The original distribution of the tarot were not ordered as they are today, placing the Strength card several cards away from the Chariot. Originally, before the creation of the Rider-Waite deck, the Justice card stood in Strength’s place.
Much speculation and controversy surrounds the ultimate switch, but it is generally agreed that, with the Chariot exhibiting outer or hard control, the next symbol in line needed to supersede these externals with internal, or soft control. Make no mistake: both cards are equally ironclad in their residual power. However, where the Chariot involves an active, outward display of power, Strength involves internal, psychological resilience.
Justice did not match the Chariot’s structure as equally as Strength, because Justice involves weighing the pros and cons of one’s own intentions and attempting to keep them in balance. Strength implies that the conscious mind is being tamed and controlled by the directives of the unconscious, even that of a new understanding that is at first dispersed unconsciously. The search or evaluation inward, therefore, cannot be accomplished by action or egotistical effort.
Even as we articulate or contemplate the word Strength, many of us conjure an outward manifestation of power: Rosie the Riveter flexing her bicep. We have to remember that Strength as a symbol first points to inner strength. A deeper understanding of what it means to be inwardly strong involves careful self-inventory, and a willingness to define for oneself the components of being inwardly strong.
What kind of circumstances require Strength? What makes one inwardly strong? The answers may come as a surprise. For example, lack of spontaneity may foster and perpetuate a bitter, angry disposition. If we follow out why a person becomes less flexible in the first place, we may see plenty of ongoing opportunities to engage in spontaneous events, but a resistance to take them.
If we look further, we discover that some elements intrinsic to spontaneity may seem too frightening. The fear that arises from that fear is losing control.
If Strength were to truly enter this person’s life, he or she might begin to realize that spontaneous decisions don’t necessarily have to be dangerous, unlucky, irresponsible, or costly. Unfortunate outcomes in the past can certainly jade someone into mislabeling all spontaneity as foolhardy. A person could conceivably change their life course and eroding disposition, however, just by allowing him or herself a single spontaneous event per month.
The kind of power required to confront one’s psychological weaknesses calmly and without fear is on a completely different spectrum from that of the Charioteer wielding control over his horses. In some ways, it may be far more straightforward and direct to be the Chariot! While the Charioteer may certainly have to quell his own inner fears and draw upon his residual internal feelings as a source of energy, his action remains primarily directed outward, in steering his chariot where he wills it to go, action akin to making decisions about all the external directions or choices in one’s life.
Strength, however, must face fair and square one’s own force of personality, which may very well be like facing a lion! When the lion is tamed, it can also be released. When these components of my personality are tamed, I am free!
Let’s look at some other qualities found in a strong psychological disposition:
- knowing one’s limits of endurance
- unshakable resolve
- willingness to keep stepping forward in spite of setbacks
- calmness in the midst of storm
- fully accepting others
- taking the time to understand how something works
- refusing anger
- forgiving imperfection, especially your own
- working with someone who does not meet your standards
- indirect guidance
The most difficult part of incorporating this symbol can be one’s own unwillingness to accept the qualities of strength that are already within. We have what we need already. We can tackle the lion—namely those beastly emotions that threaten to throw us out on our ear—and come to a resolution. Spiritual wisdom, intuition, and transcendence are waiting in line for us, after the lion is tamed. Though it may be difficult to see at first, you will eventually realize the wisdom of releasing the persistent inclinations of the ego-self. You can honor and experience the inherent strength within your nature!
The Strength card also compels us to remember that, in confusing times when we are more likely to meet a stressful circumstance head-on with fear, rage, or impatience, the one element that will truly aright most circumstances more quickly and easily is calm. Calm keeps us in the flow, rolling with the punches as it were, and ticks through the dreadful and disorderly we see in front of us with far less mistakes, controversy, and collision.
In these types of circumstances, reactions from fear will only further delineate us into primal, brute behavior. It’s in these moments we are forced to ask ourselves what is truly civil, and sometimes we may find that even what we originally esteemed civil, without the element of true Strength behind it, is nothing more than gold veneer on a pig’s back.
“Life is a Gentle Teacher (Initiator). She will keep repeating the lesson until we learn.
It is okay to become frustrated. Confused. Angry. Sometimes it is okay to despair.
Then, it is okay to walk away and allow the breakthrough to come.”
– Melody Beattie
Uncommon Tarot Meanings:
♣ Residual reward in store
♥ The need to release doubt