Strength by Kate Brunner

Kate close up at Llyn MorwynionThe turning of a new year of some kind is and was often considered a portal time; perfect for rites of divination. In honor of the dawning of 2015, I spent the first few days of this month doing New Year’s divination readings for friends & Sisters. While the specific contents of those readings are of course confidential, I did see one card over and over and over again no matter what deck I used and how I laid out the cards. Strength.

strength1-342x600For anyone with some basic numerology knowledge, this isn’t incredibly shocking once you consider that this is an 8 Year—2 + 0 + 1 + 5 = 8. Strength (VII) would seem an appropriate card to appear in divinations focused on the calendar year ahead. But the more I worked with this Major Arcana card in readings for one woman after another, the more I wanted to really dive into the concept of Strength this card brings to light.

This passage is from A Feminist Tarot by Sally Gearhart and Susan Rennie:

The strength shown here is not so much a matter of “taming” the lower nature so much as bridging spirit (person) and body (lion), relating to non-human forms in caring ways, and working with nature and the material world. Strength comes not from the discipline of inner weakness… but from steadfast adherence to a principle or from strength of inner conviction and harmony with the natural world.

gaian strength

From the beautiful Gaian Tarot

I believe it is so important that the figure in this care is predominately a feminine one in most Tarot decks. This is the type of strength feminism aspires to embody and enact. We do not seek to dominate. Alternate forms of domination are no better than the oppressions at work in the world today. Instead, we seek the creative invention of new models of existence that do not require domination of one group over another. We seek cooperative strength. We seek to honor the strengths we each carry, the talents and skills we can all offer to affect meaningful change in a progressive direction. To borrow phraseology I first learned from Starhawk’s work, this is the quest for “power with” instead of “power over.”

Moving into the new calendar year, this is the strength I wish to embody in my life and work. This is the essence of the goals I want to set for myself. So I am sitting with this deeper understanding of Strength to see where it will guide me next. I invite you to do the same. How will Strength manifest in you this year?



Step. Step boldly.
Into this new space.
Reach out with courage,
your strong hands
that keep the faith.

For change, one day,
Is possible.




Crystal Tarot

Recommended Reading:
A Feminist Tarot by Sally Gearhart and Susan Rennie
Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex and Politics by Starhawk
Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising by Starhawk
Kissing the Limitless: Deep Magic and the Great Work of Transforming Yourself and the World by T. Thorn Coyle





Kate Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon, studying at the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary. She is an American expat, living in Queensland, Australia and homeschooling her children, with the world as their classroom. Before motherhood, Kate earned a Bachelor of Arts from Tulane University, while studying Economics, International Relations, & Religion. She served four years as a logistics officer in the US Army, after which, Kate became a doula and holistic birth educator.  She is a regular contributor to The Sisterhood of Avalon’s online journal, The Tor Stone and is active in the Red Tent Movement. Kate volunteered in Houston as a presenter for monthly Red Tents and semi-annual women’s retreats before relocating overseas. She enjoys international travel, perfecting her cooking, reading great books, & having fascinating conversations with friends, old or new.

Categories: Feminism, Gender and Power, General, Interdependence of Life, Poetry, Symbols

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15 replies

  1. On “steadfast adherence to a principle” as STRENGTH — “steadfast” requires the flexibility of letting our understanding of the principle we believe in evolve, however, not just defining it one way and then holding on to that at all costs. As your poem implies, thanks Kate, it takes strength to change, to bend, to adapt — likewise, to live long, you have to be willing to cope.


    • Excellent addition to the evolution of the meaning, Sarah. Perhaps that is the essence of the principle to which many feminists adhere– a principle of evolution & process.


  2. I think your poem perfectly encapsulates the messages on the card (Waite).

    Also, thank you for the reading list!


  3. Your essay reminds me of the Navajo concept of beauty called hozho, I believe, or being in right relationship with all that is. Living in a place of wholeness. Thanks, Kate!


    • That is a concept I am not yet familiar with. Thank you for sharing it with me. I love discovering new-to-me ideas to explore. On the surface, it sounds like a concept that could possibly also be connected to Buddhist ideas of right relationship. I’ll have to dig into that and see what I find.


  4. Thanks for this en-couraging post, Kate. In some tarot decks (like Motherpeace) Strength is the 11th of the major trumps and Justice is the 8th. It is only these two that ever change their positions with each other. Something to ponder, the relationship between Strength and Justice, Justice and Strength. Here is to the Eight Year.


  5. Very good blog. But there’s only one small problem: A.E. Waite changed Cards VIII and XI, Strength and Justice, from the old, traditional, French order. In the Marseilles Deck, for example, Card VIII is Justice and Card XI is Strength. I’ve been asking Tarot expert for years why Waite did that. I’m always told it’s for astrological reasons that I don’t quite understand. It’s significant, though, that as Smith painted the cards, both of them feature strong female characters.

    What might we make of this? Along with Strength, we require Justice. Many of the FAR bloggers have been telling us this.


    • I’ve never found a personally satisfactory explanation for the switch either. But it happened and in the decks I work with She sits in the VIII position. Since I am one of those folks who believes in the Hermetic Principles, I feel Her current position has significance for our age and is not mere “coincidence.” My personal experience leads me to feel this is a good place for Her in the progression of the Fool’s Journey. Her lessons follow that of The Chariot well in my work with Her and often trigger a deep seated need for time with The Hermit when She’s done with me for a Cycle. I agree it is very significant that Smith painted both cards as strong female characters. But again, the order as it exists today (in the decks I primarily work with) makes a great deal of intuitive sense to me. I need to establish that Strength within me in order to be able to engage the pursuit of Justice. However, I acknowledge that others may naturally undergo a different process, of course.


  6. Interesting–I know nothing about Tarot cards but I do know a lot about the I Ching and its relationship to Martial Arts (which is obviously a ‘strength’ related discipline). Though there are many ways to configure the I Ching trigrams, one of the most popular involves a mandala of 8 trigrams and that became the basis for a form of Kung Fu typically romanized in one word as Pakua (but also Bagua) so I found that coincidence a bit uncanny given your post. Here is a video of what this form of Kung Fu looks like:


  7. I seriously think the image of the Strength card should be modernized to
    reflect pilling a domestic cat. Bloody trial and error!


  8. I recently borrowed a book from the little local library called Her Strength edited by Emma Harvey, Morgan Mitchell and Rumbidzai Goredema, dealing with survival of trauma. I think this year is the time to make a new and stronger concerted effort to overcome the patriarchy. The conversation has been going on for centuries.


  9. I really like this clarification of strength and what “true” strength is. I like the concept that strength via diplomacy and collaboration is always going to outweigh strength by overpowering. Regardless of how strong an individual is, there is always something lacking in that said individual. By working with others, whether it be a different species, or one of a different profession, being open to coinciding with others has always proven to provide successful results. Thanks for the good read!


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