This is the eleventh post in a series about the Tarot Rugs. To view the entire series, go HERE (that post will be kept up to date as the photos are published and the show travels).
STRENGTH: Here is the "classic" Rider-Waite-Smith image below:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
And now let's have a look at Jennifer O'Rourke Lavoie's tarot rug, STRENGTH:
"The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination..."
"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength."
Saint Francis de Sales
“The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.”
Ok, so already you may have two questions:
1) Is this a card about animal rights? (The Schopenhauer quote just below Jen's rug photo). and
2) What does it say at the bottom of her rug--what IS that?
Before I get into some background on Jen, let me address those two questions.
1) No, it's not a card about animal rights! But it could be, couldn't it, as you look at both the original card and at Jen's interpretation? If you read the Schopenhauer quote carefully, you'll see that it's really about kindness and compassion for all things, and that is a PART of what this card is about, though not the whole story.
2) The writing at the bottom of Jen's rug, in addition to the Roman numerals for 8 on the left and right bottom, is the word Strength in Sanskrit. Jen says about this: "I had to really search around for that text/font for the word so I pray that it truly means strength! I did not want the text to distract from the visual or beat the viewer over the head with what they were 'supposed to think.' Text can be very directive and it was my mission to show rather than tell."
She adds: "Also, when this exhibit is finished traveling I plan on hanging this rug in my own home with another portrait of my other daughter. She chose the Magician card and as she is a scientist I really like that. But if one card says Strength and the other card says Magician I felt that this was not a good balance for a pair of portraits. ...I am allowing their portraits to show the whole story of who they are rather than say one specific thing about their natures. So the Sanskrit is more of a mystery and decorative bit rather than a title."
So from what she has said above, you already know that the female figure in the rug is one of Jen's daughters. [I won't spoil the really lovely story behind this rug because Jen has written about it in the show catalog. If you would like to buy a catalog of the show--all proceeds help the rugs to travel from one venue to the next--please email Michele Micarelli at email@example.com Cost would be $18US plus shipping--Michele can guide you on shipping amount.]
Jennifer O'Rourke Lavoie is one of my rug hooking idols. (Several of my other idols are in this exhibit as well. I am trying not to play favorites!) Jen doesn't have a website, but you can get a sense of how powerful her work is by looking at some of her other rugs that have posted online, such as her This Train rug here, the Corn Stalks rug here, or the Sumac rug here. Please honor Jen's talent by NOT reposting or pinning any of those without permission. Jen is an award-winning artist and rug hooking teacher, another in our long line of phenomenal artists in this tarot rug show. Rug Hooking Magazine did an article on her in their November/December 2013 issue that is well worth getting.
Comparing the two images above: In the original card there is more detail, but Jen's rug has fully captured the essence of the card's spirit. She has focused on the central figures of the card, the woman and the lion. In both images there is a feeling of gentle strength. There is a sense here of kindness and respect in working with the animal, rather than command or force. And the animal in both images looks eager to follow the guidance of the woman.
Looking at Jen's rug, don't you have the same feeling about the way she hooks? The subtle coloring and gentle-but-patient ordering of the details result in a phenomenal rug. While I have never met her daughter, there's no doubt in my mind that this looks just like her. I am drawn to the delicate tints of the skin on her face and hands, the shades of color in her hair, the carefully-hooked bark on the tree (including the lichens), the water, and the mountains in the background...each is hooked with such care and attention. Jen's lion is an extraordinary mix of wildness and tenderness, and we get the idea that there is a strong bond of respect and affection between the two.
WHAT DOES THE CARD MEAN?
"When you are required to exhibit strength, it comes." Joseph Campbell
"Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong." Leo Buscaglia
In tarot, the lion in this card is generally thought to represent our own animal nature. It is from our animal nature that our deepest instincts and desires arise--and so this card is about what we truly want. But it is also about balancing head and heart. The woman embraces her animal nature; she does not flee from it. This takes Strength. This takes Courage. But while embracing it, she also guides it. She has what some would call good "impulse control," and it's not achieved through violence but rather by respect and compassion. She recognizes the wisdom of her animal nature, and heeding its wisdom, she blends it with her intellect and channels it wisely.
When you pull this card, ask yourself:
Remember that you can catch up on all the other rugs in the exhibit at the link at the very top of this post. If you are curious about what's behind the exhibit, there is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section here (scroll down to the bottom to get to the FAQ).
Thanks for reading. Comments always welcome.
Today's tarot resource: The amazing Joanna Powell Colbert's website, here. Joanna is the creator of the Gaian Tarot, one of my favorite decks.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society