A woman dressed in a white robe gently tames a lion by firmly holding his head and jaw in the Tarot card called Strength. Indeed, strength is necessary for such a task as lion taming – it is not for the faint of heart. Yet this woman holds no whip or chair, and a peaceful expression alights her face. Adorned with a crown of flowers around her hair and again at her waist, she seems more ready for dancing and celebrating than facing a mighty beast armed with sharp teeth and claws – and somehow controlling him. Just like the Magician in Tarot, the maiden in this card wears the infinity sign above her head, indicating that a type of magic or transformation is taking place. A calm inner strength guides her hands, as the lion gazes up at her adoringly, tail between his legs, ears back, looking almost like a dog asking to be pet. This fierce, wild animal is obviously subdued, but not through aggression or dominance.
Strength can be defined in many ways – through physical force or will. Through truth or logic. The type of strength shown in this card is one of courage. Interestingly, lions have long been associated with bravery or courage. The Roman God Hercules killed a ferocious beast called the Nemean lion with his bare hands because the animal’s fur was so strong no knife or spear could penetrate it. Egyptians also worshipped a goddess of war named Sekhmet, who was the destroyer of the enemies of the sun god Ra and whose body was female but whose face was that of a lioness. King Henry I of England placed three golden lions on his war flags to inspire his troops and thus began a tradition of associating English royalty with lions. And of course, we find the lion representing the astrological sign Leo, ruled by the Sun, bestowing personality traits that are filled with warmth, fiery passion, drama, and vital energy. So, it is fitting that a lion is present in the Strength card.
The lion may also represent the maiden’s Ego. Instead of resisting, recoiling from, or alternately, dominating her Ego, she guides him into a gentle state of being so that she may step forward into her own goals or challenges with true strength and courage at her side. Ego without restraint may look strong externally, but it is actually very fragile and can crumble quite easily. Courage is a blend of Ego’s moxie with Spirit’s ability to be vulnerable. Courage is not blind nor arrogant – there is usually an awareness of some sort of risk being taken, of the willingness to let Fate decide an outcome.
When contemplating the Strength card in a reading, it is important to ask, "Is there a confrontation on the horizon?" Perhaps a duty or responsibility looms before us that challenges us to do what we think is right and asks us to persevere, regardless of the odds. What goals or dreams scare us but also inspire us, touching on our deepest passions and inner gifts? What task asks us to blend opposing energies into a formidable force? Strength has an answer for each one of these questions. When gazing at this card, we are reminded of the power available to us when we match our Ego with our hearts. When we tame our inner beasts and confront our fears, we release a vital energy that can be wielded in support of our deepest dreams and desires.
The perfect plant ally for increasing our vitality and health is Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). Covered in stiff hairs that sting when poked or even gently prodded, these Nettles are filled with formic acid – which causes swelling, irritation, a burning sensation, or itchiness upon contact. However, when processed into a supplement, dried, made into a tea, or cooked, these prickles wilt, and the leaves may be safely consumed. It seems the Nettle's hairs are protecting a plant that contains an impressive array of fortifying nutrients – including Vitamins A and C, iron, selenium, silicon, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants including polyphenols, and a large variety of amino acids. Nature’s vitamin in a single plant!
Besides being an overall enriching herbal supplement that can ease anemia, as well as thicken hair and nails, the formic acid present in the leaves can also help treat arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. Additionally, Nettles have a diuretic action on the kidneys and urinary tract, reducing bladder and urinary tract infections, as well as problems associated with an enlarged prostate gland. There is also research to support the allergy-reducing effects of Nettles, including its ability to block overactive histamine receptors.
When taking on a new challenge or confronting an injustice, consider the potent combination of the Strength card paired with Stinging Nettles. As mentioned above, strength comes in many forms and these two address what it means to be inwardly strong – by far the most loving and sustainable form of all.
*Tarot reading is based on the Rider-Waite Tarot Card deck, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith
Alberte, Randall S, Fink, Ryan C, McMichael, Matthew, and Roschek, Bill Jr. “Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) Affects Key Receptors and Enzymes Associated with Allergic Rhinitis.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 23 July 2009. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19140159/
Antolak, Hubert, Kregial, Dorota, and Pawlikowska, Ewelina. “Ordinary Plants with Extraordinary Properties.” Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI), 9 July 2018. https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/23/7/1664/htm
Geer, Mary K. Tarot for Your Self: A Workbook for the Inward Journey, 2nd Edition. New Jersey, The Career Press, Inc, 2002. P238
Taylor, Rupert. “The Symbolism of Lions.” Owlcation, 6 May 2022 https://owlcation.com/humanities/The-Symbolism-of-Lions