Tarot: Strength Picture

The Strength card was originally named Fortitude, and accompanies two of the other cardinal virtues in the Major Arcana: Temperance and Justice. The meaning of Fortitude was different to the interpretation of the card: it meant moderation in attitudes toward pain and danger, with neither being avoided at all costs, nor actively wanted.

Eight is also associated with the Great Goddess because it takes eight years for Venus and Earth to sync up against the zodiac.

When Strength appears in a reading, it may be a signal that The Querant is facing a challenge that requires a strong response, rather than brute force. Occasionally, strength comes by diverting forces, diverting rivers, or fighting on a new battleground. It is a sign that the Querant has left home and needs to start drawing on all of his or her resources to meet the challenges of the exterior world.

Like its ruling sign Leo, this is a card of courage and energy. It represents both the Lion’s hot, roaring energy, and the Maiden’s steadfast will. The innocent Maiden is unafraid, undaunted, and indomitable. In some cards she opens the lion’s mouth, in others she shuts it. In several decks I have encountered, the lion is replaced with a dragon or serpent. Either way, she proves that inner strength is more powerful than raw physical strength. That force can be controlled and used to a purpose. This card assures the Querent that they can control not only the situation, but themselves. It is a card about anger and impulse management, about creative answers, leadership and maintaining one’s personal honor. It can also stand for a steadfast friend.

Wang in the ’Kabalistic Tarot’ likens to the Strength card, at one point, to a Vestal Virgin tending a sacred flame. And this, I think, is one of the best interpretations. Fire is a fearful thing, hot, burning, and all too easily able to spark out of control. But somewhere along the way, we lost our fear - but not our respect - for fire. And with will and intelligence, we made it our tool.

The danger of Strength is that it can work against the Querant.

In the Vikings Tarot this card shows Thor trying to lift the Midgard Serpent, which he had been deceived into thinking was just a giant cat.

My own interpretation of the card stems from the essential imagery, but largely incorporates part of the myth of Athena. Athena is an armed warrior goddess, and appears in Greek mythology as a helper of many heroes, including Odysseus, Jason, and Hercules. In Classical Greek myths she never had a consort or lover, and thus, often was known as Athena Parthenos ("Athena the virgin"), hence the name of her most famous temple, the Parthenon, on the Acropolis in Athens.

In a remnant of archaic myth, she was the mother of Erichthonius by the attempted rape by Hephaestus, which failed. Other variants relate that the serpent who accompanied Athena, also called Erichthonius, was born to Gaia, Earth, when the rape failed and the semen landed on Gaia, impregnating her and that after the birth he was given to Athena by Gaia.

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