Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.
~ Rabindranath Tagore
In this momentous week that commences with the third and final U.S. Presidential debate, we might well expect a heavily portentous reading. Add to this the fact that today the Sun enters the sign of Scorpio, and then conjuncts hard-nosed disciplinarian Saturn on Thursday.
And if that’s not enough, we enter now the descent into the final week before the Great Sabbat of Samhain, ancient festival of death, ancestor remembrance, and the ending of the year.
What guidance might the Tarot offer for such serious, pivotal times? Welcome, Strength.
Here we see a beautiful woman adorned with flowers, holding the mouth of a lion. Her gentle demeanor recalls the nurturing Empress, or perhaps the Goddess Artemis of the Beasts.
In the Rider-Waite-Smith Strength card, she is crowned with the cosmic lemniscate, the symbol of infinity and dominion. In this way, she is like The Magician.
Arthur Waite also refers to her belt of flowers as a lemniscate, connecting her to the lion in another infinite loop. Wearing a special cord or belt is a very powerful and ancient practice in many magical traditions.
The lion is a universally understood symbol of strength, majesty, and courage, appearing in the mythology of nearly every culture. In astrology, lions are associated with the zodiac sign of Leo and are symbols of the Sun.
Yet as fearsome and wild as lions may be, this woman has the peaceful touch that tames, without breaking. Even as she gently closes the lion’s mouth, the beast licks her hand.
As long as we live, we are filled with dramatic impulses for gratification: sex, power, pleasure, and aggression. Out of balance, we can be selfish, gluttonous, greedy, dangerous, and destructive.
Repressing or fighting those desires is rarely successful and seldom brings us lasting peace. Without our physical instincts and desires, our worlds become bleak and lifeless. Naming them “sin” and “evil” or projecting them onto others is also deeply counterproductive, as the tattered Western history of shame, bloodshed, and oppression surely attests.
Such conflict is a fight against our own nature, and is rooted in fear. Fear only begets more fear and conflict.
Instead, as we see in this card, love conquers fear. The woman’s patience and compassion quiet the beast. Self-mastery is achieved, not through denying who we are, but having the courage to accept, forgive, and bless ourselves, in all of our parts.
In the final days before the U.S. elections, the political dialogue has been angry, ugly, and deeply divisive. Blaming, scolding, and falsehoods have been flying so fast, we can hardly keep up.
Look for plenty of finger-pointing, militarism, and jingoistic language about our “enemies” in tonight’s debate.
But let us not forget that our nation’s true strength has always been rooted in a vision of tolerance, justice, and liberty for all.
Many have said that the women’s vote in the United States may decide the upcoming elections. I hope, then, that women will especially be inspired by this card, for here is the Tarot’s version of the feminine champion – the heroine. She is the flowing balance of peace, power, fertility, and wildness.
True Strength knows that conflict and war are a last resort. Strength points beyond our current paradigm of domination and “Power Over.” It represents shared power, co-creation, and the authority that comes from within.
Courage comes, not from being fearless, but from the stouthearted acknowledgement of what is, and then the steadfast faith to keep moving forward.
Strength is that which enables us to overcome difficulty, persevere through obstacles, and embrace those people, ideas, or experiences that connect us to the astonishing joy of living in our “sweet animal bodies,” as poet Mary Oliver has described it.
In the coming week, your courage may be tested. Love helps us discern what matters and what doesn’t.
People speak of conquering their demons, but the Strength card shows a more successful strategy: we can dispel our fears by being centered in our own love for life. Focusing on what we love is what inspires, feeds, and protects us.
This week, how might you long to express your wild side and your passionate affections? Despite possible struggles, what risks are you willing to take for the things (and people) you love?
In what ways are you being called to stretch past your trepidations, and offer kindness and acceptance to those you might once have feared?
Now we are invited to gaze with infinite fortitude and forgiveness upon our shadows. This is the only way we can hope to “tame” them.
The world needs passionate, committed people who are willing to take action, no matter what the risk. Fear cannot hold dominion when our Strength is the roaring life force in harmony with our most divine vision.