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8: Fortitude

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Oct. 25th, 2008 | 01:41 pm
posted by: shatterstripes in silicon_dawn

Fortitude is one of the few Majors that has several sketches leading up to the final card in my deck. The first rough was a fairly prosaic take on the idea of 'woman subduing a lion' that you see in most modern decks; the lion was made of fire and in space, but it was the same underlying ideas.

As I researched it, I discovered another thread of historical imagery: a woman with a pillar - sometimes nearby it, sometimes breaking it. I found this to be pretty symbolically rich, and merged it with the familiar woman-and-lion pattern.

We have a vaulted roof receding off into the distance, held up by caryatids (pillars sculpted in the shape of women). The pillars are innumerable, the roof and floor measureless - is this some strange temple? A frozen army? The figures are spaced far too close to easily pass through, if they're human-sized. A creature somewhere between a woman and a lion roams about, rubbing up against the nearest caryatid.

Usually, this card shows a woman taming a wild beast. Here, the 'beast' may be as human as the 'woman'; the question of which one is free and which one is bound became open. The woman is as strong as Atlas, holding up the ceiling, but her strength holds her there - if she lets go, will it hold? Moreover, she's wearing a huge posture collar. She's the bound one here. Is she the wild one, tamed by the seeming beast? The lion wanders free, rubbing up against whichever pillar she likes and insisting that she be petted. Perhaps the presence of the lion animates the women, one by one.

Strength in numbers: the caryatid we're looking directly at might not hold up the whole roof by herself, but along with all the others, she can do it. And perhaps she can take a break now and then, as long as the others continue: "I'll get by with a little help from my friends", as the Beatles put it.

Like the Chariot, there is an undercurrent of mind-body dualism here. The lion-girl could even be pulling a more traditional Chariot, one of the wild urges dragging a disciplined mind all over. Here, though, she is tame because she enjoys it, as is the pillar: strength bound and tamed, the knowledge that you have the strength to break the bonds once they stop being fun. This is a BDSM-textured deck, and this card is one of the places where it's more overt.

The strength to wait, to think, rather than to leap forth and beat a problem into submission. The strength to not use your power; the strength of measured inaction.

The animal strength here is free, but held back - it's not leaping, it's not acting. It's waiting and enjoying itself. The mental strength is bound; she's not allowed to obsessively overthink the problem - she may spend most of her time with her mind turned off until she's needed. This is the virtue of Fortitude - to have the courage to refrain from acting improperly, and to have the courage to act properly and incisively when it is the time for action.

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Comments {3}

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from: rax
date: Oct. 25th, 2008 05:58 pm (UTC)

One of the things I see in the card that I really like is that some of the weight of the roof is being shared with the lion; they are mutually supporting each other, even if it's just for that instant in time. For me, it's not just the strength to not use your power, but the strength of multiple points in a hierarchical structure, the power latent in many different roles. While I have no idea if you intended this, I see the lion/ess as the same one we see in the six of pentacles. That card, for me (who grew up on Waite), is all about responsible use of hierarchical positions of power; in Fortitude she gets to let loose a little bit and see things from another side. Someone else is holding much of, but not all of, the responsibility.

I'll have to think more about the possible connections to the Chariot --- thanks for the explanation! I'm really enjoying these writeups.

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from: shatterstripes
date: Oct. 25th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)

Ooh, yeah - the power of roles is definitely part of it. Definitely a lesson learnt in part from BDSM.

I am also not sure if this is the same lioness as in the 6P. I realized the link while writing this; I can't remember if it's intentional or not. *checks* Ah, no, the lion in the 6P is there due to the astrological associations. But the link is definitely worth pondering and expanding upon - there, she's some kind of high priestess being brought gifts by lesser acolytes; here, she's just wandering around the temple naked and indulgent. (Which is also a kink-strength thing: having enough strength to completely let down the public-proper roles and just be a happy, sensual, horny animal.)

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from: rax
date: Oct. 26th, 2008 12:47 am (UTC)

Yeah, that difference in self-awareness and structure between the two roles really spoke to me when I looked at the two cards. :) But the animal role is still structured, in my reading at least, it's just a very different performance.

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