Years ago, when they were feeling lost and directionless and leaning too heavily on their vices, Edgar Fabián Frías cast a spell on themself. As part of the process, the L.A. based artist, therapist and magical practitioner decided they would pull a tarot card and get whatever they selected tattooed on their arm.

As luck (or the universe) would have it, Frías pulled the Strength card. Since then, they’ve had a line drawing of a feminine figure leaning comfortably against a large orangutan on their left bicep. “Fuerza” (Spanish for strength) is written in blue ink beneath the image. (The traditional Strength card usually depicts a lion rather than an orangutan, but in tarot, everything is open to interpretation.)

“It helped me on my healing journey, and I find the card often connects with people who are trying to recover or find themselves,” Frías said. “It’s like an angel or a guide that comes at just the right moment.”

If you too feel like you could use some Strength energy in your life, you’re in luck. Tarot practitioners say the Strength card is 2024’s card of the year. That’s because 2+0+2+4=8, and Strength is the eighth card in most modern English-language tarot decks. Just like honoring the seasonal rhythms of the year or the phases of the moon, working with the card of the year can be a way to frame and contextualize a specific period of time.

“When we talk about the card of the year, we can think about what energies are associated with it that can help guide or support us or potentially give us some clues into the theme of the year,” said author and artist Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, who also leads tarot workshops.

For example, in 2023 — a Chariot card year — Eliza Swann, founder of the Golden Dome School, a mystery school for artists with branches in New York and L.A., moved houses four times. (The Chariot card is traditionally associated with movement and momentum).

“I never had a more insane moving moment,” Swann said. “And I thought, ‘Well, it’s a Chariot year.’ It helped me look at this crazy movement as having a mythic framework.”

For Frías, 2023’s Chariot year was an invitation to contemplate the direction of their life, where they were headed and the parts of their life where they didn’t feel empowered or in control. In this Strength year, they plan to think about ways to receive, call in and cultivate strength to make big changes happen.

“It’s about turning inward toward ourselves and opening up our hearts,” Frías said. “Some call it the conscious and unconscious coming together.”

In the most popular and iconic tarot deck, known as the Rider-Waite-Smith and first published in 1910, the Strength card depicts a woman in a long white dress leaning over a lion with its tail between its legs. An infinity sign floats over her head, suggesting she might be a divine figure, and she seems to be using gentle pressure to close the lion’s mouth and calm it. The lion radiates a wild energy, but it looks up at her with something like trust. The woman is serene and unafraid.

The divinatory meaning of the card is “power, energy, action, courage, and magnanimity,” according to the little white book that accompanies the deck.

When the card is reversed (meaning it shows up upside down in a spread), it means “abuse of power, despotism, weakness and discord.” But most tarot readers say the imagery of the card suggests a more broad and expansive interpretation.

For Gottesdiener, the card is a reminder that strength is often soft and unforced and that we can look at our true natures with compassion. “There’s this relationship with animal nature or animalistic instinct,” she said. “She’s greeting this beast, this king of the jungle, and she’s not afraid of it. She’s greeting it for what it is.”

This could lead us to see 2024 as a year to reacquaint ourselves with desire, pleasure and play, she said. “We’re going inward to meet the beast. [In 2024,] we’ll be tasked with thinking about ‘What are our true natures?’ and ‘What do they need to flourish and grow?’”

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Swann said the Strength card is associated with Cybele, an iron meteorite that was celebrated as a mother goddess in Anatolia (the region now called Turkey). “I think of Strength as this really beautiful, divine, feminine ecstatic energy — this wildly sizzling meteorite,” Swann said. “And I think of her as the goddess of settling the score.”

On the collective level, Swann sees Strength card energy in all those who are rising up to make their voices heard. “All the labor unions striking is Strength,” they said. “The energy of organizing and making things more equitable is Strength.”

But the card also has a shadow side, Frías said. This includes feeling overwhelmed, pessimistic, letting emotions control you, self-hatred and building walls between yourself and others.

“In 2024, we need to listen with our hearts and develop practices that help us cultivate hope, eagerness, joy and pleasure,” Frías said. “Especially when it’s hard to do so.”

If you’d like to try working with the energy of the Strength card this year, there are lots of easy ways to start. Frías usually keeps the card of the year on their altar as a reminder to look for the various ways its themes might show up over the next 12 months. If you don’t have an altar, you can make the card the picture on your phone’s home screen or tape a photocopy of it on your nightstand. (An image that represents strength to you would also work.) You also can gather friends to talk about your own strengths.

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“We’re taught to be humble and not name our own strengths, so saying them out loud would be a good practice,” Swann said.

And because Cybele’s festivities occurred around the spring equinox, Swann suggests imagining planting the seeds of your desires now and watching them erupt in the spring. “On the individual level, Strength is about working with the energy of desire to achieve goals and working with your own strengths, whatever they happen to be, so you get concrete results,” they said.

Perhaps, most simply, you can just meditate on what strength means to you. “You can look at where you have to be stronger, look at the divide between what you say and what you do,” Gottesdiener said. “You can also be really mindful about where you, yourself, might be in the card with your relationships and your life.”

The ultimate goal, she said, is to take the archetype out of the deck and bring it into your life.