XI – Lamed – Leo – Goad
Inner Mastery, Divine Drunkenness, Union of Man and Woman, and Ecstasy
Lust (Strength in the Rider-Waite tradition, in which it is also numbered VIII) corresponds to the Hebrew Letter Lamed, the symbol of learning and teaching. Its pictographic symbol is that of a goad, or shepherd’s staff, which was used to keep the flock in line and teach them how to properly behave. The letter Lamed represents this teaching, particularly being taught how to control one’s animal instincts. It also symbolizes the union of man and woman; especially man’s intellectual knowledge with woman’s heart and emotional instinct, resulting in completeness. It represents taming one’s inner beast, and the inner mastery that comes from it (the Rider-Waite art depicts this idea of inner mastery and taming the beast very well, literally showing a woman taming a lion, exerting soft control over it).
This idea of union is central to this card, in its representation as sex – the divine union between man and woman (it is important to keep in mind that this card represents the physical, unformalized union of man and woman, not the formalized union seen in the Lovers). Along with the idea of sex is the idea of ecstasy, passion, and abandon; what can be called the “divine drunkenness,” like the wild revelries of Dionysus and Bacchus. In this regard, this card represents also a lack of self-control, and the joy that comes when one exercises one’s will or power. This card also symbolizes the idea of acceptance of one’s weaknesses and coming to terms with them.
But, as the letter Lamed’s secrets state, this card is not just about lust itself, but also about controlling that lust; the coin has two sides. This card then also can represent strength, soft control (controlling through kind and gentle force and caring), and inner mastery. On the Tree of Life, this card is the path between Chesed and Geburah – between stability and instability. This card, then, represents the constant motion (yes, there is an innuendo here) associated with lust, as stability becomes instability, and back again. It represents controlling one’s instability in order to make it stable. If the energy is flowing towards Chesed, then one’s lust has been mastered. If flowing towards Geburah, the instability of one’s inner animal is becoming dominant. This card can go either way.
Astrologically, this card is the Sun Sign of the animal dominating both forms of the card; Leo the lion. It is an interpersonal sign, representing the interactions between others, and it is also a sign of love and pride; the love that leads to union and sex, and the pride that leads to using one’s power, and that pride that comes with inner mastery.
The Thoth art combines all of these ideas, showing a woman in the process of taming her inner beast, in the form of a lion-like figure, while she herself looks to be in ecstasy, possibly also engaging in an act of sex with said lion. This art represents the delicate balance between one’s inner animal and one’s ability to control the beast.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role of the baser, animal instincts in your life; do you have them under control? Do you not have them under control? Have you been giving into your inner hedonist lately? Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden, blocked, or twisted somehow; perhaps your inner beast is concealed but not controlled, or you do not control it but merely direct it.