A crop of the Strength card for our new cat tarot
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Our new Strength card – drama, conflict and confidence

The design of our Strength card was quite a challenge. Appropriately enough, fortitude and patience were needed.

Embarking on the design for the Strength card for The Bohemian Cats’ Theatre Tarot was no small challenge. The quest for the perfect solution led us through trials and errors, moments of frustration, and, more than once, the whispered plea, “Give me Strength!”.

As we worked on the visual to convey the essence of this powerful card, we faced a dilemma. How could we depict a small cat subduing a majestic lion while maintaining the scale and realism integral to The Bohemian Cats’ Theatre Tarot? Our commitment to portraying cats in convincing and consistent sizes and scale, dressed in  their custom-designed cat-sized costumes, added complexity to the creative process.

What’s more, in tarot, the Strength card, irrespective of the theme, demands emotional depth and impact. It’s about an inner strength and fortitude and also often indicates the self-confidence needed to tackle threats or conflicts.  For our feline-centric cat tarot deck, the challenge was to infuse the image with the necessary gravitas and significance while ensuring it seamlessly blended into the theatrical stage setting of the deckt

When we think about the evolution of our tarot designs over the past two decades, we recall the simpler, though we think still effective, Strength card that was made for our older 2003 deck,  The Baroque Bohemian Cats’ Tarot. The contrast highlights the artistic and thematic shift that defines The Bohemian Cats’ Theatre Tarot.

Now, armed with more experience and with a commitment to our theatrical theme, we approached the Strength card with a fresh perspective and a desire to do something a bit different. The process demanded creative thinking and, ultimately, a dramatic solution to bring our vision to life. We hope you like the final image – with the lion as a costumed character in a drama – as much as we do. 

The Strength card from the original Baroque Bohemian Cats' Tarot.
Rider Waite Smith Strength tarot card
The Strength card from the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) tarot deck.

Designing the embroideries and the costumes for the current deck was all about attention to detail.

We designed the lion embroidery for the bodice, taking our inspiration from antique heraldic embroideries. It’s stitched by us, on our studio embroidery machine, using metallic threads.

In addition, the lace cuffs are also made on our embroidery machine. The gown is made from an unused vintage bolt of Japanese silk, originally intended to be used as a kimono. We search out Japanese silk for its sheer beauty (and by the way, for anyone wondering, the bolts and kimonos we buy are all sold as craft material, with some wear or areas with flaws so that they could not be made into traditional clothing). You’ll just about be able to see, in the final Strength card, that the front of the dress has an all-over metallic mesh embroidery. We find that all-over embroideries like this add richness and make the fabric sparkle.

The lion costume is mainly silk velvet, which we dyed ourselves to get the right “teddy bear” colour. The trim at the front is from a fragment of antique French silk, and the large pom poms are made in our studio from a beautiful chenille yarn. The little pom poms are an old French lace trim, again dyed by us. 

photography for the Strength cat tarot card
Photographing for an initial sketch and try-out.
Lion embroidery. The Strength cat tarot card
Our lion embroidery in gold metallic threads.

Our first attempt at designing Strength for The Bohemian Cats' Theatre Tarot was beautiful, but not quite right.

We had sourced the most incredible baroque sculpture of a lion’s head which came from a royal hunting lodge (this is entirely true!) that had fallen into ruin. It seemed so exciting a piece and so perfect that we were thrilled.

We made the card, which took days of work. Then we rejected this first version. You can see it below, alongside our final card.

Whatever we did, it just seemed rather like a scene from Where the Wild Things Are – no bad thing in itself, but not quite fitting with the other images in the deck. Do you agree? Or do you like it? We are still somewhat in two minds ourselves and we are half wondering if we shouldn’t include both versions in the final deck. Please do let us know if you have strong feelings either way.

The final card shows a confrontation with a character dressed as a lion - and we love it.

The final Strength card exudes genuine drama, which we think will make it wonderfully effective in a reading. This time we used an antique carving of a lion (it’s beautifully made). A feisty female cat boldly faces a character dressed in a lion costume, complete with a formidable wooden mask. Despite the intimidating visage, she fearlessly extends her paw into the lion’s mouth. When you look at this dramatic confrontation, you simply have to wonder about the narrative behind this compelling performance. It’s obviously quite a story!

