Card Meaning: VIII Strength

The Strength
Element: Fire
Astrology: Leo
Hebrew letter: Teth, ט


  Main characteristic of civilization and civilized man is ability to think and behave beyond lower and primal instincts like sex, food and pure survival. This card symbolizes taming of these lower instincts in favor of the more subtle aspirations like compassion, resolve, patience, courage and love. The Strength can be looked as the last card of triad with The Lovers and The Chariot. The mortal sin that was actual in The Lovers card resulting with exile from the Garden of Eden, The Chariot's divine control in external field of material world, with its conflicts and challenges, finds its soft but strong culmination in calm taming of our lower self - Id. This card echoes again the fact that external battles first must be won inside, with help of virtues given by this card. We can see on this card that lion is overcome with gentleness, without struggle.


In many decks this card bears number eleven but in modern times Waite put it in the place of number eight to better fit astrological characteristics given by the occult Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn under which number eight is associated with the Leo and number eleven with Libra, represented by the Justice card. Original name of the card was Fortitude (Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis) and with the Temperance and the Justice it was one of the three cardinal virtues in Major Arcana, the forth, the Prudence (many people see The Hermit as a substitute for Prudence) was conspicuously skipped. In Visconti- Sforza tarot deck, the Strength was portrayed as a man with a club in his hand, ready to strike, there is a small lion at his feet although it is not clear if they are in fact focusing on a common enemy. It is reminiscent of Heracles and Samson, both fighting a lion in legends. Marseille tarot is portaying a woman with a broad sun hat and unusual rim that reminds us ona horizontal number eight, which was surely a strong inspiration for The Strength in Rider-Waite tarot deck. In the Crowley's deck this card is entitled Lust, the leitmotif of the card being more of a passion and creative energy, more sexual in nature, indicating the fire element of the card. Some older decks features a woman breaking a stone pillar.


A person with great power. A great inner strength and willpower, ability to cope with extreme preassure. The health is getting better, giving up the  unhealthy habbits; smoking, drinking, etc. Generosity, mercy. Control over one's lower self.  If inverted, danger of losing control. Desires, impulses gone wild. Pride and unwarranted anger.

lion, woman in white dress, flowers, blue mountain in distance

  Symbolism of this card is rather straight forward and plain. The lion represents our low level insincts. The monster from the Id. A simple and gentle woman is closing his jaws with conspicuous ease. The lion is reddish in appearence indicating the strength of its passion. We could even say that the lion is obeying against its will, like there is a some greter, stronger force on the scene.  We must ask ourself what force is capable of doing this. We see that the woman is dressed in white. It is a clear indication of purity of purpose. There is a garland of flowers upon her hand and around her waist. Interesting detail is above her head, horizontal number eight symbolizing infinity is a clear clue where the strength for taming the lion is coming from. Same symbol is above the head of The Magician. They are connected to the same source. The surroundings of the card is echo of the card The Lovers. The ground and the mountain in distance are rather simple but direct connection with The Lovers, the passion in The Lovers card was the reason for the fall, in this card the passion is tamed or maybe it is better to say - controled through gentleness and love. All that symbolism is about the inner battle, opposed to The Chariot where battle is more external and more visible. Except the astrological sign of Leo this card was traditionally connected to the ruler of that sign: the Sun. We can see all solar characteristic implemented as messages in this card, generosity, strength, love etc..  Interesting detail is that although the woman is closing his mouth the lion has his tongue still extended, he is about to feel the pain as a result of his stubbornness. That is nice alegory of pain that we must live through when we foolishly think that we can carry on with our outmoded ways of living without consequences. There is a subtle impression about the woman being subconscious force that controls the lion, symbolizing fire of kundalini sleeping inside us. Control is not a brute force in this case but a spiritual gentleness.

A woman, over whose head there broods the same symbol of life which we have seen in the card of the Magician, is closing the jaws of a lion. The only point in which this design differs from the conventional presentations is that her beneficent fortitude has already subdued the lion, which is being led by a chain of flowers. For reasons which satisfy myself, this card has been interchanged with that of justice, which is usually numbered eight. As the variation carries nothing with it which will signify to the reader, there is no cause for explanation. Fortitude, in one of its most exalted aspects, is connected with the Divine Mystery of Union; the virtue, of course, operates in all planes, and hence draws on all in its symbolism. It connects also with innocentia inviolata, and with the strength which resides in contemplation.

These higher meanings are, however, matters of inference, and I do not suggest that they are transparent on the surface of the card. They are intimated in a concealed manner by the chain of flowers, which signifies, among many other things, the sweet yoke and the light burden of Divine Law, when it has been taken into the heart of hearts. The card has nothing to do with self-confidence in the ordinary sense, though this has been suggested--but it concerns the confidence of those whose strength is God, who have found their refuge in Him. There is one aspect in which the lion signifies the passions, and she who is called Strength is the higher nature in its liberation. It has walked upon the asp and the basilisk and has trodden down the lion and the dragon.


The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by A.E. Waite

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