The Major Arcana of the Tarot outlines archetypes experienced by mankind for centuries, depicting both the joyful moments of our lives and also the trials we face in our quest for purpose. Among the first card in the Major Arcana to signify the more challenging aspects of our collective experience is the Strength card. This card traditionally shows a virtuous youth suppressing or appeasing a lion, typically with a gesture that involves the figure’s hand being inside of or covering the lion’s mouth. This is a posture that depicts a very dangerous situation in which one would expect disastrous results. There is an air of calm in this card. The lion in the scene acquiesces to the gentle prompts of the youth and although the beast has the instinct and ability to do tremendous damage - it does not.
This is the lesson of the strength card. Who is the observer? Both the youth and the lion exist within you. Both the power to subdue aggression and win through logic and poise, as well as the ability to maul one’s enemy exist in each of us. This card presents to remind us that we have the capability to flex our physical muscle in aggressive or intimidating ways, but perhaps should reconsider doing so. This card also signifies situations in which one’s strength of will is put to the test. How much aggravation can you stand before the lure of letting your lion run free and teach your opponent a lesson becomes too much to subdue? The answer, Strength tells us, is that you can tolerate a lot more than you believed yourself capable of, and to prove it you are given this situation as a test, and as a gift. It is your opportunity to choose a higher road and to wield your greatest weapon - the control of your mind - to positive effect.
This is the card of beating the odds, of outwitting your opponent, of stamina and endurance. Of course this implies a struggle or conflict of some sort otherwise there would be no need to summon one’s strength and reinforce one’s ability to win through reason and logic. In spite of the conflict at hand, it is presented through this card that the challenge will be overcome but it is essential to not allow base instinct to over-ride rationality. This is easier said than done. The tests one encounters, particularly when security, survival, or the safety of loved ones are at stake, produce a natural drive to act out of primal instinct. In fact matters perceived as threatening are not even processed through the logical, developed part of the brain in the frontal cortex. Stimuli perceived as threatening is immediately sent to the primitive part of the brain where alert signals are sent all through the body in order to respond in survival mode. Therefore biology has placed an obstacle in the way of acting on the more refined expectations of modern day society. Regardless of this disadvantage in our wiring, the truth remains that most situations are not as dire as they initially appear, and even the significant conflicts present opportunities for development and transcendence if we choose to allow ourselves to restrain impulse reactions and allow our deeper strengths to emerge.
Who then is the true King of the Forest? The lion able to tolerate encounters with a human, or the lion who acts only out of initial instinct? When Strength appears it is time to examine your strengths and assets and the proof that you have always found a way to thrive in spite of your surroundings.
Article by: Angela Kaufman. Angela is a Priestess for the Dragon Warriors of Isis Coven in Upstate, New York, and the co-author of Wicca: What's the Real Deal? She is a professional tarot reader. For more information about Wicca: What's the Real Deal? visit http://www.wwtrd.webs.com.