Writings and interpretations of the Tarot’s “Strength” card started with the idea of “force”, sometimes depicted by Hercules killing a lion, or the idea of overcoming outer obstacles with one’s muscles. Most modern decks apply qualities such as power, energy, action, and courage. When adding the astrological association with Leo (July 23 – August 22), we find the element of fixed “fire” with attributes such as leadership, bravery, self-confidence, and big-heartedness.
What I like to say about the Strength card is that it reminds us of our inner strength, the power of balanced emotions, tuning to the truth of our hearts, and having the courage to be our most authentic self.
The modern Tarot card image of the woman (sometimes in white) as she is holding the mouth of a lion can appear forceful or gentle, depending on the deck….which in both creates a dynamic contrast.
Today I have a deeper and more spiritually profound understanding of the real power immersed in Strength that I would like to share with you. This understanding reaches back 2000 years to the period just after the time of Christ when Paul was traveling through villages in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean, spreading the teachings of Christ in a time when this was forbidden.
In one of the earliest Christian scriptures found to date, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, condemned in the late 2nd century and thus lost to many, we find the hidden meaning of true strength in the story of Thecla.
The key part of this story beautifully illustrates the power of Love over Fear, what I believe is the essential meaning of this image exemplar.
Thecla as a 17-year old lived in a time where she had no power or rights as a female. As a beautiful young woman, family and society wanted her to be subservient, men wanted to possess her. But, when she heard Apostle Paul speak of Divine works of Christ and his lessons, something resonated with her soul and she defied the expectations placed upon her and chose to follow Paul, leaving her home and the man her family had arranged for her to marry. For this, her own mother tried to have her burned at the stake, but Thecla’s courageous belief in love over fear resulted in a thundercloud appearing just in time to extinguish the fire (Leo) with water (flow of love).
Thecla left her village to travel at the side of Paul, knowing the danger of following a path that was outlawed, yet this ministry was now her life, her strength. Once in Syria, the President of the provincial council eyed this beautiful young woman and tried to take her as his own, but she rejected this powerful man by making a public scene of resistance, which he interpreted as shaming to him. For this, his court condemned her, sentencing her to death in the stadium where she was stripped, hands tied, and left for the wild beasts to destroy her before the cheering crowd.
A ferocious lion approached Thecla, but she had the bare conviction of pure love that stopped the lioness’ charge, who then licked Thecla’s feet. The officials sent more wild animals in, but the lioness protected Thecla from harm. Eventually, the women in the crowd opened their hearts and began to scream for the innocence of Thecla…this deep feminine spirit had led the way for love to touch their hearts as one.
The Divine Feminine Oracle by Meggan Watterson
There is much more to this story in the scripture, but I hope you can realize the deeper message about the true meaning of courage and strength…it is not only an inside job…it is the practice of love over fear.
Next time you pull the Strength card, please ask yourself,
- “What fear do I need to face with love?”
- “What consuming fire do I need to extinguish with the water of life?”
I wish to thank theologian scholar, Meggan Watterson, for her inspiring book, Mary Magdalene Revealed, filled with many lessons and examples of true love. The “Thecla” card is from her oracle deck, The Divine Feminine Oracle
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