This week’s Harrow card, The Bear, is a balancing act of sorts. On the card itself we see a bear pedaling a unicycle. It seems that it may have escaped from a circus, as it wears a frilled pink collar around its neck and a conical hat on its head. It holds an elaborate staff in one of its paws. While the bear appears to be smiling, that smile is offset by the skull and bones littering the ground under its feet.
Like last week’s card, The Foreign Trader, this is a True Neutral card, and like all True Neutral cards, it symbolizes the most elemental form of its associated ability. In this case, The Bear represents the ability of Strength, as it is from the suit of Hammers. The bear is an archetypal symbol of pure strength and physical power, so it’s no coincidence that is shows up on this card.
The Bear’s costume and position, however, speak to the true meaning of the card itself. The Bear is an animal, and humans often think that all animals can be tamed and domesticated. Certainly, it is possible to train The Bear to perform tricks, but it is still The Bear, and as such capable of tremendous displays of force and destruction. The bones at its feet may, in fact, be the remains of the person who thought that they had The Bear under their control.
When The Bear appears in a spread, it is often an indication that brute force is necessary to overcome our obstacles. But at the same time, it is a warning that using or trying to harness such brute force does not come without consequences. The dashing swasbuckler with her rapier and a charging barbarian with his giant club can both bring down an opponent, but while the swashbuckler strikes with precise, clean strokes, the barbarian’s unchained force leaves a big, bloody mess.
Likewise, while we sometimes need to charge like a bear into our challenges, such an approach often causes collateral damage, even hurting those we hold most dear. The Bear is a warning to use such power sparingly and with great discretion lest it get the better of us and our allies. After all, once The Bear is unleashed, it is very difficult to tame it again.
Tiger Eye is a great aid for helping us to control The Bear inside of us and to use our strength productively. It encourages balance in all things, and it doesn’t tame our inner Bear as much as it directs it, nurtures it, and keeps it in harmony with our surroundings. Bloodstone, likewise, is a great stone for physical balance but also promotes truth altruistic courage, the kind that recognizes the value of sacrifice and using our power for the greater good.
Bright blessings, and may the cards be in your favor.
The Harrow deck is part of the Pathfinder RPG and is a fun alternative to a traditional tarot deck both for those familiar with the game, or those looking for a different framework for divination.