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Inner strength and power gained through compassion and love. Protectiveness towards family and others. Facing threats with hope and eagerness. Self-acceptance leading to grounded confidence and love. Emi writes that Strength comes through “the path of the Hermit turned towards the World”. That is, Strength, which precedes the Hermit, allows us to experience the Hermit’s deep inner reflection and then move on to the higher levels.

The picture shows a female grizzly bear, the fourth largest bear in the world, and one of the fiercest, especially when a mother protects her cubs. Because they stand upright, are smart, and devoted to family, much like humans, bears have been considered divine almost everywhere in the world that they have co-existed with people. One of the oldest known bear rituals, going back tens of thousands of years to Neanderthal times, still survives into the modern era, performed by the Ainu people of Japan. This ritual involves the grinding down of a specific molar and the attachment of the first two vertebrae to the skull of an honored bear sacrifice. The ritual is not only like the Neanderthals and the ancient Sámi people of Europe, it is precisely the same. This, too, is a kind of Strength, an unbroken connection.

Unlike the Chariot, whose willfulness struggles to hold together the various elements, Strength’s inner character is able to harmonize what might be dangerous. A rattlesnake wraps around her feet and ankles, but instead of biting her it forms the infinity sign, or “lemniscate”, seen above the head of the woman in traditional versions.

Two great horned owls fly behind her, their color the same as her fur. They signify a spiritual inner Strength that takes flight from the grounded Earth to the spiritual Heaven. Because the color is the same, they seem to emerge from her shoulders. They move from (our) right to left, from the rational outer-directed senses, to the instinctive spirituality of the higher realms.

-Rachel Pollack, from The Brady Tarot