As ever, do please let us know what you think, and also if you would like to see both of these Strength cards in the final decks. 

An alternative Strength card for The Bohemian Cats Theatre Tarot, a cat tarot by BabaBarock
This is the first attempted card, which we then decided was not quite what we wanted. Please note that the copyright and grid are not on the final cards, they are just there to protect the image.
The final "Lion in costume" card for our cat tarot, The Bohemian Cats Theatre Tarot
This is the final card, which we love - and hope you do too. Please note that the copyright and grid are not on the final cards, they are just there to protect the image.

15 Comments

    • KarenMahony

      Yes, we think they are both good. But the second one seems to work better with the other cards in the deck. Thanks for the feedback – we may consider putting them both into the deck.

  • Dorothy Gillmeister

    Please do use both cards: I love the first one for its unique perspective, though I can see why it might not fit perfectly in the deck.

    • KarenMahony

      Thank you for this Dorothy. We are certainly going to consider adding the first one as an additional Strength card, though it really will depend if we decide whether or not it could fit in. It’s very odd to source what seemed the perfect prop and then find it looks out of step with the other imagery. We are still thinking about it.

      We do love how the final card came out however – though it’s so different from our first idea.

  • Daugherty

    I fully understand your preference for the revised card in terms of meaning. But since both images are beautiful, I would like both cards in the deck–if possible!

    • KarenMahony

      We are certainly going to consider that. Right now, we feel we may use the very large, baroque lion’s head (in the card that we first tried) for something else, but if that doesn’t happen, then it may well make sense to add it as an alternative Strength card – quite a few people seem keen on that. Thanks so much for commenting because it does all help us to make these decisions and we love to hear different opinions.

  • Svitlana Kondratska

    Please leave both cards, deck will only benefit from it, and people can choose which one to use. I like the punch card myself , purely I adore that white paw in lion mouth

  • Geneviève

    I LOVE the second one! I find it gives a different take to the Strength card but still captures the original meaning. She seems ready to tackle the beast and fully equiped with a profound knowing that what is in front of her is not what it seems. The first one feels a little off to me. It feels like the lion is scared and the cat is reassuring him. Not quite what I am looking for in the Strength card. But very well done!!

    • KarenMahony

      Oh I am glad you think that. Yes, the first one should have been fantastic – the lion’s head we used for it is astonishing. But somehow, in the card, it wasn’t quite right. In the second version, the whole thing is more confrontational and you can see the cat exerting her courage and strength. Thanks so much for the feedback.

  • Arya

    Strength is one of my favourite cards, so I often look at Strength in a deck before buying. I like both versions here, in the first the cat seems to embody compassion and in the second boldness and bravery. So do keep both if you can.

  • Lisa Faulkner

    I would love if you include both versions of the card. I can see how the second version goes with the theatre theme of the deck and the meaning of courage and strength. That said, for me Strength is also about compassion, being lionhearted, and at time even taming inner wildness; I get these meanings more from the first image.

    • KarenMahony

      Hi Lisa, That is an interesting and empathic perspective – thank you for it. We are discussing whether to include both cards. Right now, it’s not certain, as the number of extra cards we can include is limited and he feels we may find other images that we want to include as we go along. But I am seeing that many people are keen to see both cards included, so I think it’s quite likely we will do so. We will of course let everyone know when this is finally decided.

  • Lisa Faulkner

    Karen, It’s fascinating watching the images come to life and all the work behind the scenes. As I was falling asleep last night I couldn’t stop thinking about the image on the left and hearing the two characters communicate with each other with more of the meanings this card can have for me (incuding “let the lion out”). Even if you end up not including it as an extra card, I suspect I will always associate it with the card on the right if only in the cat’s imagination. Or perhaps if you end up choosing other estra cards down the road, the image on the left could be in the book as part of the story of the cards’s creation. Regardless, I look forward to adding this deck to my collection. All the best with the rest of its creation.

  • Inessa Khachaturova

    👌J’adore 2 cartes .💐 They are both beautiful, and like you, I would love to have them in my deck. Thank you very much for your work.

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