Major Arcana VIII: Strength

 

Photo by Mariana Schulze Photography

 

 

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

 

Strength is one of my favorite Major Arcana cards in the Tarot, because it calls for us to anchor in love and embody our truest selves. The Strength card is a reminder that when we know the our power, it cannot be bought, sold, given, or taken away from us. The healing of humanity and the planet is dependent on dismantling and recreating the systems that have taught us that our power lies everywhere but inside of us. True strength requires the risk of arriving at the door of our own heart and recognizing it as the heart of the world. We will see how our lives weave into every life, understanding the greater risk of ignoring the deepening pull of owning who we truly are. We are living in times of great upheaval, calling for us to be fully present in our bodies and connected to our souls, so we can move as gracefully as possible through the changes afoot.  Strength reminds us that transformation is an inside job, and that we are courageous, resilient, and creative enough to do it. We cannot force change, but we can become it. We are seeing old structures fall within and around us, bearing witness to the unearthing of old beliefs, identities, and ways of being that thrive on the “power-over” dynamic that has wounded us all.  When we are grounded in our strength, we move with more ease and confidence through our lives, no matter what outer circumstances are; we understand that there is enough, and that we are abundant beings with immense potential to create and share from the heart. There is a gentleness in this card that brings us back to love and connection. We live in a society that encourages a disconnection from nature, our bodies, our hearts, our needs, our desires, and from each other. In order to learn how to own our power and direct it in ways that are nourishing, uplifting, and life-affirming, we must first understand that we carry in our bones and our energy fields the imprints of a culture that is based on an imbalance of power. We are fully capable of clearing the old to make way for the new, beginning from within. In fact, we were made for these times.

 

We are taught to outsource our power from an early age, grasping outside of our center for a sense of validation, safety, and belonging. Especially as women, we are trained to find our value in how pleasing we can be—whether that means repressing our true expression, desires, and sexuality in order to “keep the peace” or not appear threatening, or whether that means using our power in unhealthy ways, because we have learned that we must do whatever it takes to gain ground and get our needs met. But we do not have to play that game. In fact, we can no longer afford to. The new paradigm, and one I have worked for in my own life, is one of community, collaboration, self-care, slowing down, reconnecting to the body, the earth, emotions, and creative energy.  We are healing thousands of years of patriarchal programming that creates an environment where competitive, dominant, and conquering behavior is the way to finding power. Paradoxically, we are taught to repress ourselves and stay small and quiet. We can see the harmful effects of this paradigm in racism, sexism, rape culture, destruction and pollution of the planet, and unequal distribution of wealth. We are also inundated with media that sells to us that impossible standards of beauty, the message that we have to “do it all” in order to be powerful women; and in order to be powerful women, we have to compete with each other. This is not the energy I engage in, but I will tell you what–or the Strength card will- your heart and creative spirit are unrepeatable, there is enough for us all, and once you have touched your light, it can only grow.

 

True power is understanding that we have a choice to be and express from a place of wholeness, where all facets of ourselves are given space to exist, and where we support each other’s growth. Acting from strength means our yes’s are full on yes’s and our no’s are clear as day. We also must realize that we are a part of a greater whole whose health and well being depends on everyone’s well being, with everyone granted access to the tools and resources they need to thrive. We are not bound to any way of being that is harmful to us, and when we feel rooted and strong enough in ourselves, we realize we have a choice as to what we participate in, becoming more aware of the places where we have given our power away. When we can begin to unravel the ways we are complicit in oppressive systems, we disentangle the whole mess. This is the work of generations, but it will always begin within each one of  us, and we can choose to access our strength in healthy ways right now. Setting fire to any and all remnants of self betrayal. Setting fire to the memories still alive in our bodies of what humans have done to themselves and each other in order to survive. Setting fire to self judgement. Setting fire to self abandonment. True power does not take. True power does not harm. True power does not manipulate to gain. True power burns for what is real. True power burns for the pieces of ourselves still in hiding, in service to healing and love and justice for every being and inner fragment who never had a chance to thrive. True power burns for our softness and our freezing, our confusion and our clarity, our anger and our joy. True power burns for exposing untruths and setting the course for freedom of expression, a right to exist however we are. True power burns for choice. True power burns for nourishment, feeding the flames for what must go, so what is to come alive has room to grow. Anything less than that dissolves here now. May the ashes make a gorgeous bed for new dreams to take root for humanity.

 

Because of the disconnect in our culture, reconnecting with our wildness is a courageous and rebellious act of tuning in to the deepest parts of our beings and loving ourselves through the process. When we reject the pieces of ourselves that are seen as unacceptable by the social norms, we inevitably see those pieces “out there” and point fingers, blame, or seek to control. Reclaiming the pieces of ourselves we have been taught to feel shame for and fear—sadness, grief, anger, needing help—are keys to knowing our wholeness.  Mindfulness and embodiment practices (which can be as simple as walking, journaling, meditation, and movement) are essential for connecting with our primal states of being. Engaging in our imagination and creativity also causes a glorious ruckus in the status quo because it tunes us into the complexity of who we are. Old systems don’t function too well with soulful people expressing themselves fully and supporting each other in their unique magic.

