is also associated with Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was the king of Ur, but not a very good king. He abused his power, he abused the people. The people prayed to the goddess Ishtar (see also, The Empress, and she sent Enkidu to teach Gilgamesh to be human. The two of them bond, and fight monsters. Unfortunately, they overreach themselves, and Enkidu dies. Gilgamesh is horrified and goes on a quest to defeat death. He fails, but in the process, he learns what he needs to learn to become a good king. Strength is mastering the challenges presented. It is associated with the suit of Wands. Fire, generative masculine force, leavened somewhat by the fact it is dominated by a feminine figure. Strength is associated through the cross sum (the sum of the digits) with The Star. The Star is paradoxical. It is a bad omen; the comet that foretells the birth of kings; and the Star that signals Dante that he has found his way out of the Underworld. The Lion in the standard card represents the Sun, making strength a solar hero, just like Hercules. Because it is the eighth card, it is associated with Arachne. Arachne challenged Athena, goddess of science, war, and the useful arts to a weaving contest. And had the temerity to win. To punish her for her victory, Athena transformed her into the eight armed spider. Bespeaking the danger of challenging the mysteries, we may be destroyed or transformed by them. Eight is also associated with the Great Goddess because it takes eight years for Venus and Earth to sync up against the zodiac. Eight years go get into accord with the goddess as the object and provoker of desire. When Strength appears in a throw, it may be a signal that The Querant is facing a challenge that require a strong response. Not, necessarily, brute force. Sometimes, strength comes by diverting forces, diverting rivers, fighting on a new battleground. It is a sign that the Querant has left home and needs to start drawing on all of his/her resources to meet the challenges of the exterior world. The danger of Strength is that it can work against the Querent.


Strength is traditionally the eleventh card and Justice the eighth, but the influential Rider-Waite-Smith deck switched the position of these two cards in order to make them better fit the astrological correspondences worked out by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, under which the eighth card is associated with Leo and the eleventh with Libra. Today many decks use this numbering, particularly in the English-speaking world. Both placements are considered valid. Kabbalistic/Tree of Life Considerations Hebrew letters have added dimensions: they have a glyph, a meaning and a number. While the tarot trumps (the cards of the Major Arcana) start at 0, with the Fool, Hebrew starts with the number 1. Thus adding 1 to a tarot trump will give the corresponding letter in the Hebrew. Thus the question becomes: is Strength more akin to the 9th letter energy of Hebrew, which would be the letter Teth, or to a 12th letter energy, a Lamed? Knowing that the Hebrew letter Teth is a noun meaning "snake" and the letter Lamed means "ox-goad", here are the 8 reasons why Strength is 8, and Justice 11: 1. Visually the shape of the snake, of an 8, and of the lemniscate are akin to each other 2. In the Chinese Zodiac, the astrological sign of the Snake corresponds to the peak of Summer, while the letter Teth is attributed to the sign Leo, also the peak of Summer. 3. The Strength card being about ruling passions, the hot summer month of Av, which corresponds to the letter Teth, seems to be a more fitting connection 4. The letter Teth corresponds to the astrological sign of Leo, and the Strength card almost always pictures a lion. 5. The pointed stick, or "ox-goad" Lamed visually reminds the axis balancing the scales 6. The "ox-goad" is a weapon, like the sword of Justice is. It helps adjusting the scales, and bringing their parity to the perfection of the "pair" 11 7. Libra is the cardinal sign starting Autumn, with a colder climate and winds leading naturally to go inside and balance the scales. The Hebraic month of Tishrei corresponds to Libra, and sees the celebration of the Jewish New Year, followed by Yom Kippur, the prayer of at-one-ment (rather than at-eight-ment) to divine Justice. 8. In the Hebrew alphabet, prior to the letter Lamed, there are exactly 11 letters, since Lamed begins the second half of the alphabet, leading the next 11 letters.

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