Circe as Strength

Circe by Scebiqu on devianART

Circe by Scebiqu on devianART (click to enlarge)

Circe (pronounced /ˈsɜrsiː/; Greek Κίρκη Kírkē “falcon”):

And yet, when others came to the palace of Circe, they also saw many beasts, but of the regular kind, that is, such as lions, bears and wolves, which however, acted as domesticated animals, showing their kindness by wagging their tails. Some say that these were actually the drugged victims of Circe. This power displays her ability to control the wild and potentially dangerous forces of the natural world. In her possession of the beasts, she does not dominate them by force, rather she controls her victims, man and beast alike, to which Odysseus feels ‘oppressed’.

The image above crossed my path this evening and I immediately thought, “Strength.” Not just because of the image of a woman and a lion, but because of the mythology surrounding Circe, especially that found in Homer’s “Odyssey.” When questioned on her habit of transforming her guests into various wild animals, Circe professes that she merely gives men their true forms, as the beasts they are. Once transfigured, the men/beasts are then subject to her will. I see this as a wonderful metaphor for the Strength card:

“Amazed, the Fool asks her, ‘How did you do that?’ One hand on the lion’s mane, she answers, ‘Will power. Any beast, no matter how wild, will back down before a superior will.’ At that moment, the Maiden meets the Fool’s eyes; though saintly and young, her look is knowing and filled with great power. ‘Likewise,’ she says to him, ‘there are many unworthy impulses inside us. It is not wrong to have them. But it is wrong to let them control us. We are human, not beast, and we can command such energy, use them for higher purposes.’ “

Circe by Wright Barker

Circe by Wright Barker

ETA: December 7 – just discovered the Infinite Visions Tarot, which uses the above artwork for the Strength card! Great minds? Nah, just synchronicity working its mojo :D

Related Articles:

Kirke @ Theoi
Symbolism in Circe’s story
Strength @ Learn Tarot


6 thoughts on “Circe as Strength

  1. erishilton says:

    Strength is one of my favorite cards. She shows up for me quite a bit as well. Sometimes I think that the Lion Tamer is part Lion herself. Strength is… A mom who only has to flash her squabbling brood an expression or look that says “Knock it the fuck off… Or else”, and the little brats cease & desist. She doesn’t have to put out much effort, but the job gets done. Homegirl is just that good.


    • submerina says:

      Yes! And if she doesn’t growl audibly, you can hear it anyway; it’s implied. I think it’s important that we don’t know whether she is opening the lion’s mouth or closing it; could go either way, depending on how fierce she’s feeling!


  2. Zorian says:

    Fantastic post as always Submerina! I am always amazed at how much I learn from you.

    Your take on the Strength card is truly brilliant. Why you aren’t a published tarot author is beyond me. Then again, maybe you are, and are hiding behind your ‘alter-ego’ :D

    However, to add further to your exploration of the card, let’s look at the number –

    esoterically – 8 is ruled by Saturn, and the esoteric imagery is of Lady Justice with a pair or scales (hence Justice was numbered 8 before RWS came into play)

    11 however, has the esoteric title – A Clenched fist, or A Muzzled Lion

    Further more, is this card entirely dedicated to the sign of Leo? After all, Leo is just the Lion, but Virgo is the celestial maiden that the ancients believed had the beauty to tame the beast with her gentle tenderness (and probably obsessive compulsive need to nag ^_^ )



    • submerina says:

      Ha ha! Flattery _will_ get you everywhere ;) While I am hiding behind this alter-ego, I guarantee you I am no published author. (Yet? :D)

      You know, I’ve wondered about the maiden, because she _does_ remind me of Virgo. The Star’s another one that makes me think of Virgo… And as for Justice, she’s waaay too _definite_ to be any Libran I’ve ever known ::tch tch::


  3. Anne says:

    Wow, nice article! I don’t use tarot, but bones… But, I do see what you’re saying. Love the artwork and the mythological references -Circe was a favorite of mine back in High School – I thought she was bad-ass.


    • submerina says:

      Ohhh, Circe would align so well with the bones. I have an on-going “make this thing” project where I build my own oracle (using bones and other found items) and I’m thinking that “charging” these pieces with epic figures from mythology. Adding Circe to the list!


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