Strength as a Force

The Strength card is almost a parable in a picture.  A beautiful woman crowned with flowers gently closes the mouth of a ferocious lion.  The symbol of eternity floats over her head, reminding us that this is no ordinary strength that she embodies.

We all have different images and ideas that come to mind when we use the word, “strength.”    For many of us the image may be similar to the one depicted in the Swiss Tarot.


Here there is no gentle woman, but a muscled, ferocious man throwing the lion to the ground.  No doubt he ripped it’s head off and wore it for a top hat to remind every one of how butch he was.

That’s definitely NOT the concept of Strength that the Waite Tarot is trying to convey, nor is it in keeping with the images from the oldest Tarot decks.  This type of Strength has nothing to do with brute force and much more to do with love.

And that can be very hard for many of us to wrap our heads around:  love as Strength.

But even stranger is the concept of love as a Force, as it’s portrayed in the Marseille deck La Force.


Therapist and self-help author Gay Hendricks gives this advice:  “If you really want to change something love and accept it just the way it is.”  And that implies something quite a bit stronger than just the surface of the statement.  It implies that love can physically change things.

If you’re confronted with a bully, love him and he’ll change.

If you’re having hard times financially, love it and it will change.

If you’re having marriage problems, love it and it will change.

This isn’t just a matter of, “mere,” attitude adjustment, either.  It’s not learning how to feel better about something that stinks. It ACTUALLY changes things when you love them.

Which means that love is a force.  Or to put it another way, love is an energy.  It’s something that you can feel and something that can be projected into your world to make things better for you.

You can also approach that concept by examining some other emotional energies like hate or anger or pain.  If you walk into a room where there’s just been a really angry argument you can feel it. The anger is palpable even after the people who argued are gone.  If you meet a really negative person your first reaction is, “Boy, does HE have bad vibes.” If you walk into a slaughter house or a county jail the energy can literally make you sick to your stomach.

On the other hand, if you walk into a meditation center you immediately feel calmed and soothed by the energy that’s being generated there.

I got a wonderful tip from family therapist and counselor Jil Chipman:  “You can be happy any time that you choose to be.”

If we practice mindfulness then emotions can become a choice rather than random forces that batter us around.  We can sit and think about things that make us happy and literally become happy people at that moment. And there’s an energy and vibration that goes with happiness that we emanate when we are in that state.

In the same sense, if we think of things that we love we become loving people at that moment and there is an energy and a vibration that we emanate when we are in that state.

We are literally generating an energy which we call love and it’s literally a physical force that can change things for the better.  And that’s Strength.

The Strength Card in the Tarot

 

Strength

This is, obviously, first and foremost a card denoting strength.  It is, however, a quiet, gentle, enduring strength rather than a blustering, muscle flexing type of strength.  Note how gently the woman is closing the lion’s mouth. She almost appears to be petting it, rather than subduing it.

The lemniscate hovering above her head indicates that she is channeling the Higher Power and the realm of spirit.  This is very much the strength of the Goddess, loving and nurturing to all of her creatures and conquering with enduring love rather than brute force.

This card shows that the questioner will overcome challenges and be successful in the long term.  The key to this is quiet perseverance rather than an all out frontal assault on the problems. The urge to fight – represented by the lion – is overcome and supplanted by the loving strength of her higher nature.  So, too, the questioner should approach problems with loving kindness rather than aggression and will win out in the end.

On a simple physical level this card may show an individual who has been ill for some time but is slowly recovering and gaining strength.

REVERSED – A lack of strength and resolve.  The questioner may be overcome by foes and enemies because he or she isn’t strong enough to stand up to them.  If conflicts arise try to delay and retreat.

This may also show a person who is chronically ill or fatigued and is failing to get better.  A long term, serious illness.

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT STRENGTH:

Strength has some of the most cliched definitions attached to it of any card in the Major Arcana.  It’s a woman closing a lion’s mouth. So the lion is an animal, right? And the woman is, well, a woman.  And, hey, she’s got the symbol for eternity floating over her head! So . . . um . . . it must be about using our higher nature to control our animal instincts, right?

And, of course, the second someone mentions, “animal instincts,” being the good little puritans we are, we immediately think of . . . you know . . . S-E-X.  And somehow this rather interesting portrayal of a woman quietly closing the mouth of a lion morphs into a morality play about being more spiritual and less sexual because, of course, sex and spirituality are opposites.  

It’s my belief that Strength is actually about a state of being called, “Ahimsa.”  For those of you who aren’t familiar with it Ahimsa is a phrase which basically means, “being harmless,”  or, “doing no harm.” It’s practiced in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and is mentioned prominently in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  And, yes, it’s usually described as a practice but it’s also a state of being. It’s a state of projecting absolutely no harmful or aggressive vibrations at all.

Let me give you an example.  My life partner Carol had an old Persian cat who liked to lie out in the sunshine during the summer.  I glanced out the kitchen window one day and was astonished to see this large, white cat stretched out on the ground and completely surrounded by birds.  They were strolling around, pecking at the ground, grooming themselves, and literally within inches of one of their worst predators, a cat.

They had absolutely no fear of the cat because they somehow knew that the cat had absolutely no interest in harming them.  The cat was practicing kitty-ahimsa and the birds were responding in kind.

You find similar scenarios in the tales from India.  Ferocious tigers and snakes who become completely docile in the presence of a master practicing ahimsa.

Here’s what Swami Kriyananda said about it:  “Ahimsa, rightly understood, becomes the ultimate weapon;  it turns one’s enemy into one’s friend, thereby banishing the possibility of further conflict.”

You could call it the ultimate weapon, as he did, or the ultimate STRENGTH.

I told the story about the cat and the birds to a conservative friend of mine.  He sneered and said, “Well, it’s a good thing that cat has someone to feed it or it would starve to death.”

He didn’t get it.  The cat was fully capable of killing those birds in seconds but the cat chose not to.  Instead of spreading blood and gore all over the back yard the cat chose to enjoy the sunny day and, perhaps, the songs of the birds.  He projected peace and peace is what was projected back at him.

Violence, aggression, anger, fear, those are all ultimately choices that we make.  If we put out those vibrations the beings around us respond on the same vibrational level.  If we put out peace and harmlessness the beings around us respond with peace and harmlessness.

Ahimsa can be a difficult concept for Westerners to grasp.  We tend to think of strength as something we’re doing, some positive action, or at least the ability to endure something unpleasant.  Ahimsa, on the other hand, is not-doing. It’s a deliberate withdrawing from any actions that might cause harm, anger, or fear.  It seems totally paradoxical:  you are ARMING yourself with peace.  And thus you overcome violence.

This card calls for taking a good, deep look at what we mean when we use the word, “Strength.”  Is it aggression? Dominance? Walking over people who disagree with you? Or is it quite the opposite?

just

Available as an E-Book on Amazon.com