Now that I've got fed up with myself for leaving this series unfinished so long, my brain is finally cull of stuff to carry it on in rapid succession, so here's the next part!
If you're new here: This is a blog series giving LGBTQIA+ people's perspectives on the Tarot cards. Tarot is a set of symbols added on to a deck of playing cards, depicting a spiritual journey, to be used for meditation or fortune telling. Catch up with the characters we've met on the journey so far by clicking on these links for The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, and The Chariot. The particular version that's thought of today as the basic traditional Tarot, from which the myriad of decks are influenced and inspired, was drawn by mixed race bisexual lady Pamela "Pixie" Colman Smith, whose insights I'm sure made it into this art commission given her by straight white men, whatever their expectations of her might have been. So I've asked LGBTQIA+ Tarot users in online groups to give me their viewpoints on the cards, and the result is this series of blogs.
Next up: Strength
(The title line is a quote from W. B. Yeats, by the way)
This is traditionally a card of inner strength - strength and grace through kindness, self confidence, and things that are usually called "being the bigger person", like forgiveness. Which makes it a double edged sword for a queer reader - because while we're proving every day what brave and bold and beautiful people just by accepting ourselves as queer, whether privately or publicly, we're so often the ones called to be gracious and forgiving and accepting when we're not given the same in return. When we hit back against bullying, we're the "bullies"; when we don't respect the fact that "I was brought up in a different generation when we didn't know all this stuff", then we're the "disrespectful" ones. It's always the one being made to feel small in the first place who's called upon to be "the bigger person", it seems. And that takes a lot of strength and grace in itself to deal with on a daily basis.
But the whole point of this card, with its white robed beauty and obedient beast, is to turn the idea of strength on its head. There are pictures of Knights wielding weapons on horseback all through the rest of the deck - this looks nothing like them. Sometimes it takes more strength to be still than to be violent. Tolerance is a peaceful virtue, but to be achieved it must take an absolute stand against intolerance. If someone's being a bigot and a bully, they're being driven by nothing but ignorance and cowardice, and their victims are already "bigger" people than they are, simply by not being bullies or bigots themselves. Hands up if you think you deserve a medal for the great strength and compassion you show every day by not slapping people in the face who deserve it for their pettiness and prejudice!
As I write this we're approaching Pride month; a time when we show what a blessed gift is the kindness and understanding we in the LGBTQIA+ community can show to each other when the rest of the world doesn't. When we're kind to ourselves by not shutting ourselves up but by letting ourselves freely celebrate the key thing that makes us ourselves. Hands up again if 99% of the worry and impatience you feel or display is towards yourself? That's what Pride is for, too - to gently be proud of yourself. In fact, Pride in the sense the word is used when Pride month is given its name, cold be just another word for exactly the kind of Strength this card is all about! In cultures throughout history and across the world, queer sexualities and gender identities weren't seen as abnormal or unnatural in the negative ways of those words today, but as extraordinary to the point of divine, above and beyond the natural and normal lives of everyday people.
Strength's old name is "Fortitude", and it used to be called a "Cardinal Virtue" - old style church thinking was that there were higher, more special virtues that being a Christian lifted them up to, but there were basic kinds of goodness that everyone was capable of just by being human. In other words, one thing Strength can stand for in LGBTQIA+ people's readings is that we can be basically good and strong humans regardless of whether or not we stick to the values we're brought up with in our conservative Christian family homes.
Strength, in the card, is a feminine figure, controlling the mouth of a male lion - whether she's opening the mouth or closing it depends on your point of view! Which one helps you more today? The idea of clamping shut the mouth of masculinity, quieting the loud masculine voice (either inner or outer)? Or, the idea of her UN-muzzling one who has been shut down and silenced? Is your inner monologue a toxic one that needs shutting up? Or has it been silenced and ignored, and now hungry to be heard? Either way, Strength is your card of mastery.
The "halo" over her head is the same shape as the Magician - in other words, the same divine spirit can be present in someone regardless of their gender. In fact, one old idea of "Fortitude" was that it existed in people who had all their inner elements in balance; inside them there was a wholeness that was unbreakable, no matter how much the outside world might have violated their innocence. I know I've had times when I could drawn strength from that idea - perhaps you have, too.
The lady is leading the lion by a chain of flowers - peace conquering war; love conquering hate. There will always be Pride, no matter how hard they try to make us ashamed. And if we have to be forced to be someone else, then that proves it's not truly who we are - never was and never will be. On the other hand, when we try on a new expression of identity, and we find that it flows and grows and blossoms, without us us or anyone else trying to push or pressure it into being, then we can take that as a sign that we've discovered our inner lady; or our inner lion; whichever one you have hiding in you as an inner strength.
Take pride in it.
And take it to Pride!
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