The Lion is an enigmatic symbol representing passion and strength, both physical and emotional, making the Strength card one of the few major cards which can have both positive and negative connotations either way up. Let me explain this in detail.
The woman in the strength card is the feminine, soft side of us all. She calmly tames the lion, often being shown gently opening the lion’s jaws with no effort at all. This symbolises the ease with which we can all *tame* the inner beast inside us which threatens to assault reason and create sudden overt displays of *not nice* emotions such as jealousy, anger or revenge. She is aligned with The Magician at number 1 who performs all actions with skill and ease. However, in less aware moments, we are all able to react with passionate outbursts and this is when we require inner strength to recognise the inappropriateness of fury or negative reactions. Only by doing this can we re-attain the calm perfection of the Magician.
Thus in this context the taming of the fire driven lion is the correct action to take.
However, the lion being ruled by fire also symbolises passion and an outward, directed thrust of energy. To hold back on passion and desire for too long through some self deluded sense of righteousness often brings pain, suffering and ultimately illness. I saw this clearly for one woman who was very creative at heart and enjoyed painting and writing. For many years she had suppressed her creative flair to raise children and follow her husband from country to country in pursuit of his career. By the time she came to me she was recovering from a serious illness which had put her whole life on hold. The Strength card reversed depicted her way forward and she immediately acknowledged her need to let out her creative passion or, quite literally, dry up as a consequence.
I have also, on numerous occasions, seen the Strength card depict someone holding back on having what they deem an inappropriate sexual encounter. They make many excuses for their behaviour such as, he/she is too young or too old, too wealthy or too busy, unable to commit, or the ultimate, that they are married.
When the Strength card is reversed it symbolises a release of the pent up desires, and I have often had feedback and follow up readings where people whose sexual desires have been depicted in earlier readings as blocked are now leading very satisfactory lives while enjoying their passions.
Hence when judging the Strength card during a reading surrounding cards must always be taken into account. To restrain from outbursts of extreme anger or irritability is often positive, while to refrain from healthy activities purely because they are deemed too extreme by others is not always the right course of action.
Very often the timing of the release of the lion is all important. Hold back now but let the passions run high later.
Always with the Strength card we are talking about inner strength rather than physical strength, although in certain context the card does not exclude physical ability. The Strength referred to is not a brutal strength but a gentle quiet sort of strength, the type which is recognised in many famous men and women of courage. It is the courage to hold one’s tongue when one would much rather shout, the courage to walk away from a fight and the courage to give up something desired for the good of others.
It is the inner strength required to stick to a new diet, to give up an addiction or to study when we would rather play. It is also knowing when to break the diet for an hour so that we can enjoy dinner with friends, to have a cigarette because we fancy one or to dump the books and go out with our mates.
The Lion she tames is the mind and all of its earthly desires. It is that difficult part of ourselves which we endeavour to control during meditation. It can be tamed with ease through an inner calm or brutally through a desire to *do* or achieve something. In the Visconti-Sforza we find a very different image of a man fiercely clubbing a lion suggesting that to use the brute force of one’s nature (as depicted by the club) is the only way to control the beast.
These days we have progressed and understand that to be gentle on ourselves can be just as effective. With the introduction of modern psychology we have come to realise that we do not need to beat ourselves up in order to attain Nirvana.