This is written specifically to address the artwork I've chosen for the two Strength cards that are part of the Creatures Tarot, and why it is so different to what you normally see. The traditional Rider Waite image is of a woman involving herself with the jaws of a lion. Other imagery, in decks that have also strayed from this lion image, still tends to be very... activity based, I guess. Physicality, action, bravery, movement... (and still lots of lions).
And they don't make sense to me.
The times in my life when I've had to be the absolute strongest have always been quiet. I've always been alone when I've needed to tap into strength the most. The hardest things to change are inside us, in fact you could argue the only things we can ever truly change are inside us. It takes extraordinary strength to learn to say no, if you've had a lifetime without knowing where your boundaries are. It takes enormous strength to stop, to go inside yourself, to focus on your heart and head. Humans are obsessed with avoiding soft, quiet reflection out of fear of what they might find. It takes strength and bravery to look within.
My Creatures Tarot deck has two strength cards, because it has 2 of every Major Arcana card. The deck itself is a standard 78 card deck (with 2 bonus cards) - but there is an Additional Arcana of 22 more cards that are purchased separately. I'll address the card in the standard deck first, which is the yellow card with the little creature on the mountain.
This card shows strength as stillness. The creature is on a mountain, another standard symbol of strength, and the sky is yellow to reflect the solar plexus chakra where our will-power and belief in Self is focused. Stillness IS strength. It is very easy indeed to react to everything, and to in fact live in a constant state of reaction. It is much harder, and requires more depth of strength, to pause and RESPOND... rather than react. It takes willpower to not take emotional bait laid out before you. It takes confidence and strength to set boundaries. It takes strength to allow yourself rest in a world absolutely obsessed with productivity and being perpetually at 100%. Strength is saying no to toxic over-activity, to focusing on your own needs despite everything around you saying not to. Strength is stillness. It is quiet. It is alone time with your Self. STRENGTH IS NAPPING.
The second card, from the Additional Arcana, features what I think is a rather striking, bold looking creature with a cane. This comes from a more personal place, and I think it is something worth addressing. Essentially... strength isn't Ability. It is not Muscle.
I have arthritis, and in my 30's I had two surgeries to shorten and fuse the bones of my big toes together. It is a common surgery, but not usually for someone in their 30s. It just means I have occasional mobility issues. I slip a lot because I can't "grip" with my feet, I can't get on my toes, I can't walk forward going downhill, I go down stairs sideways, I'm in pain a lot, I occasionally need a stick.
Many of us will beat ourselves up with any available implement. Many of us can weaponise almost anything that comes our way, as long as the damage is to ourselves and not someone else. And physical issues, particularly ones that disable us... especially invisible ones... are ripe for self harm. Its what we're taught. Strength is muscle. Strength is ability. Can't do something? That means you're weak or wrong or bad. Can't get out of bed? That means you're lazy. Can't walk downstairs without looking like a drunk crab? That means you're a failure.
All of that is, of course, horse shit.
When I first had my surgeries, I certainly felt Less Than because I was a woman with Old Woman problems. I was embarrassed to admit how sad it made me to never wear high heels again. I sacrificed my body and walked around in pain when I really did need a stick with me, but I didn't want the attention it brought. It took time and strength to comes to terms with my body and her ways. I don't see a walking aid as an issue anymore, if nothing else it is just something else to put artwork on.
We do ourselves a great service to remind our Selves (and those that we love) that strength comes from Other Things. You can lift a log over your head? Well done... but can you put your heart in your hands and trust someone else with it?You can run a marathon? That's wonderful of course, but can you make yourself emotionally vulnerable to your children?
Strength is MANY things. And I hope my artwork find the right hearts in this matter, and helps encourage that with whoever needs it.