I am so glad I rediscovered the Greenwood Tarot. I haven’t played with it in a while and had forgotten how much I love its somewhat dreamy and shamanic artwork. Greenwood’s Strength card reminds me of Sekmet, the Egyptian goddess with a lioness’ head. The legends of her definite indicate strength and forcefulness. This image portrays a gentler but no less powerful sense of strength and fortitude. The female hunter wears a mountain lion’s head mask and stands with a bloodied spear adorned with an anthropomorphic lion-headed statue in one hand and an offering bowl in the other. A lynx stands next to her and an eagle swoops in the sky overhead. She reminds me of deities of battle and death who can bring peace as well as destruction; healing as well as blood. She represents the strength of compassion and the compassion in strength.
The Woodward on the Wildwood Tarot offers a similar sense. He appears to be the caretaker of the woods; the one who can kill a wounded animal with compassion or who understands the concept of a “controlled burn”. He accepts and understands that sometimes in order for life to grow and thrives, the weak and injured must be released. He is the protector of the woods and its destroyer if need be. His power and strength come from his ability to support those weaker than he as well as knowing when compassion calls for him to end their suffering.
Both these cards offer a powerful message and a reminder – without compassion, strength can become abusive and without strength compassion can become draining. I have seen both of these situations. In fact there have been occasions when I’ve embodied strength without compassion with every fiber of my being. Not an especially pleasant fact to admit about oneself but I am rarely anything but honest about some of my less appealing foibles. In some ways it’s the only thing that makes me bearable. At least if I can acknowledge my flaws there is the potential to change them. And I think that is the message this card is offering me today.
I’ve always felt an especial attachment to Strength because it is the card associated with my Sun sign of Leo. And I’ve always had a fondness for lions and as a child used to love the story my mother told me about a little girl with a pet lion named Herman. Lions also have a fabulous mystique to them – the regal kings of the jungle, the noble leader of his pride. The reality is a little less perfect. Male lions can be relatively lazy sometimes, leaving the hunting and day to day things up to the lionesses. Lions are also rather quick to take advantage of carrion, despite our perceptions of them. In other words they are real and live in the real jungle rather than the mythic, noble creature that inhabits our legends and lore. I am the same. Despite the myths about myself that I might build up in my head, I am usually fairly clear-sighted about who and what I really am.
I think Strength’s message to me today is that I need to incorporate more compassion into my strength. I may be able to endure, withstand and overcome a variety of challenges and obstacles. I may be a survivor and a fighter. However that doesn’t mean I should have some compassion for those who are unable to share these traits for whatever reason. Sometimes people go through cycles when they are vulnerable and weak and if I am able, I should help them. At the same time I should not become an enabler or create a situation where is there is no incentive for the person to grow stronger. It’s about balance and I need to work on balancing my strength with compassion; blending my fierceness and fieriness with understanding and supportiveness. Granted that’s not my preference most of the time and it will take some practice but I think I’m up to the challenge.