78 Tarot Cards: Strength

“Face yourself first. Master that, and you can face everything else.”

The power called upon through the Strength card is not the brute force necessary to crack marble columns or to stand firm when others are calling upon the Querent to yield. The power called upon is the internal fortitude of the Querent that permits them to set their mind upon the needed action and allows the body to follow through on that determination. This fortitude allows the Querent to do what is needed regardless of how miraculous or mundane that action may appear to the observer.

What can be described as a feat of strength is wholly dependent on the person being called to perform one. Holding back an enraged dog can be just as important as refusing to be taunted into an altercation. The former act is entirely physical in nature while the latter act avoids physicality entirely, yet both require the person to commit to their chosen action with the whole of their being.

Strength is a conditional card that can reveal the Querent’s unspoken motives as the tarot spread is interpreted. In single-card readings, it encourages the Querent to do the thing they don’t want to do, but cries caution towards the thing they do want to do. It warns that the path the Querent has set themselves upon will be difficult, but passable. When the question is what the Querent should do to prepare, the card answers that the Querent should be ready to give all that they have towards the goal. When the question is how the Querent should respond to a situation, the card answers that the Querent needs to be prepared for a test of their character. But when the question is what the Querent should draw upon to strengthen themselves, the Strength card does not give an answer but reflects the question back upon them.

In readings where groups of cards are read as mutual influences, the conditional nature of the Strength card is magnified. Strength preceding the 7 of Cups or the 9 of Wands is a warning that the Querent is about to overexert themselves. But Strength preceding the 6 of Cups or the 2 of Swords is a warning that the Querent should hold fast to their decision and follow through without yielding. The Hierophant preceding Strength informs the Querent of where to pull their determination from. But the Fool preceding Strength warns that the Querent is not properly informed about the matter and is standing without justification.

When the tarot deck is read with reversals and/or the card is ill-aspected in relation to the query and the spread, the card that encourages the Querent to stand advises them to turn and flee instead. It warns that the Querent does not have the ability to follow through. The show of force that was seen at the start is revealed to be a bluffing illusion. “The risk I took was calculated, but man am I bad at math.” If the Querent proceeds with the desired action in the face of these warnings, they risk losing more than their initial investment in the matter.

However, an ill-aspected Strength card should not be taken as justification for the Querent to give in to their detractors and quit. The card is a warning, not a proclamation of unavoidable fate. When such a weakness is revealed, the Querent always has the ability to take matters into their own hands by strengthening where they are vulnerable and moving assets that are being wasted in one area to where they will be better put to use. After all, a tarot reading is a snapshot of a possibility, not an immutable fate yet to come.

In many tarot card decks, Strength (or its equivalent) is often portrayed with a scene showing impossible physical force being inflicted upon a large or imposing figure by someone (or something) delicate and weak in comparison. While this is a good metaphor for the force embodied by the card, the Strength tarot card more often refers to the interior and personal will of the Querent. Before they can direct their force against their target, they must direct their will against their fears, and this struggle is more important than any public trophy that may ultimately come from their private victory.

Next Card: VII – The Chariot – “Before you worry about taking the right exit, you have to get going first.”

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