Diving into Strength - the Card for 2024
Happy New Year! As we roll into 2024, we’re leaving the collective year of the Chariot behind and heading into the year of Strength. Let’s take a deep dive into the Strength card so we know how to best utilize its advice for this year.
But first, why Strength? If we add the numbers in the year together (2 + 0 + 2 + 4) we get the number 8. While some decks (like the Thoth deck) swap Strength and Justice, it’s best to choose the system that resonates best. For me, that’s the Rider Waite Smith deck, and having Strength in the 8th position of the Major Arcana.
The basic meaning of Strength
The eighth card of the Major Arcana, Strength shows a woman in white robes gently holding the head and jaw of a lion. Despite the ferocious nature of the animal, she is calm and gentle; she shows dominion over the wild beast. An infinity symbols hangs above her laurel adorned head, as she wears a chain of flowers around her waist.
Keywords: inner strength, courage, grace, compassion, control, fortitude, success, confidence, persuasion, kindness
At its core, the name on the card makes its meaning clear: strength. But this isn’t the type of strength that is physical or brute. Instead, it’s that quiet inner strength that allows us to overcome the obstacles that life throws our way.
It’s the successful taming of our wild, instinctual side through courage and compassion. Strength is going inwards, allowing ourselves to thrive through peace and grace. It’s having the moral fortitude to step into your power, and to lead with a gentle hand.
"Trust both instinct and raw emotion, but tame these with construction action and steady perseverance."
from Taschen's Tarot the Library of Esoterica
In his book, Pictorial Key to the Tarot, A.E. Waite described strength as “innocentia inviolata” or what I find to be the most fitting transaction, “inviolable integrity”. A reminder that through our highest self, that inner strength remains. It can be hidden or diminished, but at the end of the day is an unbreakable aspect of our spirit.
What does Strength mean for 2024?
Strength for 2024 means that this is the year to working on the connection to your higher self. Tame the inner beast and allow your passions and desires to be directed and controlled in a way that brings you success and peace.
It’s a year of kindness and compassion; of using that quiet, inner strength to overcome obstacles. It’s a year to step into your power and confidence, but with a humble grace.
The Symbols of Strength
There are many ways to interpret the symbols of the cards. Some will stick out to you immediately, and others you learn about on your way. This is by no means a complete break down of each symbol. But it is what I’ve learned and compiled over the years, and what’s stuck with me as I continue working with the magic of tarot.
Starting with Strength’s position in the Major Arcana, we have the number 8. Within the eight we see balance between the spiritual and physical world. It stands for movement (and in this card, movement in terms of evolution), expansion, and success.
In addition to the number eight, we have the infinity symbol (an eight turned on its side) above the maiden’s head. Along with similar ideas of balance, this symbol also represents limitless potential, life, and divine knowledge.
It is through working with our highest spiritual self that we learn how to find that balance between anima and animus.
In the seventh card, the Chariot, there’s a focus on an outward mastery of the world around us; that forceful energy that propels us forward, through obstacles and to triumph. In eight, Strength, the focus turns inwards; mastery of the self.
One of the two central figures on the Strength card is the maiden. She is our spiritual self, the calming influence to worldly passions. She gently rests her hands on the lion’s head and mouth displaying dominance through tenderness. There is no fear or hesitation in her actions; she is confident that she will be able to tame the animal before her.
Her white robes represent purity and wisdom. From this wisdom we get self-awareness and illumination.
On her head, she wears a laurel or floral crown, a sign of victory and success. It is through self-awareness and inner wisdom we are able to lead ourselves that win.
The floral belt around her waist twists like the infinity symbol above and akin to a snake weaving around her body. She uses the leash to guide the lion; to control that power from within.
The flowers in general show her connection to the earth: remaining grounded, and finding understanding of our true nature. Roses also signify virtue, passion, and success – all aspects of Strength.
"Strength allows the inner passions to emerge, as the first step in going beyond the ego."
from Rachel Pollack's 78 Degrees of Wisdom
The lion is the king of the beasts. He is strong and ferocious, and while he generally leads with a powerful stride and booming roar, we see him subdued.
The lion is our animal instinct; the part of us that bites back; our will, our personality, our passion. But here he’s submissive with his tongue out, flattered ears, arched back, and tail between his legs.
His energy is being directed and controlled, just as our instinct and passions need to be channelled down an appropriate path.
Leo, the astrological sign, is known for being a confident leader who demands respect. It’s shows endurance, and the eternal life flame.
Finding balance between our primal instincts and higher self takes courage and compassion. It takes understanding and unconditional love.
In alchemy, the red lion is created when the green lion (sulphur, a representation of our lower self) consumes the sun (gold, a symbol of enlightenment) to become its highest self.
Finally, we come to the landscape of the card – a part that is so often overlooked, but offers interesting insight all the same. The most dominant colour is the yellow in the sky. Yellow can often be seen to represent the sun, which gives us illumination, and mastery. It also represents spirituality, wisdom, and optimism.
In the background, we see a blue mountain, a quiet, stable power. Mountains can represent challenges and obstacles, but we can see that they are not immediately in front of us. This control of our animal side is not, by any means, an insurmountable challenge.
Notice how there aren’t any buildings showing in Strength? All we see in the background is a lush, green landscape. Part of being strong is understanding our own nature; how to direct it, control it, and utilize it to our benefit. It’s also knowing that sometimes, we need to work on this from within at our own pace, in our own time. There is a groundedness present and potential for (internal) abundance and growth.
Different Representations of Strength
What do other artists choose when they depict Strength? Here is a collection of Strength cards from different tarot decks. What similarities or differences do you notice? How do you see the symbolism from Pamela Coleman’s Smith classic art come to life?