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The Strength Card in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in astrology, Myers Briggs, and pop culture with expertise in relationships and dating.

Strength represents the status of your inner self. If the Strength card is upright, you have secure inner strength. You lead with a sense of calm. You desire healthy relationships.

Strength represents the status of your inner self. If the Strength card is upright, you have secure inner strength. You lead with a sense of calm. You desire healthy relationships.

The Strength Card in Tarot

The Strength card is the eighth or eleventh trump in the Major Arcana. The card's number depends on the deck. Traditionally, Strength was number XI, but the card swapped places with Justice following the influential Rider-Waite Smith deck.

Historically, the Strength card was called Fortitude. In the Thoth Tarot deck, it was called Lust.

Card Description

The card's look has stayed fairly consistent across decks. The card generally has a woman and a lion on it. The woman calms the lion. She takes care of him. The lion is trained to manage his impulses.

The real strength isn't the power of the lion. It's the strength of the woman. She teaches the lion how to have self-control. The lessons on self-control cause the lion to have a better relationship with himself and others.

In most cards, the woman clasps the lion's jaws. The infinity symbol is over her head.

In some decks, the woman sits on the lion. Some decks only feature one of the characters. Flowers are often in the card.

According to the writer Eden Gray, the infinity sign symbolizes enlightenment and spiritual power. The lion represents passion and material cravings.

Older Depictions

Older decks may have the following designs:

  1. A woman holding or breaking a stone pillar.
  2. A man or woman subduing a lion.

The modern depiction of the card is a blend of the two older versions.

The reversed Strength card could indicate that you're leading more by arrogance than by matters of the heart. People fear you rather than love you. You are ruthless and demean those around you.

The reversed Strength card could indicate that you're leading more by arrogance than by matters of the heart. People fear you rather than love you. You are ruthless and demean those around you.

The Virtues

The Strength card is a sister to two other Tarot cards: Temperance and Justice. The three cards are part of the cardinal virtues.

  • The cardinal virtues are presented in classical philosophy and Christian theology.
  • There are four cardinal virtues altogether: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.

These are considered the basic virtues required to have a virtuous life. The principles first came from Plato in his work Republic. The four virtues were also recognized by the Stoics.

Cicero expanded on them. Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, and Thomas Aquinas adapted them.

  • Fortitude: to have courage, forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear and uncertainty.
  • Justice: the ability to apply fairness in all situations.
  • Prudence: the ability to discern the appropriate action to be taken. Prudence is often used as a synonym for wisdom.
  • Temperance: having restraint. The practice of self-control, abstinence, and discretion. This is a counter to hubris.

The cardinal virtues in Christianity are not the same as the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love). The cardinal virtues plus the theological virtues make up the seven virtues.

In the High Middle Ages, scholars drew seven vices to stand against the seven virtues. Some authors saw this as problematic: it established oppositions to the virtues and created parallels that might actually be false or superficial.

The seven virtues to seven vices idea makes Christianity come off dualistic. Christianity isn't meant to be a series of mirrors looking at what is good vs. what is wrong.

How virtues actually work is either you have it—and it's functioning—or you have an absence of virtue. In science, you have heat and activity or an absence of heat.

A lack of virtue is better described as sedentary rather than bad or malevolent.

Numbering

Traditionally, the Strength card is numbered XI. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck switched the position of the card with Justice to better align with astrological ideas that were worked out by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

The Strength card is associated with Leo. The Justice card is associated with Libra. It made more sense to have the Leo based card appear first.

Card Interpretations

Upright

Fortitude, power, courage, self-control, energy, success, victory, honor, hero, loyalty, alliance, allegiance, prudence, virtue, discernment, focused, muscle, growth.

Reversed

Despotism, abuse of power, weakness, fragility, discord, arrogance, disgraced, resigning, ruthless, inconsiderate, mean, bully, unprocessed trauma, despair.

The Strength card is about finding an inner calm. You can't lead others if you have no calm.

The Strength card is about finding an inner calm. You can't lead others if you have no calm.

Symbols

Lion

The animal acts as a representation of Leo. The lion is motivated by the powers of fire. He listens to his instincts. He gives into his free-will. The lion is known as the king of the jungle.

He could also be considered the Lion of Judah, a Jewish national and cultural symbol. The tribe of Judah consists of the descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob.