 

Once we have access to our deeper layers, can move through the world in full responsibility and compassion for our feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and actions. This presence with our bodies and emotions fosters clear-seeing and clear-knowing. Being gentle, kind, and loving with ourselves is key to being loving with others; not judging things as good or bad, right or wrong, and instead just being honest, aware, and open to shifting. Our strength is inside of our softness. Our strength is inside our willingness to hold the entirety of who we are, and commit to knowing, accepting, and loving ourselves and each other completely.

 

Outsourcing light only makes it darker, and wings burn too close to the sun you keep outside yourself. Turning to the heat of our own hearth and inner sanctuary, we will remember who we are. To express the light of our hearts, we must continually turn inward and offer love to those pieces still in hiding— allowing them to be however they need to be. Compassion deepens self trust, and is vital as we come into stronger resonance with the magic of our life force. Without devotion to the inner anchor, we remain complicit in the systems and programming that do not honor individual power and expression, even if they appear to. Strength does not seek domination but rather to be expressed with such fullness that it empowers everyone around them to be free to express the fullness of their being. We can practice graceful engagement with the parts of us that are scary, that need tenderness, and that hold the light of our passions.

 

Stay tuned for Strength, Part Two: Practices for Reconnecting with Your Inner Strength, where I will share grounding exercises, creative exercises, and other ways to connect with your body, intuition and imagination in nature.

 

Recommended Reading
Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Soulcraft, Coming Into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche by Bill Plotkin
The Moon and The Virgin: Reflections on the Archetypal Feminine by Nor Hall

Major Arcana II: The High Priestess

The High Priestess from Pagan Otherworlds deck by Uusi Design Studio

 

Gatekeepers, guardians, travelers between realms: unbind the stones from your feet and sing your life into the deepest part of the river. Listen, listen, listen, as Spirit speaks. You are not separate from any of it.
Your beauty moves in all the changing ways, without knowing who you will be on some other side, which is really always just right here, a black-winged moment, and you, inside it. Your will can’t hold transformation the way it wishes it could. You can only let it take you. If you trust nothing else, trust this. You and your beauty, changing, here and in every in-between.

 

 

The High Priestess is a gatekeeper to Mystery, who calls for us to access our intuition and innate wisdom from the depths of our psyche. She is the keeper of ancient knowledge passed down through the ages, who reminds us that surrender is sacred. She sees all as a wise observer, all-knowing yet neutral, a cosmic queen who walks the earth, moving like water between realms. She is visible when she wishes to be, and cloaks herself in the same breath if her intuition calls for it. The High Priestess honors the liminal, the ephemeral, and the empty spaces yet to be filled. She speaks to us of our ever-burning inner flame, kept safe within a temple whose walls hold the records of all that is, was, and will be. She calls us to settle into the unknowing, and let there be space to open into. The High Priestess is an archetype that portrays one aspect of the Divine Feminine, a term that I relate to as the yin essence, the fertile void, the unknown, and the connectivity of all things. Varying expressions of the Divine Feminine blossom and wither from one source of wholeness, as she is a container vast enough for all to exist within her.

 

A powerful way to explore different expressions of feminine energy and the complex layers of yourself is to dive into archetypes, which is why I love tarot and its connection to mythology. Persephone is a goddess I connect with whose myth tells the story of a maiden (Innocent archetype) torn from her life in the sun with Demeter (Great Mother archetype) and taken against her will to the underworld. But Persephone is also the High Priestess, as expressed through the Dark Goddess archetype. Her story through the patriarchal lens emphasizes her victimhood, diminishing her power as a realm traveling goddess of the unconscious, bravely traversing the shadow realms. What isn’t so widely shared is that she chose to stay in the underworld, and brought back gifts to the light when she was ready to share them, reflected in the changing seasons. She honors our countless initiations and threshold crossings, and our own timing through which we move. She reminds us to move at our own pace, to stand sovereign in our own energy, to own our choices and our power completely. Artemis is another goddess whose energy speaks to both the Wild Woman and Dark Goddess archetypes. She is the one of the woods– embodied, emotive, unapologetic, intuitive, creative, brave, and unto herself, belonging to the moon, the earth and the wild things. Exploring these expressions of the feminine connects me to my soul’s yearning to embody the fullness of me, to arrive here and claim my voice as the witch. The wild one. The deeply feeling healer. The empathic and psychic one. The writer. The creator. The shadow dweller. The light worker. Guardian and guide between worlds.

 

 

Ideas for Journaling and Self Exploration

What happens when I full on surrender to the present moment? How does accepting myself where I am allow me to actually begin changing? How do my own internal shifts effect change in the world around me?

What happens when I start to get more into my body? How does it feel to find stillness? How does it feel to move my body from that point of stillness? Note the sensations, emotions, and thoughts present.

Who will I be on the other side of another transformation? What will I have to leave behind?

What happens when I show up in the world with all the shadows and light that I know I am? What do I need on a physical and emotional level in order to feel grounded and safe? How am I meeting my own needs in these ways? How am I honoring my own growth and tending to my needs at this point in the process?

