To fully realize the unique conscious individuality that is our birth right we need to be comfortable with our animal nature. The separation of humanity from instinctual life, although potentially very liberating, is also inhibiting. Our self awareness is a double edged sword that either destroys us or exalts us depending on how we wield it. Domesticated human beings are animals in captivity, having lost our our ecological niche in the wild. Bars and wire are not needed to contain us, our neuroses keep us prisoner. Our insecurity, our inhibitions, and our social embarrassment are all symptoms of this repression. To become aware of this fracture and to heal it and reconnect ourselves to our whole self as we truly are, gives us incredible strength and energy and boundless creativity. Overcoming our self limiting inhibitions and regaining a healthy Lust for life is intrinsic to our process of liberation as an individual. It is a manifestation of true enjoyment, or “jouissance”, a term which was used by Feminist writer Hélène Cixous to describe a mystical experience of sexuality that forms the basis of all creativity.
People who don’t know tarot seem to get confused by the name of this card (also known as Strength). Doesn’t seem very lusty they tell me. Typical of Aleister to muddy the waters like that. I suppose it needs to be explained that it’s not really about lust in the narrow, genital sense but more as a general universal concept. It’s not a “sin” either, but rather a state of divine grace. I think this distinction drives straight to the heart of the body/mind schism that is destroying us all. Disgust at the natural animal urges within, is translated into contempt for the living ecosystem.
The lion is the lower self, the instincts and urges, and the woman is the higher intuitive self. Not feeble logic, but the kind of soul intelligence accessed through meditation and chakra work, hence the seven snakes of the lions’ tail. The total image depicts a fully actuated person, whose functions are all operating in harmony and whose passion for existence is symbolized by the star fire she is collecting in her (holy) grail. In Jungian terms she has tamed and accepted her Shadow, her dark side, so that it empowers rather than undermines her .
Also she is the great Heirodulai, the “Scarlet Woman” riding the Beast, originally the all powerful Sumerian goddess Inanna whose sacred animal was the Lion. In fact she was often depicted as a Lioness. Inannas’ consort Dumuzi is one of the early versions of Christ, the sacrificed god king. And Christ was of course “The Lion of Judah” as a direct descendant of David. Inanna was demonized as “the whore of Babylon” further associating her with Magdalene, who was also branded as a prostitute. So I suppose Lust is an ironic title in a way, an owning of an age old insult.
It’s also very interesting to me that the original symbol for this card is a woman shutting the mouth of a lion. If you consider the lion as symbolizing the Energetic body then the woman closing the animals’ mouth is a direct reference to the essential action required to complete the Microcosmic Orbit of energy (chi) around the meridians of the body. The Taoist masters refer to the tongue as a switch, which needs to be in contact with the top palette so that this energy circulation can flow. This kind of knowledge would also have been a part of the Western esoteric traditions prior to the witch burnings and destruction of libraries in the Middle Ages. It seems like another piece of evidence in the case for the Tarot being an encoded remnant of this type of suppressed knowledge.
Some people believe Jesus was trained as a Yogi in India and was a master of Kundalini and that as an Essene adept he practised the ancient ritual of Heiros Gamos with his wife, the Magdalene. It is an incredible irony that the church which based itself around him has gone to such horrific genocidal lengths to exterminate such practises. I suppose I should spell out at this stage that I am very much NOT a Christian (or anything else really, other than what I am). His significance to me is as a Magus, not as a preacher. In fact, I tend to agree with DH Lawrence that he probably lived to regret this early phase of his life. Please refer to his short story “The Escaped Cock” if you wish to know what DHL imagined him doing after his crucifixion. And while I’m on the subject of DHL, I have to mention “Apocalypse” his final work, which directly inspired this card and the whole direction of my Tarot. DHL was by far the greatest Magus of the Twentieth Century, and a kind of modern Christ figure himself. Dion Fortune knew it, which is why she spent her time trying to write a Lawrentian novel. He was an extremely rare combination, a great scholarly mind with the ability to see behind the veil.