Strength | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Strength

Keywords for Strength 

SELF-CONTROLFORTITUDE
INNER RESOURCESSOFT POWER
DISCIPLINECOURAGE
RESILIENCEVITALITY
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCEKUNDALINI

It is late afternoon, and a warm and vibrantly energizing yellow sunlight permeates the air, illuminating the landscape we see all around us. On our left, we can see the high peak of a distant gray mountaintop in shadow, the very same mountain which we first saw earlier in the Lovers card.

There is a certain peace and serenity which permeates the atmosphere. There is still much energy left of the day, but we are now at a point when the power of the Sun is under control. We are no longer burned by its heat, but gently warmed by the life energy calmly exuded by this center of solar energy.

Directly in front of us stands a woman in white, wearing a crown of flowers on her head. She also wears a garland of roses, one which ties her, in an elegant figure 8, to the lion at her feet.

Gently, tenderly, with an attitude of the utmost care, she holds the open jaws of this king of the animal kingdom, the lion. In return, he looks up at her with an attitude of loving submission. For the woman has learned how to tame the wildest and most powerful of beasts: with attention and respect, with care and with love. 

A lesser person would have responded to the ferocious strength and power of the lion with fear, with fury, with a violence meant to destroy. But the woman, who bears much in common with the Empress, knows better—she knows that strength and power is nothing to be feared. Treated with respect and love, the raw, primal energies of this red lion are instead a force to be tamed, to be controlled with disciplined attention and careful responsiveness. 

To try to suppress or kill this energy would be a tragedy; to misunderstand the lion as a threat is a grave error, for he represents a force which is ours to be harnessed. It is one which, with the right attitude, can ultimately show us greater power than we could have ever imagined possible. 

The key lies in the garland of roses which tie the woman and the lion together. Roses represent our desire nature, the forces of love and attraction which propel us forward into the future, which draw our destiny towards us. The lion represents the raw power of our uncultivated emotions, our primal, animal level of the subconscious. When we can direct the raw energy of these emotions and direct our own difficult feelings with compassion and care, we often find that we have access to a kind of power previously impossible to imagine. 

Interpretation of Strength in a Reading

When Strength comes up in a tarot reading, we are often being asked to act in a way that demonstrates true inner strength and courage. 

The quality of strength as demonstrated in this card has little to do with the common cultural conceptions many of us hold around this idea. Strength here is in fact the opposite of the show of force that our cultures so values. True strength is the antithesis of the violent expression of personal will that we mistakenly often take to be true power. 

Instead of dominance and coercion, we see a strength whose expression is truly much more powerful. This kind of strength relies on inner resources, and is dependent upon our cultivation of discipline and genuine self-control. 

On a more esoteric level, the lion is a representation of our primal (some would say “lower”) animal nature. It symbolizes the raw energy of kundalini that comes from our deepest inner sources. 

It is the “libido” that Carl Jung speaks of, which, in contrast to Freud, is not simply a shameful sexual impulse, but rather the vital life force energy that animates all which moves and breathes and has its being in the world. 

Our desires, our feelings, our emotions are nothing to be feared. They must not be repressed or denied through oppressive tactics.

They are instead a force to be respected, a force to be honored, a force to be gently and lovingly guided in the direction of our highest vision and most elevated ideals. 

The Dance of Sulfur

After the Bellows Breath, you may want to follow up with another practice called the Dance of Sulfur.

Sulfur is a yellow powder which the alchemists believed symbolized the active masculine principle of fire. It was often used in laboratory alchemy in the form of sulfuric acid (also known to them as vitriol).

The Dance of Sulfur is an exercise to increase energy and circulate it in the body. Not only that, it is ideal for taking the emotions which arise in Roasting Cinnabar and the energy raised in Bellows Breath and expressing them in a healthy way. We can use the Dance of Sulfur to let go of pent up rage, aggression and other emotions that have been suppressed or held in our bodies for too long.

HOW TO PRACTICE

  1. To begin, you can put on some music (some say angry or aggressive rock music works best) and start to dance. You can try any other type of aerobic movement that will increase your heart rate, like jogging in place or jumping rope, but I prefer to dance, as it really allows you to get into the music and feel the powerful feelings which have been brought up by other alchemical practices. Aim for at least 20 minutes of movement in this practice.
  2. Try to leave thought and the conscious, rational mind behind. As much as you can, drop your awareness into your body, feel all the emotions coming up as the energy grows stronger and rises within you.
  3. Once you feel you are in the moment and present in your body, start to imagine intense, fiery energy rising up in waves from below. You can then direct that fire energy to any areas of tension or pain in your body (either physical or emotional). Let the flames wash over you, consuming the stagnant ego structures of your past, and burning up and releasing any ideas, emotions or behavior you want to let go of.

This practice, along with the previous two, may be used alone or in conjunction. If you have the time, I recommend creating a ritual that combines Roasting Cinnabar, Bellows Breath, and the Dance of Sulfur (in that order).

When I have done this set of practices together in the past, I like to say a prayer or set an intention (whatever works for you), and I light a red candle to honor the rage and pain of the past, and to symbolize what will be consumed and released during the ritual. You may also want to conclude this set of practices with a ritual bath (salt baths are great for this). Visualize the salt water cleansing you of any remnants of anger or stuck energy, then picture all of these troubles leaving you for good as they are washed down the drain at the very end.

Bellows Breath

Bellows Breath is an active meditation that can be used to increase conscious awareness and raise energy in the body. Practitioners of Kundalini Yoga may recognize this as what they call the “Breath of Fire.” It can be used to release stuck energy in the body, oxygenating the blood, and expanding lung capacity.

HOW TO PRACTICE

  1. Begin by sitting with your legs crossed. Then focus on the energy in your body around your navel.
  2. Keeping your mouth closed, begin by inhaling and exhaling rapidly through your nose. The in and out breaths should be equal in length, but as short as possible. As you exhale, push the air out of your lungs quickly, similar to a bellows used to start a fire. Try for between 2-3 breaths per second.
  3. After a few minutes, you may start to experience a warm energy rising from your navel up to your head. Try to experience this rising energy without any judgements or assumptions about you are feeling. Just feel the energy spreading in your body.
  4. You may choose to imagine that as the energy rises, it is clearing away physical or emotional blocks in your body. You can visualize this fire energy moving through your body and burning away any toxins, negativity, stuck emotions, or past behaviors, leaving only a healthy body and mind behind.