How does staying with myself and loving myself through my entire growing process strengthen me? What does trusting myself feel like physically? Does it feel calm, even if I don’t exactly “like” the information I am getting? How can I get myself to a place of calm in order to intuit from a more observational viewpoint? How does observing and witnessing my own experience help me respond, rather than react?

How can I cope with my own insecurities around being truly seen? In what ways do I choose to be in alignment with my true needs, rather than in resentment because I am not honoring myself or listening to my intuition?

Will I be able to show up in my fullness without the fear of being “too much?” or  “enough?” What does the cultural programming of “enoughness” look like? How does it affect the choices I make? I willing to disappoint others, rock the boat, and be uncomfortable in order to stay true to myself?

Can I identify when a wounded aspect of me is operating and clouding my judgement? What aspects of me still remain as fragments awaiting full acceptance, unconditional love, and forgiveness? Can I acknowledge them, hold them, and release them with deep love so I can more fully occupy my own body and energy? Can I begin to notice when I am grasping outside of myself for validation to quell inner discomfort? In what ways can I validate myself? How does validating my own experience create more grace and ease in my life?

 

 

Affirmations

I belong on this wild, breathing earth. I am capable of holding this great responsibility. I am brave. I am powerful. I call all of my power back to me now. I am safe. I am grounded. I am connected. I am fully resourced and operate from my wholeness. I trust myself fully. I validate my own humanity. I feel my own divinity. I am loving. I am patient, gentle, and honest with myself through the journey, accepting my wholeness as I change. I honor my interconnectedness with all things. I practice responding rather than reacting by slowing down and asking myself what I truly need. I take time to feel what is present for me and I listen. I practice receptivity and openness when my protective pieces urge me to shut down, trusting and loving all facets as sacred. All I need to do is be here, and pay attention to what moves me. I am deprogramming every belief and pattern of energy that does not belong to me, and that is no longer needed. I am allowing myself to receive new information about all the ways of being that reflect my true essence and soul’s purpose.

 

 

 

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I am continually diving into the way these archetypes are reflections of my being, feeling how they hold and nurture each other, how they are part of a greater cycle, and how they cycle through me in my own phases. Below is some more writing that came exploring these faces of the Divine Feminine.

 

 

I went to the water with my heaviness today. This is my secret spot I always go to alone. This water hasn’t flowed here in a very long time. The first water in a drought will conjure up all that has laid dormant, it will run muddy and carry with it tangled branches, and it is not conventionally beautiful or pristine. The first water will bring to your attention all that you wish you didn’t have to see. It will tell you stories you wish you didn’t have to hear. Chasing the light is easier than communing with the shadows. After a little while the clarity comes, the peace comes, if you submerge and surrender for long enough. After a little while you understand that the light doesn’t care to be chased, just respected as an integral piece of the spectrum, a warming ray of what is possible, of who you are at your core. I prayed into the water, washing my hands clean, asking for guidance. She told me to listen, and to trust what I hear. She reminded me that there isn’t a savior beyond our own understanding that we are part of an eternal river’s ebb and flow. There are layers to healing. There is no easy answer or endpoint, just the willingness to pay attention, to feel, and to trust the wisdom of our experience. The more powerful we become, the more we are asked to kneel closer to the earth, and let go, deeper and deeper. The more we allow energy to move through us without resistance, the more we get to experience moments of radiant fullness, connected to our place in the web, strong in our clear presence, humbled by all that is beyond our control. In this state of surrender, we feel empowered to choose our next step. Our hearts will not stop their work of breaking, but we will stop hoping for that anyway. Often the most we can do is honor the water’s wise path, sometimes bone dry, sometimes teeming with life. Listening, trusting, listening, trusting. I trust my body as an extension of the earth, my vision as an extension of her knowing. I trust her cycles and I trust my own. I listen to what calls me further in. I trust presence, the movement that spirals out from stillness. I listen to what I don’t understand. I become the river who always meets the sea.

We are not initiated once, but thousands of times. Many of our leavings and arrivals are barely noticeable, but we notice, and we are changed. We are led, continually, over thresholds we cannot plan for. Divine order changes its tune as we sing along. And the chords we strike, just by being, create cosmic waves. Barely perceptible or earth-shaking, our energetic signatures exist here as an essential part of our collective experience. As we empty the vessel of striving, we make space for what forces desire to come alive through us. It is simply a welcoming. An opening. A walking through. We are merging worlds, grooving gracefully and tumbling foolishly between the accepted and the unacceptable, learning to tone in resonance with Mystery, breaking contracts with which we no longer agree, weaving our stories one revelation and one question at a time. One toe always in the water, inviting the ceremony of entering. The soul is not static. Spirit shifts. Bodies soften and harden with the rivers and tides of time and emotion. The mind is as pliable as it is powerful. We are called to crack open wide, not for ultimate bliss but for ultimate presence, as we leave behind the comfort of knowing and enter the realm of soul that begins at the edge of the woods, at the precipice of comprehension. Transformation asks of us full devotion. It can be terrifying, to let go, yet it is the only thing that ever really happens, awakening in the center of silence. Even stillness changes shapes. But your hands know the heartbeat of everything. You will remember. And it will be beautiful.