Sign Leo the Lion, the Strength and Sun Cards
July 22, the Sun enters Leo, the sign of the zodiac associated with the
card of the tarot.
Leo is, of course, the lion, an animal whose image and myth permeates
Western culture. Leo, with its majesty and golden mane, is ruled by the
associated with the tarot card of the same name.
Leo and the Sun partake of the element fire, one of the four elements
of Greek philosophy first proposed by Empedocles around 450 BC in his
poem On Nature. The suit of wands depicts typical scenes
requiring enterprise, courage and daring as suggested by the element fire.
Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot’s strength card shows a beautiful
maiden stooping over a lion, whose jaws she gently but firmly holds shut.
Having subdued the beast, she leads it with a chain of flowers. Could
this be the origin of “flower power” in the 60s? In older tarot decks,
the strength card is called fortitude; and in place of the woman, the
Greek hero Herakles grapples with the savage beast.
Lion (Leo) in the Myth of Herakles (Hercules)
is the Roman name for the Greek hero Herakles, who was the product of
a love affair between Zeus and a beautiful mortal, Alcmene. The mother
of Herakles slept with Zeus while her husband was away. Zeus named his
new son Herakles, after his legitimate wife Hera. Needless to say, Hera
was royally piqued and vowed her revenge.
waited until Herakles became a husband, a warrior and the father of two
lovely children. She then cast a spell to drive Herakles insane. In a
psychotic state, Herakles murdered his wife and children. He was found
guilty by reason of temporary insanity and received a sentence of twelve
years of servitude, during which he would have to perform twelve nearly
first labor was to kill the invincible lion
of Nemea. He had some experience as a lion hunter, having
slain his first feline as a lad of eighteen. The Nemean lion was so fierce,
however, that the usual weapons of war were of no avail, and hunter’s
arrows simply bounced off its hide. Herakles finally cornered the Nemean
lion in a cave and choked it to death with his bare hands. That’s fortitude.
and the Lion
tale about a lion in a cave comes from ancient Rome. Androcles was a slave
in Africa at the time of Tiberius and Caligula. He hid inside a cave to
escape a cruel master, and there he confronted a lion who was limping
and in pain because of a large thorn in its paw. Androcles removed the
thorn and nursed the lion’s wound. Later Androcles was captured and thrown
to the lions in the coliseum. As luck would have it, Androcles confronted
his old feline friend who, instead of devouring him, caressed him for
all of Rome to see. Both Androcles and the lion were then freed. George
Bernard Shaw, who wrote the play Androcles and the Lion,
was born on July 26, 1856, with his Sun conjunct Venus in Leo in his Third
House of writing, so it’s easy to see where the inspiration for this play
may have originated.
Lion and Christianity
Jerome, the patron saint of students, was a fourth century scholar and
Father of the Christian Church. As part of his religious calling he spent
two years in the desert as a hermit (another of the major aranca cards)
searching for enlightenment, strength and inner peace. Presumably, one
day a lion entered the monastery, terrifying all the monks except for
Saint Jerome who had found his inner strength as a hermit. Jerome saw
that the lion had a large thorn in its paw. Like Androcles before him,
Jerome performed a similar act of kindness and tamed the savage beast.
powerful tie to Christianity is an ancient myth that links the lion to
the resurrection of Christ. In this legend, the lion’s whelp, or in some
versions of the story, three of its offspring, are born dead. After three
days, the father lion breathes on the dead offspring and brings them back
Posed by the Strength Card
the strength card appears in a tarot reading, we ask ourselves how we
are using our inner strength. Like Herakles, do we need to make amends
for some “insane” action on our part? Are we being true to our inner selves?
Do we have the courage of our convictions? Are we letting the Sun shine
within? Are we using brute force when gentle persuasion would do? As a
math professor of mine used to ask students who offered complex proofs
for simple theorems, “Are you trying to dig a cellar with an atom bomb?”
Meditations While the Sun is in Leo
is an excellent time to meditate on the tarot’s strength and sun cards,
as well as the suit of wands of the minor arcana. Study their images,
look for their interconnections and reflect on how they relate to your
inner and outer life this summer.
you are interested in the connections between tarot and astrology, here
are some books you may find useful.
Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot by Rachel Pollack, Element
2000 and 2001 Tarot Calendars by Llewellyn Publications.
Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack, Thoresons Publishing.
and the Journey of the Hero by Hajo Banzhaf, Weiser Publications.
Companion by Tracy Porter, Llewellyn Publications.
Plain and Simple by Tony Louis, Llewellyn
is the Tarot?
traditional tarot consists of 78 cards divided into 22 major arcana cards
(greater secrets) and 56 minor arcana cards (lesser secrets). The major
arcana cards depict 22 spiritual lessons in allegorical fashion. The 56
minor arcana cards are similar to a modern deck of 52 playing cards and
consist of four suits containing ten pip or numbered cards plus four court
cards in each suit. The most influential tarot deck of the past century,
the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, was conceived by Arthur Waite,
illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, and published by Rider in 1910.