Introduction To The Major Arcana, Part 15: Strength

  • There is an old German saying, In der Ruhe, liegt der Kraft, meaning “In peace, there is strength.” The peace there, Ruhe, means inner peace, or inner tranquility. This is the meaning of the Tarot card, Strength. Strength is all about that inner peace or inner strength. Where the Chariot represents outward power and domination, Strength represents the inward simplicity and integrity that confers existential strength, the strength that comes from peace. The Chariot is all external bluster and victory. Strength is a kind of internal state of affairs. Strength is inward stability. Courage and quiet dignity are part of Strength.

    The picture shows a woman with an infinite loop hovering over her head, gently petting the mane of a lion. The lion, a huge, savage beast, is apparently tamed by the woman’s quiet strength and willingly allows itself to be petted like a dog. This gives the impression that the lion is subdued by the woman’s inner peace. By being completely stable and unfazed, she makes the lion come to her in a friendly way. She wears a white robe. White, in this context, symbolizes purity. Inner strength comes from simplicity, so “purity” in this sense goes hand-in-hand with simplicity.

  • Upright Strength symbolizes all of the good things about this card. When seen upright, Strength is perhaps one of those unambiguously positive cards in all of Tarot. Upright Strength is the card that signifies personal integrity and the ability to change oneself and adapt to change. The personality spoken of by Upright Strength is like water that takes the shape of whatever vessel it is in, but which is also powerful enough to erode rock and smash dams. Upright Strength is neither masculine nor feminine, but has the epicene strength of water.

    Reversed Strength points at chaos in oneself. I quoted a German proverb before, and I’ll quote a German thinker now: “One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.” This is a very poetic way of saying that it is our internal conflicts that allow us to create great things. Reversed Strength can mean that you have weakness in you because you still have internal contradictions that must be resolved. But once you break out of that, you will create something magnificent! Even when reversed, Strength is good news. Even chaos, confusion, and the feeling of being lost or listless can ultimately be a good thing if you know how to steer yourself.

    In a past-present-future spread, Strength signifies the following:

    1. As past, Strength shows what brought you here. It calls you to look at the most positive aspects of your present situation. Alternatively, if your present situation as bad, you could see this as being forgotten Strength. In this sense, Strength in the past is the Strength within you that you have forgotten and must recover.
    2. As present, Strength shows you the Strength that you now have. Maybe you’ve forgotten it or are unaware of it, and have to recover it and remember it. Or perhaps you already sense it deep within yourself, and this card calls you to harness your Strength.
    3. As future, Strength is where you are headed. The pieces will click into place and you will see yourself becoming ever more unified and integrated until the last piece of the puzzle comes into place. At that point, you will experience an existential rupture of levels and see yourself change fundamentally.

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