Keywords for Strength
|INNER RESOURCES||SOFT POWER|
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.
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.