Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Strength (La Force)

Tarot Rider-Waite
One of the interesting cards is "The Strength". That card is normally depicted by a woman gently holding a lions mouth open.
This image shows it all what this card is about, and is a good example of the subversiveness of tarot. This card has often in the past been called "fortitude", which is emotional strength  and is slightly more fitting to the meaning of the card.

The card  is card number 8 in Tarot Rider-Waite, but in Tarot of Marseilles the card is traditionally placed as the 11th card. Rider swapped the numbering of this card with The Justice, however, many writers disagree with this change. The reason was astrologically: Strength is represented by Leo, and Justice is represented by Libra. Leo comes before Libra, so the numbering was changed.

Jean Dodal's Strength

Rider changed a few items of this card: The infinity symbol sits like a halo over the figure's head, and she nicely touches the lion, looking caring and gentle. In Marseille cards the hat shows the infinity symbol in a more hidden way, but the lion's mouth is very violently kept open. The meaning of the card is the same with both: Interior strength, willpower, self control, kindness, love, courage, vigor. In a relationship this card is a very good card, showing positive behaviour.

St Jerome: Removing the thorn from the paw out of kindness
The picture of the lion, being dominated and tamed, is an old christian symbol. In the story of St Jerome (St  Hieronymus), the saint removed a splinter from the paw of the lion, and was later recognised by this beast. The storyline is similar: The force used is brain and kindness, rather than overpowering the beast with physical strength. Surely, in medieval times, people looking at the card of the strength, who opens the mouth of the lion, would be reminded of that christian story. Jerome is saint patron of translators, librarians and encyclopedists.

With this Arcana, the card has used one of the most moralistic aspects of the entire tarot deck. The fact that kindness, self-control and discipline, in short the general virtues, are simply described as strength shows how highly regarded they are. As an advisory card, the difficulty of being virtuous must not be forgotten. As a descriptive card, being virtuous is generally a good thing, and the card is overall good. As always, the meaning of the card has to be interpreted in relation to its positions an combinations within the spread. In a position that shows this card in a balanced way, it shows that the person uses fortitude, and is positively influencing the outcome. Is the card unbalanced in the spread, it turns into advise to become "more clever" about the behaviour, to try to use willpower without using physical force or aggressiveness.

If you want to know more about this card, or are interested in a reading in Notting Hill or anywhere in London, please contact me under