Comrade Femme Tarot: Strength

Each month I share a reflection on a tarot card in the service of self- and community-care, healing, and social and political transformation. I am still relatively new to tarot and nothing I post is meant to serve as an expert guide to the deck. Rather, I hope to illuminate, as I learn in public, the ways in which the tarot can act as a tool for healing, activism, movement building, and worldmaking. I am thankful for the teachers who have guided me in this embracing this modality and humbly recommend visiting more seasoned readers and intuitives to learn more (on tarot and/or related practices), including: Sara Gottesdiener, adrienne maree brown, The Firebrand Witch, Lindsay Mack, Dori Midnight, The Hoodwitch, Little Red Tarot, among many others!

I sat down with my Next World Tarot deck this morning and asked it to provide April wisdom for my readers, and this is what I got: the Strength card. I love this card so much and it’s probably the card I am most drawn to in my Dark Days deck, so I wanted to feature both deck’s interpretations. They tell two unique but equally important stories of strength, how we tap into it, and what it can do (or undo).

The story of the Strength card, as I first learned it, is the story of a human and a lion and a gentle trust. As you can see in the Dark Days image, a femme sits gently beside a majestic felidae, both gazing out toward a future it seems they are daydream-building together. The strength card is what came before this scene: it is the deep and steadfast trust that this person had approaching the lion, the quiet calm that provided an ability to endure fear (and possible violence) not through force or conquering, but through what we might describe as surrender.

Next World Tarot (left) Dark Days Tarot (right)

I heard this put another way from a source I can’t recall, but whoever was describing the card compared it to Jane Goodall’s method of living among primates. Unlike scientists who came before her, Goodall did not arm herself with any weapons. Additionally, she assigned the primates names, not numbers (which was protocol). The process of approaching a potentially dangerous creature and situation without a tool of preemptive defense demonstrated not that Goodall wasn’t afraid, but that she had the strength to work through fear in a softer way. Our femme with the lion is also demonstrating a softer kind of strength, sitting tenderly with the lion rather than trying to muzzle it.

And our Next World Tarot image too, it shows the grounded and gentle potential of strength. We witness not the overtaking of space for gain, but the working with the land to share in growth. Strength in both these decks is collaborative. It is allowing and tender. And it is those qualities that make strength strong. The strength card is a defiant opposite to our neoliberal capitalist society’s definition of it. Rather than power over, it’s power with.

Strength is a quiet sit-in, a reconciliation after harm, a decision to strike even when no end is in sight. Strength is Assata Shakur’s trust in the waves of the ocean, that

...a lost ship,

steered by tired, seasick sailors,

can still be guided home

to port.

Perhaps you can think of something in your own life that is asking for a tender fortitude. What if instead of thinking of all the tools against this challenge, you think instead of what it might be like to allow it? To trust it? To reject “muscling-through” in favor of breathing alongside?

Strength is not asking us to accept injustice, nor situations that aren’t working for us, rather it’s giving us the power to endure in alignment with the pulses of the universe and the waves of the sea that want the very best for us. For the collective ‘us.’ The Strength card is reminding us that sometimes the path to revolution will require bottles and barricades, but that other times, sweet fighter, it will require ease.

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