Queering the Tarot is a guest post series written by Cassandra Snow. Cassandra takes the most common interpretations and manifestations of the cards and discuss ways you might read them for a LGBTQQIA* client—or for yourself.
Queering The Tarot: 8. Strength
A quick point of clarification before I jump into today’s column – Strength is not always in this place (card no.8) in the tarot – it flip-flops with Justice pretty regularly, but since most of the decks I own have Strength or some form of it as VIII, it is the card I am focusing on today. If you are following alone with your own deck which has Justice here, it is okay to pull out your Strength card instead, since they do mean wildly different things.
Strength is a card that frustrates many readers and querents at times. This is largely because we want it to be more complicated than it is. Most cards have multiple meanings, or the word signifying the card is only a starting off point. This isn’t necessarily true of this card. There are multiple definitions of strength depending on who you ask, and that accounts for much of the differentiation in this card between decks. For our purposes, I will start with the most common interpretations: this card showing up as a simple call to wield strength through adversity or quarrels, a reminder that you are strong and can get through anything, or alternately, this card is often a call to find the balance between the strength we think of as force and the quiet strength of being gentle and compassionate. The image is usually of a woman taming a lion through physical affection for this reason.
All of the aforementioned interpretations are incredibly and especially relevant to LGBTQQIA* people. As I’ve written this column, I’ve discussed at great length the unique life path and road blocks queer people face, and so the Strength card gets it’s queering from applying those tried and true meanings to a queer person’s life. This card could, for example, show up when someone is living or working in an unsafe situation where they can not come out of the closet or live as their true selves. In this instance, Strength would be a reminder that the person can get through this situation, as hard as it may be, and that they are only partway through their journey in this life. Someone who is transgender certainly sees a ton of stumbling blocks as they transition, and this card could show up for the same reason. In this case, it could also be showing up to remind them to stand up for themselves and not to be afraid to use their strength to help themselves, whether it’s their doctors, family members, or society at large they are finding themselves sheepish around.
Strength frequently show up when look at or dealing with people entrenched in activist communities. There are many times when we take on a project that Strength may show up in a reading for as a reminder to stand our ground no matter what shakes out. We could be called to leadership or to be the face of a particular movement or organization. However, as I mentioned earlier, this card can also indicate striking a balance between force and gentleness, brute strength and strength of heart. This could show up for those same activists if they get a little too gung ho with force and end up isolating people—I know this has certainly been the case in more than one reading I’ve done for myself.
Frequently I use the American Southern adage “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar” when this card shows up, and while I think brute force certainly has it’s place in activism when it comes to changing and shaking up institutions, having a strong, compassionate heart may do more when opening people’s hearts on the individual level. In no way am I advocating silencing yourself or putting up with harmful or toxic language or behavior. I am suggesting when—and generally only when—Strength shows up about a situation between you and a well-intentioned third party over queer or activist issues, trying a different tack could end up far more successful, as well as bring you much more peace personally.
Strength as a card is incredibly straightforward and important to a queer person’s life. Most often it is a call reminding us to be strong, or reminding us we ARE strong. As a marginalized group we have made huge strides in rights and visibility over the past several years, but there is so much more to do, and so many people still live in fear, still live incredibly oppressed lives. More often than not, Strength comes to affirm our worth and power and this world. The lessons of the Strength card are not complicated to explain—but they are very difficult to internalize and accept, and that is why this shows up in countless readings for LGBTQQIA* clients. As queer people why are by necessity bottomless fountains of strength, all of us—but sometimes we need a reminder. That’s what Strength is for. Let it guide you when need be.