Strength (Tarot card)

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Strength (VIII)

Strength is a Major Arcana Tarot card, and is numbered either XI or VIII, depending on the deck. Historically it was called Fortitude, and in the Thoth Tarot deck it is called Lust. This card is used in game playing as well as in divination.

Description and usage as in divination[edit]


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 traditional interpretations or standards.

Some frequent keywords include:

  • Self-control — Being solid — Patience — Compassion
  • Composure — Stability — Perseverance — Moderation
  • Kindness — Gentleness — Slowness — Softness
  • Serenity — Comprehension — Discipline — Inner strength

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 (a kind of geometric form) 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.

History of tarot[edit]

The Strength card was originally named Fortitude, and accompanies two of the other cardinal virtues in the Major Arcana: Temperance and Justice (the Darkana tarot deck also includes Prudence in place of Judgement). 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, above), 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 or id-like part of the mind, and the woman, the 'higher' or more elevated parts of the mind. The card tells the Querent to be wary of base emotions and impulse.[citation needed] 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.

This card can also indicate a need for patience and calm regardless of the situation that is being or is to be faced. The imagery suggests that with patience even the mighty lion can be tamed. When in a relationship spread it could suggest that you need to be kinder to or more tolerant of a person or remind you that no matter how fierce someone may seem on the outside, there is more going on underneath the surface. That person could be you depending on the spread. Overall it is a reminder that you get more traction from a kind and patient approach, whatever the situation, that true strength is in accepting vulnerability.

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.[1]

Mythopoetic approach[edit]

Hercules, 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 the land.

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.

In the myth, Gilgamesh is horrified by the death of Enkidu 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, this card is associated with the suit of Wands. Fire, a generative masculine[citation needed] 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 is often 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 or Herakles, with whom lions are associated.

Because it is usually the eighth card, it is associated with Arachne.[citation needed] 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[disambiguation needed] 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.

In Gnosticism, Demiurge is symbolised as Lion-headed serpent, and his mother is Sophia.


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[edit]

  • The Darkana tarot deck refers to Strength as "Fortitude", and depicts a woman getting the words 'Nil desperandum' (never despair) tattooed on her side.
  • The "Flemish Deck" by Vandendorre (c.1750 – 1760) renumbers La Force ("Strength") as XI and La Justice ("Justice") as VIII.
  • 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.
  • In the Mythic Tarot deck, Strength is depicted by Hercules.
  • In the Thoth Tarot, Strength is renamed "Lust".

In popular culture[edit]

  • In Saint Seiya Episode.G, Aiolia of Leo is depicted as The Strength in the tarot cards released with the manga.
  • In the anime Yu-Gi-Oh GX, the tarot-using villain Sartorious used Strength to represent Jaden Yuki's friend Tyranno Hasselberry.
  • In the SNES game Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen, the Strength tarot card is labeled as VIII, and depicts a woman wearing a wreath on her head and a white robe, with a ribbon sash around her waist, and taming a big lion by stroking its head and face. On drawing the Tarot card after liberation of one of the towns, it increases the characters' strength by 1 (though much weaker than the Chariot), and, when used in battle, increases their defense by a little bit.[2]


  1. ^ Garen, Nancy (1989). Tarot Made Easy. New York: Fireside, 91-94. ISBN 978-0-671-67087-0.
  2. ^ Ogre Battle - Tarot Cards

External links[edit]