Strength Tarot (VIII) or (XI)

Key Meanings

Strength. Courage. Control. Passion.

Strength Tarot—Original RWSStrength Tarot—Original Rider-Waite-Smith version.

Meaning of the Strength Tarot

The Strength tarot card represents strength, courage, control, and passion (and sometimes the opposites). 

The strength is threefold.

First is divine strength, coming from our Higher Selves. From Spirit. It’s shown by the infinity symbol (lemniscate) that is in most versions of Strength, which shows the connection between our physical life and spirit. 

Second is our human strength (our physical strength—but more often the inner strength we draw on when facing life). 

Third is the raw, animal strength that lies within all of us (the unconscious, instinctive side of humanity) which needs to be controlled by being channelled into productive areas. It is symbolized by the lion.

Therefore, the Strength tarot is often about mastering our instincts, and controlling any wild emotions; about using this power and energy to take constructive action. 

It can also show the need for patience.

The Strength tarot can also stress the need to draw on a lot of inner strength and persistence to make something work.

Jean-Claude Flornoy (in Seeing the World) refers to the Strength tarot as being the beginning of the phase of life where a person becomes ‘the prime actor in his own life.’ A time when a person no longer needs parents or teachers but live life with their own strength. If this meaning is taken, then giving the number eleven to the card makes more sense. A new phase of life begins after the Wheel of Fortune.

Astrologically, the Strength (VIII) tarot relates to Leo. Although in the Marseilles image below, Strength (XI) relates to Libra.

Strength Tarot—Old Marseilles VersionThis is an old Marseilles version (by Jean Dodal) of the Strength Tarot.

Strength Tarot—Images, Symbols, and More

The Strength tarot, from the Marseilles tarot onwards, generally shows a woman mastering a lion through her inner strength. Above her head is the infinity symbol (lemniscate) showing the link with the divine. 

In the Marseilles decks, the woman’s hat is in the shape of the lemniscate. 

The woman symbolizes human strength; the lion, raw animal strength, our instinctual side and a great reserve of wild strength, needing to be harnessed in creative ways; and the infinity symbol (lemniscate) represents our connection with the Universe (Spirit or God) and emphasizes divine strength. Uniting the three brings incredible strength.

Traditionally, and in the Marseilles decks, this card was numbered XI, instead of the now more common VIII, which was introduced with the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot. If VIII the card relates to Leo; if XI the card relates to Libra.

Jean Noblet’s tarot makes the animal a bear, instead of a lion, which still represents raw animal strength or the strength of nature, which can be either constructive or destructive.

The Steampunk Tarot shows a woman taking a thorn from a lion’s paw—from the legend of Saint Jerome, who removes a thorn from a lion’s paw, and the grateful lion becomes his servant. Working with our unconscious, instinctive energy, our animal passions; leading to its constructive use. 

Major Arcana

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