Monday, November 15, 2010


Strength: The Chakras

“Know thyself.” The essential meaning of the Strength card is in knowing who you are spiritually and physically. It implies a lot more than just mastery of the mind and the body. A lot of people go to a yoga class for health reasons: to fine tune spiritual consciousness and improve bodily functions. The Strength card in “Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness,” consists of seven colorful chakras from the yoga tradition. What is a chakra? These are whirling vortexes of subtle energy located within the body, related to the major nerve centers of the spine. The term “Chakra” originated in Hindu literature—the “Upanishads,” many centuries ago. Anodea Judith, in her book, “Wheels of Life,” (Llewellyn Publications, 1988) says: “At the inner core of each one of us spin seven wheel-like energy centers called Chakras…Chakras are centers of activity for the reception, assimilation and transmission of life energies.” It seems we can also find spiritual strength in our bodies through activating these electrical energy forces.

Yogic practitioners believe we can start these centers in motion through meditation and yoga exercises. The seven Chakras depicted here are in a rainbow color arrangement, starting at the bottom: 1.) Muladhara – (red) root, base of the spine, large intestine, survival mode; 2.) Svadisthana – (orange) abdomen, reproductive organs, womb; 3.) Manipura – (yellow) solar plexus, digestive system; 4.) Anahata – (green) heart, lungs, arms; 5.) Visuddha – (blue) throat, neck, shoulders; 6.) Ajna – (indigo) eyes, eyebrows, face; 7.) Sahasrara – (violet) top of head, cerebral cortex.

The usual representation of the Strength card in older decks, such as the Waite deck, is a woman holding a red lion. Who is she and what does the lion represent? There are several possible answers. The Lion is a symbol for the sun, Leo, power, strength, and animal nature. “Cyrene” of Greek myth, was a form of the ancient Mother Goddess. She tamed lions and is depicted accompanied by lions. Barbara Walker discusses her importance in “The Secrets of the Tarot” (Harper & Row, 1984). In Alchemy, sulphur is referred to as a red lion and is part of the alchemical and metaphysical process of transmutation. The purpose is to improve human nature.

Giotto, in the allegorical fresco, “Fortitude,” painted a woman with a lion skin tied on her shoulders and a lion on her shield. Another of Giotto’s paintings, “Injustice,” may illustrate a story from the New Testament Apocrypha about St. Paul and St. Thecla, which might have some bearing on why “Justice” and “Strength” are sometimes switched in the 8th and 11th positions in Tarot. St. Thecla was a Christian martyr thrown into a lions den for being a disciple of Paul, but there she was protected by a lioness. The women of the city protested her abuse and called this unjust punishment (an injustice). At the bottom of Giotto’s fresco, “Injustice,” a nude woman (possibly St. Thecla, as her story continues) is about to be ravished by her captors, but she is swallowed up by a cave in a rock out of their reach. (See “Signs and Symbols in Christian Art,” George Ferguson (Oxford Univ. Press, 1966) In Greek myth, Cybelle, another form of Cyrene, was the goddess of caves. Hercules, in Greek myth, defeated the Nemean lion as the first test of his “Twelve Labors.” Samson killed a lion with his bare hands (Judges 14:5). Daniel was unharmed in the lion’s den. This card stands for courage in overcoming adversity, based on gaining knowledge of oneself and one’s capabilities.