  • The first association between Judah and the lion is found in Genesis.
  • The Lion of Judah is mentioned in Revelation. It is used as another name for Jesus.
  • Many Christian organizations use the Lion of Judah as their emblem.

The Woman

The woman wears a white robe and represents purity and the spirit. She is wisdom personified.

Crown of Flowers

The potential of growth and a promise of a return to the Garden of Eden. The flowers represent beauty in nature.

Infinity Symbol

This symbol represents never-ending potential. The woman has wisdom that goes well beyond her. Wisdom comes from a Divine place. With infinity, there will be epiphanies.

Upright Strength

Strength is about knowing you can endure life's challenges. You have stamina, persistence, and charisma.

In order to have inner strength, you need inner calm. This card indicates you have inner strength; therefore, you have done your homework. You have given yourself time for healthy introspection.

Healthy Sense of Self

You are committed to what you need to do, and you go about it in a way that shows composure and maturity.

When the Strength card appears, it means you understand your personal power. You have developed your free-will and produced determination.

You do not rule others by trying to control them. You quietly influence and persuade. You are not domineering nor arrogant. You are well respected for your thoughts; you don't have to shout at people to get things done. You have allowed yourself to mature and that's given you an awesome reputation.

Natural Leader

Great, powerful people often operate on an invisible level. They don't need accolades. They don't need to be in the spotlight. They lead from strategy. They have long term vision.

Your inner strength gives you the confidence to overcome fears, challenges, and doubts. The Strength card encourages you to persevere. You have what it takes to make it to the end.

You're loyal. You are a champion of others. You are present with people and hold space for others and yourself.

You are not someone who dismisses people easily. You're a listener.

Tips for Improving Inner Strength

  • Tame your animal instincts. Channel your gut reactions into constructive responses.
  • It's normal to feel anger, rage, sadness, guilt and the like. It's what you do with your emotions that matters.
  • Be conscious of your raw emotions. Bring them into balance.
  • Don't act out in a fit of rage or hatred.
  • Approach your situation from a place of forgiveness and love.
  • A therapist can help you to better manage your emotions if you feel out of whack.
  • Therapists can teach you about proper coping mechanisms.
Know yourself in introspection, and you'll better know your inner strength.

Know yourself in introspection, and you'll better know your inner strength.

Reversed Strength

When the reversed Strength card appears it means you need to take an account of your inner strength, your confidence, and belief system.

  • You could be overflowing with ego, which could be causing fractures to your relationships.
  • Are you feeling depleted? You likely are burnt out. You were too busy and didn't give yourself enough time to decompress. This is a fairly common problem in our overly busy world.

If you have experienced a setback, you may feel vulnerable. Your emotions may be out of whack. You might be overcome with uncertainty. Instead of relying on the outside world, look to your inner strength.

Your inner strength is your core. You should rely on it to build you up. When you rely on your inner strength rather than your outer persona, you'll allow yourself to heal.

Continuing to fight for yourself in the social world when you've experienced a setback could multiply your troubles into several setbacks.

Tips for Getting on Track

  • Now is a good time to reassure yourself with positive things from your past.
  • Look to moments in your life where you overcame the odds.
  • Acknowledge your negative thoughts and then move off them.
  • Don't let past negative experiences haunt you. Work through them, forgive yourself, and find renewal.

Check in on your energy. Have you been feeling sluggish? You should try to keep better track of your sleep schedule and what you're eating. If you start to take note of what you do each day, you might see how it's building up certain problems. Are you relying too much on sugar? That could eventually swell up into something you don't want, like diabetes.

Also, consider whether you're processing your emotions and giving yourself space. If you're not processing your emotions, they'll build up until they're in a spot that's difficult to manage.

Remember: take of yourself first before you take care of others. It's like the flight safety video on planes: put on your mask before you assist someone with theirs.

The reversed Strength card can signal that:

  • You're lashing out at others
  • You're too aggressive
  • You act without thinking
  • You have raw emotions rather than processed ones

References

  1. Curran, C. E., Catholic Moral Theology in the United States: A History (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2008), 168–172
  2. Decker, Ronald; Dummett, Michael (2019). A History of the Occult Tarot. London: Duckworth. p. 82–84.
  3. Gray, Eden. "Complete Guide to the Tarot." 1970. Crown Publishers, New York, NY.
  4. Strauch, E. H., Beyond Literary Theory: Literature as a Search for the Meaning of Human Destiny (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001), p. 166

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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