I don’t own a TV. I haven’t had one since I was 18 because I have an addictive personality and on top of the smoking (which I quit doing over 5 years ago) and the eating disorder (which I’ve taken by the horns, became a vegetarian, and lost over 95 lbs since July 2010), sitting in front of a TV for hours would have just been in the book of bad ideas. So, in consequence, I am sometimes behind on trivia. One little fact I learned recently, which may or may not be common knowledge, but really struck a chord…
When visual media feature eagles, they overdub their natural voices with hawk cries.
This really stumped me. “Why?” I asked. “Why on earth would we do that?” One of my friends responded on a Facebook comment, “Well, have you ever heard an eagle? They sound really wimpy.” So, I went to YouTube to find out for myself. As it turned out, I didn’t think they sounded “wimpy” at all. Frankly, I thought it was beautiful, sweet. I’ll admit it was surprising to see this powerful god-totem have this sing-song voice – but, that’s when it hit me. Right then is when I understood why film and TV producers use the hawk’s shrill instead of letting this magnificent bird speak for herself.
We expect strength and power to be synonymous with aggression.
Gee, now, where would we learn this lesson, do you think…? Perhaps we learned this through centuries of muscling each other over land and religion? Maybe because most of us can name more serial killers than their victims? Or perhaps we got that idea when we were kids that when the bigger kids knock us over in the sandbox and take our lunch money and there’s nothing we can do about it. We, in the western civilized world, have somehow been programmed that “might is right.” We still have Indian nations sitting on reservations from the 1700’s because they were “infesting” land that belonged to them but we believed was put aside for us by a patriarchal, superior god. We had the guns and the germs, so, naturally, we wiped them out and considered ourselves “stronger.” The entire Roman Empire was built on bullying and conquest, therefore, Rome considered itself “stronger” than the rest of the world. The same can be said for the boss that illegally sexually propositions an employee, the politician that buys their votes, unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies, pimps and human traffickers, and fashion moguls. But, though these characters certainly have power, does power necessarily denote “strength”?
Which begs the question: What exactly is “Strength”?
The Oxford dictionary defines the word as: “Physical power and energy.” However, it also states, “The emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult.”
In the Tarot, the traditional Strength card is depicted as an immortal woman – a figure of the goddess, for She has a lemniscates above Her head — standing precariously beside a threatening lion, in perfect poise and calm. She is given the number 8, the number of Fame, Fortune, Commerce, and Perfected Energetic Exchange. However, She was originally assigned the number 11, Mastery of the Self, but Arthur Waite felt that EMV (Earth Mastery Vibration) was better suited for “Justice,” so he switched. According to David LeMieux’s “The Ancient Tarot and its Symbolism” (© 1985, Cornwall Books. Rosemont Publishing. New York. pg 123), the Strength card is aligned with the sign of Cancer – not a hot-headed fiery warmonger, but a mushy, squishy, highly intuitive and emotionally sensitive water sign — and the Hebrew letter “cheth” which means, “fence.” She is not forcing the lion to do Her will. She is not asserting human dominion over the non-human with weapons or threats, but is simply not allowing the aggressor to maltreat Her, using nothing more than Her mere presence. The figure in the Strength card is energetically aligned with the divine, in perfect trust that no harm will come to her. She sets Her boundaries (the “fence”), to protect what is Hers.
The lion was chosen as a foe because the historical significance of the cat is a tremendous one. Not only is he recognized as royalty by most traditions, LeMieux goes further, specifically into the time period in which the Tarot was originally derived, and states that the lion “was always a greatly feared animal; in fact, some occult authorities consider it one of the signs of the devil (diabolism). In some schools, it is symbolic of the anti-Christ, but the majority considers it more realistically as the symbol of strength, i.e., the lion of Judah.”
The image of the passive, yet divine, overpowering aggressive, mortal evil is poignant and beautiful. Not to mention it is also uncannily like the figure of the Hindu goddess, Durga. In fact, this divine woman sitting calmly upon a great cat “represents the power of the Supreme Being that preserves moral order and righteousness in the creation. The Sanskrit word Durga means a fort or a place that is protected and thus difficult to reach. Durga, also called Divine Mother, protects mankind from evil and misery by destroying evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, and ego.” (http://www.koausa.org/Gods/God1.html) Of course, there is no such thing as coincidence…
The flower that dares to bloom in the snow is no more or less stronger than the fighter. Strength is universal. Not everyone possesses physical power, but everyone has the ability to be strong. That is what this card says. That is what Nature says. True strength comes from our own voice. It is time for a new perspective. It is time to rethink what strength means to us as individuals, as a nation, and as a world.
It is time to let the eagle sing.