STRENGTH you will die

Placement: The Major Arcana


Illustrations for this card usually depict a young woman with a lion. For the most part, she appears calm, as does the lion. Sometimes she pets the lion. Sometimes she rides on his back. Sometimes she performs feline dentistry. Sometimes she merely stands beside the lion while, through his own mental fortitude, he refrains from eating her alive.

Sometimes the girl has an infinity sign over her head like The Magician does. Often she and the lion are in a flower garden or a gentle meadow. Sometimes instead of taming a lion, she holds up a marble pillar. Sometimes she beats the lion with a stick and the lion is the size of a dog, in which case the name refers to the poor lion who must remain strong in the face of such cruelty. So far, we at S.A.U.C.E. have thankfully never found a Strength card in which the young woman beats the lion with the pillar.

German decks call this card Die Kraft. In the Tarot de Marseille decks, the card is known as La Force. Legend has it that a young man whose journey embodied that of The Fool, called upon the power of this card to help him destroy a hidden fortress in a galaxy far, far away.

Right side up:

Petting a lion while wearing a sundress, an article of clothing not known for repelling predatory animals, takes a fair amount of self-confidence. The Strength card is about taking chances, taming the wild beast of the soul, harmony, leadership without corruption, standing up in the face of bullies, and personal courage overcoming the ever-present threat of brutality. Strength represents over half of existing adventure books written for children. Belieeeeeve in yourself!

Strength is also a cat owner whose pets are so tame they let her dress them in funny costumes for photographs and who has, by some miracle, trained them not to steal the fish from her plate when she isn’t looking. Strength is Bruce Banner successfully keeping The Hulk at bay.

Strength will not last forever. It is likely that you are just as delusional as The Fool, but in your case, we applaud you for trying. You are an inspiration, Strength. There is nothing so inspiring as a gentle soul who stands up and says “No” on behalf of herself and society in general. You may (and probably will) come to some horrific end, but you will help win some lucky actress her Oscar someday when they make a biographical picture out of your life story. Therefore, chin up! Stay strong.

Upside down:

Weakness. Brutishness.

There will be no inspiring biographical picture based on your life, because your defining action may be too fleeting. The events of your life may, however, become the basis for a short in the likes of the remarkable Bambi Meets Godzilla from 1969.

Another interpretation of Strength reversed is not knowing one’s own strength and so breaking everything. In the immortal words of Stan Lee, “Hulk smash!” In the immortal words of Michel Nolastname, “The enemy promises liver. Keep some for death and the rest in your shirt. Laundry be damned!” Laundry be damned, indeed.

Classic Strength deaths:

  • Mauled
  • Clawed
  • Death by anaphylactic shock via dander allergies
  • Smothered by a friendly creature who rolls over onto your face at bedtime and will not budge.
  • Playing truth or dare with The Fool and his Page friends.