Gay Pride and the Strength Card (And Coloring!)

I made a Tarot card! No, I am not in the process of designing a whole deck. That’s nowhere on my radar. But I did draw (draw as in “produce by making lines or marks”, not as in “select randomly from a deck”) the Strength card this morning. Scroll down if you want to skip all the personal crap about my emotional growth and just see the image.

I’ve been doing some work with Strength recently. This month, and this past weekend in particular, has been transformative for me. I won’t go into a great deal of detail,* but long story short, I’d been rebelling (read: throwing a full on, screaming, snot-faced, foot-stamping temper tantrum) against my own sexual identity, my membership in the queer community, and a variety of related things, particularly as a reaction to the imminent Pride parade in New York (which was this past weekend). So, y’know. Lots of stuff to work through.

Things came to a head last Friday when I did my summer solstice Opening of the Key reading. (I do one of these at each of the eight holidays on the Neopagan Wheel of the Year.) These readings are always an opportunity for me to check in with myself and do some serious meditative work; the Third Operation of my summer reading turned up the following:

Death rx, the Magician, Lovers, Page of Pentacles, Tower, and Strength.

Woof. Lots to unpack there (and unpack it I did), but the basic message was clear: Grow the hell up. I’d been acting like a brat, and this Tarot reading called me out on that behavior. These cards represented a desperately needed** process of emotional maturation—culminating in Strength.

This weekend at the Pride parade in New York, I underwent some transformative stuff. Not unpleasantly so; it wasn’t the kind of teeth-gnashing, gods-I-hate-this-let-it-all-be-over transformation I’d been expecting. In fact, it was really fun. I had a distinct moment of “Oh. I get it now.” Attending Pride helped me better understand myself, my relation to the broader gay and non-gay communities, and the importance and significance of something like Pride. It also allowed me to take some steps towards loving and accepting myself in a way that I hadn’t previously thought would ever be possible. I’d say the weekend was a success all around.

And, well, the place I’ve ended up is very much in tune with Strength. This card is complicated, as are they all, but one of the main ways I like to read it is this: The beast within can only be tamed by love, not by fighting. Whatever demons a querent—in this case, me—is facing down, whatever they’re grappling with, can’t be fixed by anger or frustration. The solution, as corny as it sounds, can only be love, gentleness, and acceptance. That’s the place I finally arrived this weekend with regard to myself and my sexual identity.

This morning, I woke up with a need to create. A need to produce something out of all the rapid emotional development I’d undergone this weekend. Now, you may not know this about me, dear reader, but I am not a terribly artistic person. I look at art; I do not make it. This is totally fine by me, and I love looking at art (longtime readers of this blog will know how incessantly I harp on about the importance of beauty). When I worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, once upon a time, I used to wander around the galleries on my own and just soak in the magnificence of it all. However, I haven’t felt a desire to draw anything in a good ten years. Not just because I’m terrible at drawing (I am), but also because it’s not a mode of creative expression I feel much need for.***

But today, I woke, and I wanted to draw. More specifically, I wanted to draw Strength. I had a picture in my head, not quite of the traditional Strength card, but of a lion stretching and reaching for the sun, and I wanted to bring that picture into being. So I went across the street to CVS, picked up some poster board and a pack of colored pencils, and came home to draw.

The colors are washed out in the photo, because I am the world’s worst photographer. Apologies.

I’m damn pleased with the result. It was a great big ol’ inner child moment (it certainly looks like it was drawn by a child), and the final product matches what I had in my head almost exactly. I ended up making the sun a reflection in a river and having the lion lying on the bank. His tail is dipped in the water, and the ripples moving outward disrupt the reflection.

I like the way I’ve drawn this card. I like that the lion is reaching for something celestial, something that’s ultimately beyond his grasp. He can’t catch the sun between his paws, and part of the lesson for him is learning how to be with the sun without possessing or controlling it. If he tries to catch the sun by force (i.e. by splashing into the water) he’ll break up the reflection, and he’ll never get what he’s seeking. But if he lies on the bank in quiet appreciation, and allows himself to simply be, he will find that the sun is with him always. In the traditional RWS image, there’s harmony between the girl and the lion because of her gentleness, and because she loves its true nature rather than trying to put it on a leash and make it something it’s not; here, there’s harmony between the lion and the sun only if he learns that same lesson.

I don’t think I need to spell out the allegory any more explicitly, but the “loving and accepting X’s true nature” thing should be pretty clear for the folks following along at home. Speaking of which, I made a couple of additional purchases when I was out getting art supplies at CVS. I bought some concealer,**** some matte lipstick, and clear nail polish, and I experimented with putting on makeup, because why the hell not. The results are pictured below; I did my best not to end up looking like a clown. This is also the first time I’ve ever shared a picture of myself on the blog, so for anyone who’s been curious as to what I look like, now you know.

Excuse the rumpled shirt. All my real-people clothes are packed away for the summer.

This was a fairly personal post. I’ve noticed over the past year that my posts on this blog have been veering more and more towards discussion of myself and things going on in my life. That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing (mostly, I just blog about things that are on my mind, and those things are almost always Tarot-related because I’m such a nerd for Tarot), but it’s a trend that I’m aware of. I do try to keep a good portion of the content impersonal, to benefit the people who are here only for Tarot and who don’t give a damn about my emotional goings-on. If you’re one such person, feel free to check out last week’s post. I’m out of town next week, but if I can get my act together, I’ll pre-write and schedule a post (likely a deck review). If not, I’ll be back the week after next. Happy Fourth of July to all, and a belated happy Pride!

*Mostly because the details all have to do with me working through my own emotional shit over how gay I am, and it is not pretty. If you want to get a feel for the kind of stuff I was working on, feel free to read this shadow work post from a couple of months back.

**And rapid. Look at how quickly the cards in this deck move. The Magician and the Tower frame the central action, and the Page of Pentacles is looking forward to the Tower, precipitating the kind of rapid, stressful growth the Tower brings. And in this case, I think the reversal of Death at the beginning signifies (among other things) that this card is not nearly as slow-acting here as it often is.

***I have a dear friend who processes everything by drawing. It’s the way she meditates, the way she understands her emotions, the way she picks something apart to understand it. When she has drawn something, she knows it.

****I literally had to get the lightest shade they had, because in case you didn’t know, I’m whiter than the driven snow.

7 thoughts on “Gay Pride and the Strength Card (And Coloring!)

  1. That was beautiful! Happy for you in your personal journey to settle with who you are and what that looks like in the world. I also love that Strength card; it was a lovely way to render it.


  2. Well done, sir. In every way, and on every level, well done!

    LIPSTICK TIP FROM A LIPSTICK ADDICT: I find matte lipstick tends to make lips look dry. You might want to consider something in a satin finish – not too sparkly or wet but not dry-looking – while you experiment with the look you want. And have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading your post at 5am here in the UK, VERY in-depth and interesting concept. Even more bizarre earlier today ordered the book The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. My favourite childhood storey, aged 62 felt a strange desire to revisit and read , really look forward to your posts. 🦋


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