Note to the reader: Strength is something that changes along with life circumstances and so this is my updated version of the Strength Card.
In Tarot for Yourself, Mary Greer talks about how to find our personality card. It represents the task in this lifetime. You add your birthdate to find a number under 21. My birthdate is July 29,1952, so I add 7 + 29 + 1952 which adds up to 1,988. Then, I add 1+9+8+8 = 26. As there are 22 major arcana cards in the Tarot, I then add 2+6=8 which ends up being my purpose in this lifetime. My card is Strength, the 8th card.
The Strength card is about taming our inner demons with kindness and allowing for self-expression through creativity. The woman in the card is gently opening the lion’s mouth and the lion looks calm and accepting with her gentle touch. The Strength card is about courage, love over hate and spiritual harmony.
Hercules is portrayed in the Strength card in The Mythic Tarot. A task given to him by King Eurystheus, who he was bound to in servitude, was to slay a lion that has “depopulated” the neighborhood. When Hercules did indeed slay the lion, he wore the skin as armor and became Strength’s symbol of containing the powerful and savage beast within us. The lion within reflects our tendencies toward egocentricity and self-gratification. The Herculean task in this card requires a transformation of senseless pride utilizing our courage, strength, and self-discipline in order to “slay the lion” within.
When I first began to study tarot, and discovered that my life purpose was described in the Strength card, I did’t really know what this card meant for me. I did not feel strong at all. I grew up with the expectation that marriage and children was the path I had to follow — my mother expected me to get married, have kids and then do whatever I wanted after, but it was a lifestyle that was never a good fit: I always felt different. Feeling different and feeling inferior went hand in hand for me for an exceptionally long time. It only occurred to me later on that even though I didn’t know what I wanted, I was strong enough to follow an unknown path with lots of twists and turns. I naturally embraced some aspects of the Strength card without even realizing that I have a strong survivor instinct.
I was still identifying as a person with self-esteem issues even though I was successful in many aspects of my life. I became a social worker, which has always been a rewarding path for me: the love and kindness that the Rider-Waite deck’s Strength card displays is similar to how I feel about all the people that I serve as a social worker in community agencies.
A lot, however, changed with cancer as there are many gains, losses, fears, insights, and overall perseverance. Suddenly I began to see my life with a clearer vision of who I am. No longer does low self-esteem cloud my insight. When I became a cancer survivor, I began to establish a different view on life. For the first time I am more understanding and forgiving regarding some of my bad decisions and unfortunate life events — I am finally feeling the self-compassion of the Strength card and I understand that though my path in this life has been both difficult and unique, I continue to evolve into a strong willed and determined woman, moving forward no matter where it takes me because as time moves on life challenges continue and my inner strength will always be challenged.
As life and Tarot cards show us, there are paradoxes and opposites everywhere. With strength as part of my character, there is also the realization that my strong ego and pride sometimes shows itself in ugly ways as Hercules in the Mythic Tarot’s Strength card indicates. I often need to be right, and I try not to be judgmental because these tendencies occasionally create uncomfortable situations. Ego is a difficult lion to tame but I try to find balance between compassion and self-serving ego. I am grateful, however, that insight constantly introduces life lessons and challenges to test the power of my strength.
Cancer, chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, remission, recurrence clinical trial and remission again creates a constant tug of war with my desire to live the best life I can while I am here. Creating a balance is difficult as the cloud of cancer never leaves me. But as opposites go, there are good days and bad days along with a desire to meet the challenge with the strength of Hercules and
the gentle way the woman in Rider Waite’s deck has of taming the lion. The fear and anxiety that I feel is something that Strength can work with, being gentle with myself, listening to what my body needs, and staying in the present. I am scared, but I am still the woman in the Strength card. I got this!