Thursday, July 31, 2014

Strength is about Calming Your Inner Beast

In my personal opinion, The Strength card (Major Arcana number 8) is one of the most beautiful cards in the entire Tarot deck. When I look at it, I can’t help but feel a message of peace, hope and true balance.

Anna K Tarot - Strength Card
The Strength card is almost always depicted as a young woman controlling a powerful lion through gentle domination. She is not forcing her will on the animal through brute strength. Rather, the lion is bowing down to her because he recognizes a power much greater than his own– even though he has the ability to destroy her if he wanted to.

That seemingly intangible power is what makes the Strength card so beautiful.

Looking at this card, you can see how mesmerized the lion is when he looks into the eyes of the fair maiden. He may offer a growl, but the ferocity is more hot air than true anger.

What is equally impressive is the depth of the expression in the eyes of the young woman. She seems to understand the source of the lion’s frustration. Her look is one of patience, love and understanding. Rather than show anger in the face of anger, she shows love. She is like a mother soothing a frightened child who is lashing out.

And that is what the lion in the Strength card represents – our ego-based fears. He is the externalization of our weaker self. His focus is completely on earthly experiences. He contains great power, but struggles to use it correctly. He represents the earthly human who forgot about his divine origin.

The young woman represents our higher self. She is our inner guide – the one who reminds us that no outer circumstance can destroy who we truly are. She works to calm the savage beast we call our ego. Her goal is to remind us of our real essence.

What I love most about this card is the message it offers. This card tells us that we are both the maiden and the lion. At our strongest we operate from the point of view of the young woman. She is the ‘queen’ of our inner world. When we connect with this energy, we are in touch with ourselves and don’t feel the need to control our outer world to bring inner peace. At our weaker moments we are the lion. We may growl and threaten because we feel our outer world is under attack. This, in turn, disrupts our inner world.

The trick here is to live in the space between these two extremes. We need to experience the earthly domain with all its pleasures and pains in order to grow as spiritual beings. After all, that is why we came here. We can’t forget this

However, the real message of the Strength card mimics the age-old message of good versus evil; darkness versus light; Cain versus Abel. The Strength card hints at the idea of our power being directly connected to our ability to find a balance in our opposites.

We were born with a mind for a reason. It is our mind and our physical body that allows us to enjoy all the beautiful sensations we came to earth to experience. We must be careful though not to mistakenly believe that this visible dimension – the things we process with our mind - is all there is to experience on earth. When that happens, our ego takes over and causes us to seek a greater connection with the creations of the earth. 

This causes an imbalance that skews our spiritual focus.

The Strength card reminds us that the only power strong enough to conquer the ego and silence the inner beast is love – love of self and others. This love is the only way we can uncover the spiritual courage and wisdom needed   to differential between our ego-driven desires (the lion energy) and our higher-level desires (the maiden energy).  In addition, the card is not asking us to “fight fire with fire” per se. Rather, it is asking us to show kindness and gentleness when acknowledging our weaknesses – much like a mother would when interacting with a small child - because we must realize this is the true intellectual capacity of the ego.

The card actually warns us that by using aggression to conquer aggression we pretty much guarantee the escalation of hostility.

To grow spiritually, we must embrace this mother energy when dealing with our own shortcomings and those of others. It does not mean we accept poor behavior or erroneous thinking. Rather, we calmly acknowledge the issues and behavior. We offer our understanding of the behavior without condoning it. We accept that such happenings are the in the nature of a physical human being, but offer the reminder that we are not here to simply exist as the average lower-energy animal does. With that, we focus on the Light that exists within each person, and we attempt to turn ourselves and others in the direction of this higher, more genuine source of existence. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Chariot: Passion and Perseverance Always Trump Adversity

The Chariot (Major Arcana card 7) is a card about triumph over adversity. It is the last frontier the young Fool must conquer in order to ascend to the higher levels of mental, emotional and spiritual growth. The Chariot is all about success on the earthly – or physical - plane.

The Chariot - Anna K Tarot
Up until he hit the Lovers card, the Fool has had the protection and guidance of spiritual and earthly teachers as he began his journey through this life. He first met the Magician, and learned about personal power. He then met the High Priestess and Empress, where he worked on developing his intuition and creative skills. With the Emperor and Hierophant, he learned about structure and order, and how to use his talents to affect positive changes in his life and the world around him. It is safe to say, that the Fool was pretty protected as he gained familiarity about the workings of the earth.

That all changed when he encountered the experiences identified through the Lovers card. It is at this juncture that he came in contact with others who were at similar points in their journeys. He experienced love, choices, challenges and disappointments. This is where he began to internalize the far-reaching consequences of the decisions he has made.

To equate this to a “real-life” situation, this section of the Fool’s journey would be similar to a very young adult, getting ready to assert his or her independence in the world. The choices they have made in their interactions with others and themselves have consequences – both good and bad. Up until the Lovers card, they have had the structured guidance of the preceding four major arcana. If they followed that advice – or if they didn’t follow that advice – they are feeling the effects of this now.

This leads us to the Chariot. The Chariot represents the efforts of that same young adult to make his or her way in this world. The individual is using all his or her experiences and talents in order to move toward a goal. There will be obstacles for sure. Some are self-imposed from previous choices. Additional obstacles will come into play because of choices yet-to-be-made by themselves and others.

The Chariot represents the determination of the spirit to overcome these challenges and reach one’s goals. Depending on where the Chariot shows up in a spread, its presence could herald a successful outcome. However, regardless of where you find it, the Chariot does indicate successful forward motion despite hardship.

The images on the card usually depict a lone charioteer attempting to control two animals that are pulling in opposite directions. He maintains a look of steely determination and does not remove his eyes from his goal. This image symbolizes the constant pull of opposites within the spirit of man. It can represent simpler concepts like youthful desires versus age-related responsibilities. It can be more complex and suggest an inner struggle between virtue and vice. Or it can represent deeper desires of dreams versus the harshness of reality.

Regardless of the specific struggle the Chariot represents, the true beauty of this card can be found in the underlying message about the strength of the human spirit. When this card shows up in a spread, it is a reminder about the importance of fighting the “Good Fight,” even in the face of overwhelming adversity. Sometimes the lesson of the Chariot is really about the triumph of the spirit to survive and thrive when enmeshed in an environment that appears on the surface to only want to destroy it.