Embracing the Tension – Finding Harmony in Strength

Imagine how our world would change without even a modicum of personal strength. Most of us would likely struggle to get out of bed in the morning, let alone muster the energy to shower, dress, or simply walk to the local coffee shop for that first jolt of caffeine. Our ability to succeed in our jobs, nurture our relationships, or even offer a simple smile to a passing stranger would be impossible. In effect, without strength, our world would dissolve into an indistinguishable puddle of stagnant weakness and apathy.
True strength exists in a state of harmonious tension, which can manifest on various levels: physically, emotionally, psychologically, or even within a narrative. It creates a boundary between what we desire or need and our ability to secure it. Without this tension, we would find ourselves inhabitants of the wilted universe just described. But like everything in life (and in the Tarot as a reflection of life), the balance that lives within that tension is the most important part of maintaining a healthy dose of strength.
If we think of strength as a violin string, taut and straight, we have the ability to play wonderful, powerful music. However, if that tension goes slack, the string becomes limp and lifeless. Alternatively, if the tension becomes too tight, the string can snap, lashing out at us and those in close proximity. Both of these instances interrupt the music and, in effect, bring life to a halt.
When it comes to the overall concept of strength, the Tarot has quite a bit to say. Cards like The ChariotThe Emperor, and The Hierophant all exhibit a more direct, extroverted attitude with their strength. Taking into account that Tarot cards (or tarocchi cards) were conceived around the mid-15th century, it's no surprise that men would have been depicted in these roles. Men ruled over kingdoms, perpetuated wars, and generally took the lead in every aspect of daily life—even if debilitatingly unprepared. If we apply that idea to today's world, it's safe to say that some of our world commpanders have lacked the strength to lead effectively. Confidence does not always equal strength, and in these seemingly "powerful" cards, the tension is more at risk of snapping or giving out altogether.
In a surprising turn of events, the artists of the 15th century chose a very different character to embody the sentiment of the Strength card: a woman. What would inspire these artists to go against the cultural and societal norms of the time to include a female? It's hard to say for sure, but we do know that women during this time had limited rights in almost every aspect of their lives. Their time was traditionally dedicated to family life, as their primary role was often defined by marriage, motherhood, and taking care of the home. The tension that exists between the norms of the time and the image itself is just taut enough that the card's message speaks to an inner-strength and will to carry on—without excessive, outward force.
We should always remind ourselves that the cards are in a perpetual state of conversation, seeking alignment with one another during a reading. They also draw attention to the balance (or imbalance) of the energy that resides both around us and within us. A typically viewed "stronger" card like The Emperor denotes an external-facing energy that attempts to influence the world around it. This isn't necessarily the case for the Strength card. The tension between the woman and her lion is quite relaxed, yet still relatively tense. She wields the power of her wild companion in a graceful, introverted way, suggesting an internal discussion with herself rather than a with a court. Unlike her male counterparts, Strength's approach to tension is less about creating a space to influence the world around her; rather she adjusts her "strings" to ensure that when the time comes, she can rise to the occasion.
Finally, the tension between strength and vulnerability activates the card's most poignant message. While The Charioteer of The ChariotThe Emperor, and The Hierophant all seem to "rise above" their domains, scanning their terrain for adversaries, Strength remains at ground level, her feet planted firmly on the Earth. Her gaze, usually directed towards her feline friend, reinforces the notion that her attention isn't so much on her surrounding environment, but on taming the power within her being. She places herself in a state of perpetual vulnerability, not only by drawing her focus downward, but also by handling a wild animal. In the pages of the Fortuna Tarot Deck guidebook, we read that "To be strong is to express vulnerability without fear." And therein lies the most important lesson about Strength: it can take many forms, but sometimes the most powerful place it can cultivate is in the quiet stillness of an internal human experience.
Tarot offers valuable insights into the concept of strength, showcasing different approaches and perspectives through the cards. While historical representations may have favored men as embodiments of strength, the inclusion of a female figure in the Strength card challenges even today’s societal norms while highlighting the power of inner strength and resilience. It reminds us that true strength is not always displayed outwardly, but also nurtured within, allowing us to navigate the world with grace and vulnerability. By understanding and embracing the nuances of Strength, we can find harmony in our lives and unleash our full potential.

The Lion’s Den – A Tarot Spread

The intent of this spread is to help you or your querent tap into the power of the Strength card. Using the framework of tension, the spread helps to guide us back to a taught center by highlighting areas of life that are in need.
To begin, ground your energy, shuffle your deck as many times as you see fit and then begin the reading. First, search through your deck and find the Strength card.
  1. The card behind Strength indicates an area of life during this Leo Season that challenges our inner-strength, helping us to understand where our self-strengthing journey can begin. Think of this as an area in our lives that has gone limp that needs some tightening.
  2. The card in front Strength indicates an area of life during this Leo Season that challenges our outer-strength, helping us to understand where we might need to “loosen up” when our patience is tested. Think of this as an area of life that could potentially “snap” that needs to relax.
-- Remove the three cards (Strength, #1 and #2) and reshuffle your deck as many times as you see fit. Pull three additional cards. --
 3. What action(s) should be taken in order to tighten this area of life?
4. What action(s) should be taken in order to “loosen” this area of life?
5. If these two areas of life have been brought back into a balanced tension, how can I expect to grow?

About Nick Nick Jacobs (he/him/his)

Nick is a Tarot reader, mentor, writer, and designer with over 20 years of experience handling and studying the cards. With a background in design and art history, he has found that the Tarot is one of the best representations of the human experience. It is his belief that the cards also create space for individuals to reflect on their lives in a meaningful, actionable, and helpful way.
 Nick launched his Tarot business, Page of Cups Tarot Readings, in May of 2022 in order to provide clarity, guidance, and reflection in all aspects of a querent’s life. He uses art history, design theory, and historical context to activate the meaning of each card, while applying their stories to the life path of a querent.
Nick currently lives in San Francisco, California with his husband and their little doggie, Matilda.
For Bookings or Inquiries:
Website: Pageofcupstarot.com.
 Social Media:
Instagram: @pageocupstarot.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published