Tarot Card 8 – Strength

By James Donahue

From his encounter with The Charioteer, who taught him how to defeat his enemies in life, the Fool continues his journey with a feeling of extreme self-confidence and a sense that he is now prepared for any trouble that comes his way. Some might say he is feeling arrogant and powerful as he marches along. There is a hot passion boiling up within him.

It is while in this mental state that he meets a lovely maiden struggling with a lion. He rushes to help but is suddenly amazed when she gently and firmly shuts the lion’s mouth. It is obvious that the beast, which seemed so wild and dangerous, now stands at her command.

How did you do that?” he asks. She explains that it was accomplished by her will over that of the beast. “Any beast, no matter how wild, will back down before a superior will,” she said.

Indeed, if you watch a pack of dogs or wild animals, there is always one animal that is the leader. The others are all subservient to the leader. Sometimes that lead dog is not the largest or the strongest of the pack. It is the one that expresses the most will.

The woman also explains that all humans are capable of having unworthy impulses that need to be controlled. “It is wrong to allow them to control us. We are human, not beasts, and we can command this energy and use it for higher purposes.”

Thus the Eighth Tarot Card carries the sign of Leo and is the card of courage and energy. Some tarot artists depict the maiden opening the lion’s mouth, others show her closing it, and Crowley depicted her riding the lion. They all demonstrate the importance of controlled inner strength as an important tool for solving problems of life. We must have ourselves under control before we can control the beast that stands in our path.

Thus it is a card that examines things like anger and impulse, and how to manage it. It depicts true leadership and maintaining our personal honor. From yet another angle, the message in the card instructs us to never give up. To succeed at our task we must be determined to keep at it until we succeed. We need to muster the faith and the optimism we need to reach that goal.

When we examine the Rider-Waite-Smith card, the key characters are the woman hovering over the lion, her hands firmly closing the mouth of the beast. Also pronounced is the lemniscates hovering over the woman’s head and the flowers both in her hair and in a chain around her waist. The lemniscates is most interesting. It can be representative of a complex algebraic problem, but also is an ancient image used as a sign of infinity.

The chain of flowers signifies the light burden of Divine Law when applied via the heart of hearts.

There is a history to this card that may be significant. The old tarot decks placed the strength card at Number 11, and declared the Justice Card at Number 8. But the cards were reversed in the Rider-Waite deck. Waite believed they were a better fit when presented this way. The astrological correspondences were worked out by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn where the eighth card is associated with Leo and the eleventh with Libra. Many occultists agree with Waite, although both placements are considered valid.

The Hebrew letter Teth is a noun that means “snake.” Thus the lemniscates over the woman’s head could easily depict the ancient image of a snake chasing its tail. Eight also is associated with the Great Goddess because it takes eight years for Venus and Earth to Sync up against the zodiac.

The lemniscates also is the number eight lying on its side. Taking the cross sum of the digits in this card (17) we find it also is associated with The Star, which will be examined at a later time.


The Mind of James Donahue