The next step on our journey to awakening is Strength, or Fortitude. A young woman holds the jaws of a lion in her hands, calm in the presence of this powerful beast. This is card number 11 (8 in some packs). It follows the perfect number 10 so signifies vulnerability and danger. In Arabic numerals it is the number 1 repeated so is similar to 2 and represents tension and opposition.
In the Wheel of Fortune the hero began to encounter images from his unconscious, all the repressed parts of himself bursting back into consciousness. This is the shadow, the instinctual side of the psyche.
In Strength, the shadow is confronted, brought into conscious awareness and accepted. This is a process of becoming whole. The shadow contains all the parts of the self you have been unable to accept.
Much of it will be dark, but some of it can be positive too. Most people project their shadow selves onto others or external situations. The hero’s journey requires that you see through this self-deception and accept the shadow qualities as your own. The conscious mind and the shadow are two sides of the psychic whole and until they are integrated no further growth can take place.
In many ancient myths the hero is accompanied on his quest by a ‘primitive wild man’. Together they overcome the perils of the journey, but they also fight each other. In the end, the hero must subdue the wild man if he wants to complete his journey. This is about developing inner strength and self-confidence. The hero overcomes his darker side and conquers his instincts, and finally learns to trust himself.
The lion on the card is a symbol for the shadow. In alchemy the lion symbolised the forces of instinct, and in Strength the hero subdues the lion – his instinctual nature. The hero is depicted as a woman at this stage of the journey in order to indicate that gentleness is needed to overcome the lion. If you forcefully attack the shadow it will simply grow stronger and you will be defeated.
This stage of the journey brings what has been hidden back into the light of consciousness. When these repressed parts of the self are returned to awareness there is a great release of energy. It takes a lot of energy to keep parts of yourself locked up in the shadow. Once the instincts are reintegrated and balanced with the conscious mind, you have more energy available for the journey ahead.
Keywords for Strength:
- Taming the beast
Next step on the journey to awakening: The Hanged Man