The Rider-Waite-Smith deck calls this card Strength. Older decks sometimes name it Fortitude, linking it more firmly to the four cardinal virtues: Fortitude (or Courage), Justice, Temperance and Prudence. Three of these virtues (counting Strength) show up in the Major Arcana. Only Prudence is missing, though it appears in a 16th century deck called the Minchiate.
Strength has a new number as well as a new name. It’s number eight here, but number eleven in older decks. Basically, the RWS deck switches the places of Strength and Justice.
But no matter. This card is a beautiful example of inner strength, regardless of what you call it our how you number it.
A woman and a lion tower over their landscape. Why are they portrayed as giants? Even the mountains look tiny compared to them. Maybe their size lends them—or the lesson they want to teach us—a sort of cosmic significance? And look at that infinity symbol above the woman’s head. We’ve seen that ‘lemniscate’ halo before, floating over the Magician.
The woman seems to be gently closing the lion’s mouth. And the lion doesn’t seem to be fighting it. So is the lion some shadow side of herself? That’s how I read it.
The lion has lots of good associations: in Judaism, it’s the symbol of the tribe of Judah, representing strength and leadership. (Jacob, while on his deathbed, had words for each of his sons. He called Judah a young lion and predicted the dominance of Judah’s tribe.) That’s in tune with heraldic views of the lion: it’s a symbol of courage and kingship.
But the lion is also linked to a fierce, fiery passion—and a fierce, fiery temper. (Just look at the way astrologers view people born under Leo.) Maybe this woman has some unexpected rage in her? If so, she doesn’t beat herself up about it. She just gently, but firmly, closes the mouth of her, um, ‘inner beast.’ She can draw on its positive aspects, but she won’t let its teeth harm anyone.
I’m working on a story now about a character who’s learning this lesson. He’s all too aware of the anger burning up inside of him, eating him alive. But getting angrier and angrier at himself for it—well, let’s just say it doesn’t help anything. He needs to find a better way.
What do you make of this card? Do you see it representing an inner struggle, or do you have a different interpretation? What kind of character does this card suggest? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, if the card inspires a story, poem or meta of your own, please leave a link.
Okay, we need a card for next week: the Ten of Wands.