Strength (Tarot card)

Strength (Tarot card)


Description and usage in divination

A. E. Waite was a key figure in the development of modern Tarot interpretations (Wood, 1998). However, not all interpretations follow his practice. Tarot decks, when used for divination, are interpreted by personal experience as well as standards.

Some frequent keywords are:

The design of this card is fairly constant across tarot decks. The key characters are that of a woman and a lion, with the woman looking calm and gentle, yet dominant over the lion. Many cards, including that of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, have the woman clasping the lion's jaws. Another feature of the RWS deck is a lemniscate hovering over the woman's head. Other decks have the woman sitting upon the lion, or merely with one hand upon it. Some decks feature just one of the characters; flowers are often presented on this card.


The Strength card was originally named Fortitude, and accompanies two of the other cardinal virtues in the Major Arcana: temperance and Justice. The meaning of Fortitude was different from the interpretation of the card: it meant moderation in attitudes toward pain and danger, with neither being avoided at all costs, nor actively wanted.

The older decks had two competing symbolisms: one featured a woman holding or breaking a stone pillar, and the other featured a person, either male or female, subduing a lion. This Tarocchi del Mantegna card "(image, left)", made in Ferrara around 1470, illustrates both. The modern woman-and-lion symbolism most likely evolved from a merging of the two earlier ones.


The modern interpretation of the card stresses discipline and control. The lion represents the primal 'id' part of the mind, and the woman, the 'higher' or more elevated parts. The card tells the Querent to be wary of the temptations of the flesh. For example, in The Chariot card, the Querant is fighting a battle. The difference is that in Strength, the battle is mainly internal rather than external.

In the Crowley deck this card is entitled Lust, and there is a sun sign (zodiac) association with Leo, implying a potency that is sexual, creative, and intuitive, which are all attributes of the element Fire. The other Leonine quality of generosity, or mercy, is also an aspect of this power or strength. There is a further connection with the heart chakra in kundalini yoga.

If inverted, the Querant is in danger of losing control to impulses and desires. Pride and unwarranted anger are also often associated with the inverted card.

Some refer to it simply as a challenging situation requiring persistence and effort.Garen, Nancy (1989). "Tarot Made Easy". New York: Fireside, 91-94. ISBN 978-0671670870.]

Mythopoetic Approach

Hercules, being the son of Zeus, is an archetype of strength. He is a Solar Hero, as shown by his archetypal 12 labors – each one standing for one sign of the Zodiac.

Strength can manifest itself in unexpected ways. One of Hercules’s adventures was to clean the Augean Stables, which had been filling with horse excrement for as long as anyone could remember. Hercules diverted a river, washing the manure into the surrounding fields, renewing everything.

Cybele is associated with large cats, and is often depicted either enthroned with one or two flanking her, or in a chariot being pulled by large cats. Some contemporary sources have associated Cybele and Artemis with this card.

Moreover, it is associated with Gilgamesh, the King of Ur, who abused his power and his people. The people prayed to the goddess Ishtar (see also, The Empress) and she sent Enkidu to teach Gilgamesh to be human. The two of them bonded, and fought monsters. Unfortunately, they overreached themselves, and Enkidu died.

Gilgamesh is then horrified and goes on a quest to defeat death. He fails, but in the process, he learns what he needs to become a good king. Here, strength is symbolized as mastering the challenges presented.

Additionally, it is associated with the suit of Wands. Fire, a generative masculine force, is leavened somewhat by the fact that it is dominated by a feminine figure.

Strength is associated through the cross sum (the sum of the digits) with The Star. The Star can be interpreted as paradoxical and a bad omen. While the comet is associated with foretelling the birth of kings; the Star signaled to Dante that he had found his way out of the Underworld.

The Lion in the standard card represents the Sun, making strength a solar hero, much like Hercules.

Because it is the eighth card, it is associated with Arachne. Arachne challenged Athena to a weaving contest and was victorious. Then, Athena transformed Arachne into the eight armed spider, to punish her for the victory. (In some versions, Arachne was not turned into a spider immediately, as Athena was able to accept defeat. However, when Arachne began bragging to everyone around her that she had defeated Athena, the goddess turned her into a spider - punishing her not for her victory, but for her [excessive] pride.) The danger of challenging the mysteries is that we may be destroyed or transformed by them.

Eight is also associated with the Great Goddess because it takes eight years for Venus and Earth to sync up against the zodiac.

When Strength appears in a throw, it may be a signal that The Querent is facing a challenge that requires a strong response, rather than brute force. Occasionally, strength comes by diverting forces, diverting rivers, or fighting on a new battleground. It is a sign that the Querent has left home and needs to start drawing on all of his or her resources to meet the challenges of the exterior world.

The danger of Strength is that it can work against the Querent.


Strength is traditionally the eleventh card and Justice the eighth, but the influential Rider-Waite-Smith deck switched the position of these two cards in order to make them a better fit with the astrological correspondences worked out by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, under which the eighth card is associated with Leo and the eleventh with Libra. Today many decks use this numbering, particularly in the English-speaking world. Both placements are considered valid.

Alternative decks

* In the Vikings Tarot this card shows Thor trying to lift the Midgard Serpent, which he had been deceived into thinking was just a giant cat.
* In the X/1999 Tarot version made by CLAMP, The Strength is Yuzuriha Nekoi and her Inugami, Inuki.


* A. E. Waite's 1910 "Pictorial Key to the Tarot"
* Hajo Banzhaf, Tarot and the Journey of the Hero (2000).
* All works by Joseph Campbell.
* Juliette Wood, Folklore 109 (1998):15-24, The Celtic Tarot and the Secret Tradition: A Study in Modern Legend Making (1998)

External links

* [ "Strength" cards from many decks and articles to "Strength" iconography]
* [ The History of the Strength (Fortitude) Card] from The Hermitage.
* [ Strength cards] from (Hebrew)
* [ Strength] from Aeclectic Tarot.
* [ Strength - Key 8 - Tet] from Born Digital.
* [ Strength] from SourceryForge.
* [ Fortitudo - Andreia - Fortitude] The Pythagorean Tarot
* [ Strength key concepts and related cards ]

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