The Portland Tarot Majors – A Daily Commute
Day “8” – Strength
It’s time to tame your animal nature in the interest of your spiritual journey… or to submit your spiritual drive to the needs of your “animal” body. Spirit and body mingle through the field of emotion to create the compass for our life experience, and to deny either is to invite dysfunction and ill health.
As long as your feelings and bodily impressions are in service to your spirit, and vice versa, then you can live a life of compassionate collaboration: with your own body, with others, and with the Universe. Only by engaging with the physical world can we achieve the unique spiritual wisdom gained in the living of a human life, so don’t be afraid of the gift of your physicality. If you work with it and don’t let it run you, then you can find true integration, and thus, integrity.
The Strength card in Tarot is usually not about physical strength. It’s about an internal strength that can be demonstrated in a number of ways: through finding balance within one’s animal and spiritual nature, displays of compassion, or overcoming obstacles. For one to have achieved a state of Strength in the Tarot sense, one has mastered their more primal emotions in a specific situation and learned to use those emotions in service of a higher calling. They are not ruled by sentiment, but still allow sentiment strengthen them. They are by definition kind and compassionate.
For this card I asked Laura Peterson, the Founder and Executive Director of local non-profit Hands to Hearts International, to be the subject. Her organization operates on the simple premise that teaching people how to connect with their children as babies (through a physical bond created by loving touch like baby massage, as well as emotional connection) can change that child’s life, as well as the relationships within the family and the community at large. In short, HHI transforms communities by teaching people how to nurture their children. (And as an exciting side note, Laura recently attended the Clinton Global Initiative, an incredible honor! I’m so thrilled for and proud of her and her organization.)
Working with the energy that accompanies her mission is no small task, and it employs much of what I believe the Strength card to represent. The compassion involved in the work itself, the challenge of building an organization from the ground up and working to spread this powerful notion in the face of adversity, the connection to a spiritual calling that is grounded in our physical, animal nature. I see Laura as a very strong woman, and wanted to honor her hard work and huge heart in this card.
In the traditional version of Strength, the woman is holding the mouth of the lion closed. In my version, I wanted the lion to act as guardian to the figure. She has tamed the beast to serve and protect her against the difficulties she is sure to face. I also liked this take on things because Laura often travels to Africa for her work, and I felt it appropriate that she be supported by the raw masculine of Africa that a lion such as this might represent, because it’s been proven that her organization’s work also heals the masculine by teaching fathers how to have meaningful relationships with their children; this teaching changes the level of joy these men get to experience within their own families.
Laura is feeding her chihuahua, who has the delightful name, Frida Nipples Kahlo. I liked having Frida in the card because Laura’s act of feeding the dog further illustrates her compassionate nature. And of course the dog could be food for the lion, but the disinterest of the beast further illustrates its peaceful nature.
I have Laura framed against a green hill atop which can be seen Mt. Hood and the Fremont Bridge. Each represents a form of strength: one natural, and one carefully created through human engineering. The tree can represent a sort of strength that can bend with the wind, but is still firmly rooted and secure.
Laura is surrounded by roses and has an infinity symbol over her head, which symbolizes her connection to the eternal. Her shirt is white, representing purity; and the necklace she wears is red to represent her passions and animal instincts, which are controlled. Her hair visually mimics the feeling of the lion’s mane to show their connection.
And, for the record, the lion was photographed in our very own Oregon Zoo. I had a short window in which to photograph the animals there when I went, and the lions were my main target that day… When I arrived they were originally hiding out, but came out right as I arrived! I felt very lucky indeed when they almost seemed to pose for me, giving me the perfect shot for this card.
Laura has been an incredible support in the creation of this deck, and I appreciate how often she has shared her strength with me—by action as well as example.
Locations/Landmarks: Fremont Bridge, Mt. Hood, Lion from The Oregon Zoo
Models: Laura Peterson, www.HandstoHearts.org; and Frida Nipples Kahlo the dog