The Strength tarot card also means to imbue you with the energy you need to face any obstacle, or simply to get better. Just like the Death major arcana is often mistaken to mean literal death and nothing else, strength in tarot does not necessarily mean physical strength.
Keywords associated with the Strength Card
Upright: Energy, power, courage, success, honor, and gentle strength.
Reversed: Weakness, anger, and abuse of power, illness
Traditional Representation and Description of the Strength Card
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 leaning over the lion. Many cards, including that of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, have the woman clasping the lion’s jaws. Some feature an infinity symbol 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.
According to Eden Gray, the lemniscate above her represents enlightenment and spiritual powers, whereas the lion represents animal passions and earthly cravings.
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. This switch was originally suggested in the mysterious Cipher Manuscripts which formed the basis for the Golden Dawn’s teachings regarding tarot and other subjects. Today many divinatory tarot decks use this numbering, particularly in the English-speaking world.
Modern Representations of the Strength Card
The meaning of the Strength card is usually very positive and means to let you find a way to overcome any obstacle, not necessarily using force, but by knowing your place in the grand scheme of things, and understanding the best and most gentle way to deal with any problem effectively, and doing as little harm as possible to the world and people around you. It might be a little slower sometimes, but people who grow in harmony with the world around them usually go much farther than those who try to raise their station by crushing the competition beneath their feet.
The Mythic Tarot (1986/2008)
The Haindl Tarot (1990)
Osho Zen Tarot (1995)
Law of Attraction Tarot (2011)
Spellcaster Tarot (2016)
Ostara Tarot (2017)
Upright Strength Card Meaning
The most common depiction of the Strength card is a struggle between two characters, a human (usually female) and a lion. An important aspect of this major arcana is often “lost in translation” in the various tarot decks that can be found in the market, where you can see a physical conflict straight out of an old peplum movie. In truth, when you look at the origins of the iconography, the woman is opening the lion’s mouth very gently.
This is not meant to show a display of physical strength, but rather proof of confidence and inner strength, through peaceful demeanor and gentle kindness, she opens the mouth of the lion who happily complies, while any attempt to force it open through sheer muscle strength would probably have ended up with a lot of blood. In the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, the woman’s head is crowned with the same infinity symbol as the Magician, showing her enlightenment.
The meaning of the Strength card is as simple as its name. It is a token of Strength, though that does not necessarily mean a show or test of muscles. Strength can represent a lot of things. Inner strength and confidence, strength of conviction, or strength of self, the kind of strength where you know your own place in the world and thus act accordingly because you know that is what you were meant to be doing.
This major arcanum is often seen as an encouragement to further your personal projects and to find a way out from any trap or obstacle by using your greatest assets creatively instead of just using your muscles.
In a Question about Love and Relationship
The number 08 card of the Major Arcana, Strength, represents a perfect moment of ideal alignment among instinct, ego, and the divine, symbolized by the lion and the woman. When have you experienced perfect moments in your romance journey? Those moments when animal attraction, human communication, and spiritual connection converged with another human being.
If you are single, this card will encourage you to keep in pursuit of that ideal moment of connection, the one that encourages you to pursue a lasting relationship with someone. In a way, this card can be that moment when you meet someone and you are able to see a future with them in the instance of connection. The sudden realization that “wow, I want to have children with this person” or “wow, I would move anywhere to be with this person”!
If you are in a relationship, this card should help you remember the special moment you first met as well as all the special moments that help you keep going together. There should be a series of moments when you profoundly feel the strength of the other person and the strength of the relationship in its ideal form. You should be able to feel the animalistic drive to mate and protect each other, as well as align and share supportive thoughts, and feel the karmic bond of spiritual connection.
In a Question about Career and Work
Career encompasses school and education if that is your current stage; work that is necessary, but not what you would consider a career path; and your actual career path. Regardless of your current stage of development, Strength represents the highest moments of epiphany and action in the pursuit of your degree, your daily work experience, and your career.
Academically this happens when you get your favorite and best professor, in your favorite and best class, in your favorite and best subject. You can get hints of Strength when you have a great professor or teacher in a subject you only moderately like or may be required to take, but really have no interest in. You may get another hint when you are in a class with your peers and that interaction is spectacular, but the professor is lacking and so is your interest in the material. And you may love the subject, but have to suffer poor teaching and poor classroom experience. The purest version of this card is the alignment of all three!
If you are working, but not doing something you would consider a career, then this card will remind you that the work is worthwhile if you get to have moments of strength from time-to-time while you are doing the job. These would be those rare days when tasks run smoothly, interactions with others are positive, and the rewards are easily abundant. Work in the service industry where tips are part of the work could go like this: you have the ideal customer, your interaction with them is smooth and easy, and they leave you a gigantic tip.
If you are in a career path, then this card wants you to think about the times when serving your purpose led to a significant impact that was perfectly-recognized either by compensation or public praise. You chose your profession to accomplish certain goals, and you have reached them. The Strength moment happens when the trifecta of doing what you love causes a lasting impact or significant result and people acknowledge that you have truly made a difference.
Reversed Strength Card Meaning
The Strength card, when reversed, is, without surprise, a sign of weakness. But just like Strength does not mean physical Strength, here this weakness could be moral, or mental. This card usually comes as a warning, a head’s up for you to give you some time to get out of a tricky situation (or find a solution if you can). If you have no way to delay the challenge or trial, keep an open mind for any unlikely suggestion or idea that might spring to mind.
In a Question about Love and Relationship
Reversed, this card certainly can indicate a weakness in the relationship that you need to identify or address. There could be an “illness” in the relationship that needs care, attention, and healing. If the question is about a new relationship, this card is probably trying to warn you off; something is not strong in the connection, the other person, or yourself (with regard to the other person).
In a Question about Career and Work
When this card appears reversed in a question about work or career, then you want to be aware that something is failing; there is a “weak link”. Something in the work environment could be breaking down, like a problem with a contract or difficulty in the market. See if you can identify the problem and work on a solution to keep the problem from persisting or causing serious harm.
The Fool’s Journey
While the Fool is determined and full of will at this point in their journey, they will eventually have to face various obstacles and challenges on their way. This is where the strength tarot card comes into play, offering the resources they need to try and meet these challenges, to overcome any obstacle that might keep them locked in a dead end.
The lessons taught by this arcana include literal strength, obviously, but also the figurative strength brought by patience, tolerance, and even love. The Fool moves along in their journey by understanding that brute strength is not always the best answer, and that being kind and gentle is often an even stronger show of strength.
Strength and Justice
In the Marseille deck and most early Renaissance tarots, Strength was numbered 11, and Justice was numbered 8. The deliberate inversion of these two arcana in the most modern deck is the fruit of numerological and historical studies about the tarot from various secret societies at the end of the Victorian era.
Meditating with Strength
The strength tarot card is a wonderful tool to use for a meditation session if you are ever feeling low or discouraged. While meditation is often performed in a dimmed light environment, this exercise works even better using bright lights, or even outside under a bright Sun. Start meditating, clear your mind, and try to let go anything that burdens you or weighs you down.
Then focus on the major arcana, try to let the serene and peaceful strength visible in the scene fill you up with energy and confidence. Focus on your short-term goals, see what you need to do in order to make them come true, and start at the beginning. Every journey begins with a single step.