What gives me strength, and what does that strength look like? What follows is a comparison of the imagery and interpretation of the Rider-Waite, The Haindl, and the Collective Tarot decks' respective Strength cards.
Strength, which is trump #8 in most modern decks, was not always so- it was originally trump #11 and switched with Justice. The lesson I draw from this is that the two occupy similar places in our journeys- but they are not the same. Where Justice fails, we must rely on our personal strengths, which we must cultivate early on in order to have them as foundation for the next-level stuff that comes up along the road. This may or may not be why the Order of the Golden Dawn placed the trump earlier in the lineup, but is nonetheless true.
Rider-Waite pictures a floral-crowned person with an 8 or an infinity symbol above her head petting a lion with a mountain in the background. In The New Tarot Handbook, Rachel Pollack notes that the figure pictured is "more feminine" than even the Empress card, which is also referenced by the wreath crown on the Strength card subject's head. The grounded, naturally effortless beauty and grace of the figure, swathed in roses, empowers the querent to be open to and not to fight or quell their natural desires, and to not only make peace with them, but enjoy them. Pollack also notes the placement of Strength in the hero's journey is after the Chariot, indicating that Strength is an exhibition of the willingness to leave power and accolade in order to follow one's heart.
Haindl has the most unique take on the Strength card of these three decks. Using the Hebrew letter Teth or "Snake", the astrological symbol for Leo, and the Rune Sigil, or "Sun", Haindl references the original numerology of the card, given that the Teth is the 8th letter, and the Sigil is the 11th rune. Haindl's imagery makes no mention of a lion or lioness at all other than the Leo symbol below the main figure. Instead, a nude figure holds up an enormous snake at a watering hole under the waxing crescent moon. The pool, or the unconscious resources that refresh us, is the source of the Strength embodied in the figure's action. Rachel Pollack, in her book "The Haindl Tarot: The Major Arcana" makes much of the idea that Strength is an inherently andro-feminine card, due to its number 8, and its references to the Empress card. Teth, the Snake, also seen in the Empress, may be the Kundalini power of yoga union that rises with consistent focused and dedicated practice. The power is to be harnessed and cultivated, rather than ignored and left untapped. In Haindl's Strength, the figure has championed this energy, or is she wrestling with it still? She is in a wrestling stance, grappling with the large serpent. Or is she humbled on one knee? In reality, she is both- confident within humility. Likewise, contrary to Pollack's read of the figure and the card as andro-feminine, the Sun, or Leo, is traditionally presented as inherently masculine. I think this is Haindl's way of normalizing the balance of the energies of action and passion, reception and peace, and attributing the entire spectrum's balance into the concept of Strength. The figure holds the snake in an S shape, bringing to mind the healer's symbol, indicating that it takes healing to be strong, and Strength is needed to heal.
Collective Tarot's Strength card is one of the simplest cards in the deck. Half naked, crowned with roses, a person stares into the face of a calm lion, while two swallow birds fly above in a yellow sky. In this deck, apart from the other two, there is no active taming or struggle to witness. The lion and the lady are in intimate regard for one another. They have come to an understanding of each others' power and respect each other. There is an implication that they even may serve each other as partners. The booklet accompanying the deck claims that the traditional sense of "conquering" or "taming" fears and desires is related to patriarchy, and so the deck reaches out against this perspective, offering instead the concept of "intimacy and equanimity with devalued, instinctive, and non-lingual/non-cognitive parts of self", claiming also that "Our inherited ideas of strength derive much of their punch from the ableist, classist, sexist, racist, capitalist structure we function within...it doesn't make us any less strong when life circumstances demand that we compromise our ideals. We live in a broken system and we frequently have to use broken tactics to survive...Strength is about learning and following you r own compass-- incorporating the brilliance and idealism of your community and your culture with what you know needs to be done."
Thanks to @inthe78cards and @thetruthinstory for hosting this month's awesome challenge, as I'm loving the wealth of information coming from all these comparisons.
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