8. Strength: Compassionate Action

Answers to yesterday’s riddles:

I walk on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon, and three feet in the evening, what am I?

A human- crawls as a baby (morning), walks independently as an adult (afternoon), and walks with a stick in old age (evening).

I have a mouth but do not speak, I have a bed but do not sleep, I run everywhere but go nowhere, what am I?

A river- mouth of a river, riverbed, a river runs but can’t relocate.

In some Tarot decks, the 8th card is Justice, and Strength is 11, but all of the decks I work with have Strength as 8, so that’s what I’ll be talking about today.

When you hear the word ‘strength’, you might think of raw power or physical strength, and that might well resonate with a lot of people. But there’s an interpretation I think might be applicable to a wider range of people regardless of physical ability.

Have you ever seen the TV show What Would You Do? It’s a series where actors sit in public areas like restaurants and shops and pretend to have a disagreement that involves an injustice. An example is this episode which involves a cis woman telling a trans woman that she can’t use the women’s bathroom. The people around are not actors, and you can see their reactions to overhearing this conversation. Most of them begin by looking very uncomfortable, sometimes looking to whoever is with them like they’re thinking ‘are you seeing this?!’ and then in nearly every case, they step in and stand up for the trans woman.

Those situations are really scary, and I’m sure many of us have seen something similar and wanted to step in but felt too intimidated. But sometimes you can’t take it anymore, because the anger and the sense of injustice is stronger than the fear. For me, that’s a major part of the Strength card. When you’re so sure of your convictions that your fear of getting involved in a potential fight isn’t as powerful as that inner strength.

This kind of strength is compassionate and loving. It requires being sure of yourself. That’s really not easy. I think the beautiful symbolism of the Strength card helps us to find that within ourselves. Let’s take a look:

20200803_160259.jpg
Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Upper left: Sasuraibito, Upper right: Star Spinner, Lower left: This Might Hurt, Lower Right: Modern Witch

The image is of a woman taming a lion. But she isn’t doing so brutally or forcefully. You can tell that she loves the lion. She’s firm, yet gentle. The lion represents parts of us that are often in our unconscious mind. In her book Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack describes Strength as ‘the whole force of personality, usually smoothed over by the demands of civilised life.’ Sometimes we have been taught by society to not speak up, or not express certain things. But rather than force those things away, the woman in the Strength card tames those aspects so that she can express them in a way that is useful.

It’s normal and understandable to be angry about something and want to lash out sometimes, but Strength helps us to channel this into something more productive like through activism or Nonviolent Communication, depending on the issue. Accept and love those fiery parts of yourself. Don’t ever force that lion back if you are passionate about something, but rather than letting those feeling explode, use them as fuel. If we let those feelings injure us, we can sometimes feel like the people who have wronged us have won.

It takes courage to release emotion. Sometimes people will call you names. For example, when black women express their feelings, they are often labelled as an ‘Angry Black Woman’, and this is used to dismiss them. Most women are socialised to tip-toe around others, and that’s not okay. Strength is that wild part of all of us that should not be pushed away.

There’s another part of Strength that I love. It’s the idea that you don’t need others’ approval to enjoy something. I like this quote by C.S. Lewis:

Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

You might have experienced shame for enjoying something that your demographic typically doesn’t engage in. Maybe you’re an adult who enjoys cartoons, or a man who enjoys knitting, or a teenage girl who likes fishing. Anyone who makes you feel bad about those things is truly immature themselves.

Knowing who you are, and what you like is a powerful thing, and that’s what the Strength card asks you to manifest in your life. It helps you to speak up, to endure when things are difficult, and to be proud and confident in who you are. I hope you can use Strength to live your best life.

Today I mentioned Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack. If you’re serious about learning Tarot, I really recommend this book. She dives deep into the symbolism of the cards, and I learned a lot from her interpretations.

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