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Strength is a state of mind and a combination of many things. It allowed Hercules to wear those trunks... This image will puzzle those of you who are only familiar with the common image for Strength of a female figure variously calming, throttling or attempting root canal work on a rather smallish lion. The Labours of Hercules, I must point out, include the slaying of the Nemean Lion. Mythologies, including the Bible, are well stocked with tales in which lions are calmed, tamed, healed and subdued. The figure calming the lion in the classic Tarot is often shown wearing a 'lemniscate' hat - which is a hat shaped in the symbol for infinity, a figure 8. Although physically 'impossible' as perhaps best represented by the Mobius diagram, these hats feature widely in the early tarots and link the Magician with Strength. Where the figure is not shown wearing a hat, as in the Waite deck, the symbol itself is shown above the head. The female figure usually shown represents female 'strength' and female endurance (which is greater than that of males) and draws inspiration from the Egyptian goddess Neith - the Weaver: Neith was known as the weaver who wove together the tapestry of creation but in a more practical sense the image of woman as weaver is that of one who binds all of life together, links us all in an ongoing thread. Hercules mau be confusingly macho but consider his real strength - and note the astrological marker - Venus.*
It goes so unremarked in many Tarot books that I have to raise it here: the 'lemniscate' in this form∞ (a sideways figure 8) is ascribed to Bernoulli who produced the equation for this geometric figure in 1694, but had in fact been introduced by John Wallis 40 years earlier - either of which fits very neatly with the printing of early tarots such as the Marseilles deck which features it. What needs to be fully appreciated is the depth of knowledge and meaning behind it. It is no coincidence that Wallis and Bernoulli produced the same figure - Wallis required an appropriate symbol to represent infinity, Bernoulli's figure is the result of an equation which draws from Euclid's theories (around 300 BC) and commented on by Proclus. Proclus, an iniate of several mystical societies, is a key proponent of Neoplatonic philosophy who developed sophisticated ideas concerning the nature of reality and 'the intelligible moment' involving a union of Being, Eternity and the Living Being. Proclus' ideas and contributions to Euclidean mathematics still inform advanced thinking today, not least in terms of parallell universe theories and quantum mechanics. Suffice it to say here that it demonstrates the remarkable depth and sophistication which underlies the use of the Tarot as a philosophical machine and which should be remembered next time you look for that tall, dark stranger...
* That Hercules is shown as a tall, red haired, and red bearded, figure is unlikely to be a whim. In the Canary Islands, in central America, in North Africa and in the far East there is a remarkable correlation of mythologies involving a race of red-haired, red bearded, fair skinned men who 'came from the sea' bringing scraps of a great, ancient knowledge that advanced local technologies in various ways. The dating is further correlational to a potential climatic catastrophe, such as that caused by a massive meteor strike.
Not all decks feature the representation of Strength in
mine (left) – (indeed, many have Justice and
Strength transposed). Mine shows Hercules (Heracles) and symbolizes
his famous 12 labours. It is worth
noting that Heracles was – literally – labouring under a false sense of guilt –
he slew his wife and children whilst under the maddening influence of Hera, the
goddess, and unaware of this, accepted the 12 labours as penance. Naturally, -
point 1 - Heracles would still have accepted this penance were he aware of the
truth, and despite the tasks being set by the man Hera has arranged to usurp
his rightful place as King. Point 2 is
that the labours, though requiring the superhuman strength for which he is
famed, were accomplished foremost through mental
agility. The tale speaks of brains before brawn, the planned use of
strength – minimum required force -
and of conscience and responsibility as being Strengths in themselves. Strength
represents the determination to overcome problems and blockages whilst learning
from those obstacles. Courage, conviction, faith, and honesty, even
charisma comprise the definition of Strength.
In managing our own baser instincts we become greater. Instead of letting rage and fear roar in our
minds, shutting out all other thought, we listen once and understand them, then
move on, our rage and fear absorbed into our strength of being and purpose. Strength
denotes an inner power, mastery of will and development of inner might. Through
mastering one’s emotions and learning from both success and failure, the person
Strength represents has reached a place where they are influential without
applying physical force. They are able to weather the roughest of storms and
not likely to abandon the less fortunate. Strength also denotes a large
capacity for forgiveness and compassion. Strength is not as much about winning
as it is about overcoming hardship and using well crafted persuasion to ease
others to your side.
Although it appears an 'impossible' figure, you can actually create a Mobius 'strip' quite easily. Take a length of ribbon (paper is easier to cut) and after twisting it once, fasten the ends to create a loop. A figure walking around the loop would eventually return to the point of departure but on the other side. What is fascinating is to challenge someone with the question 'What do I get if I cut the loop, right along its length?' because the result is not 2 loops but 1 larger one. Its possible to start with a small loop and slice it until you have one you can step through. Like the Tarot, it is a simple device that really makes you look at things differently and kicks off some quite startlingly thrilling ideas when you apply it on a cosmic scale.
|© Jeremy Rogers 2007|