Fortitude. This is one of the cardinal virtues, of which I shall speak later. The female figure is usually represented as closing the mouth of a lion. In the earlier form which is printed by Court de Gebelin, she is obviously opening it. The first alternative is better symbolically, but either is an instance of strength in its conventional understanding, and conveys the idea of mastery. It has been said that the figure represents organic force, moral force and the principle of all force.
Behind the Veil¶
A woman, over whose head there broods the same symbol of life which we have seen in the card of the Magician, is closing the jaws of a lion. The only point in which this design differs from the conventional presentations is that her beneficent fortitude has already subdued the lion, which is being led by a chain of flowers. For reasons which satisfy myself, this card has been interchanged with that of justice, which is usually numbered eight. As the variation carries nothing with it which will signify to the reader, there is no cause for explanation. Fortitude, in one of its most exalted aspects, is connected with the Divine Mystery of Union; the virtue, of course, operates in all planes, and hence draws on all in its symbolism. It connects also with innocentia inviolata, and with the strength which resides in contemplation.
These higher meanings are, however, matters of inference, and I do not suggest that they are transparent on the surface of the card. They are intimated in a concealed manner by the chain of flowers, which signifies, among many other things, the sweet yoke and the light burden of Divine Law, when it has been taken into the heart of hearts. The card has nothing to do with self-confidence in the ordinary sense, though this has been suggested—but it concerns the confidence of those whose strength is God, who have found their refuge in Him. There is one aspect in which the lion signifies the passions, and she who is called Strength is the higher nature in its liberation. It has walked upon the asp and the basilisk and has trodden down the lion and the dragon.
Power, energy, action, courage, magnanimity; also complete success and honours.
Despotism, abuse if power, weakness, discord, sometimes even disgrace.
In the midst of a green plain, surrounded by blue hills, I saw a woman with a lion. Girdled with wreaths of roses, a symbol of infinity over her head, the woman calmly and confidently covered the lion’s mouth and the lion obediently licked her hand.
“This is a picture of power”, said the voice. “It has different meanings. First it shows the power of love. Love alone can conquer wrath. Hatred feeds hatred. Remember what Zarathustra said: “Let man be freed from vengeance; this is a bridge for me which leads to higher hope and a rainbow in heaven after long storms”.
“Then it shows power of unity. These wreaths of roses suggest a magic chain. Unity of desires, unity of aspirations creates such power that every wild, uncontrolled, unconscious force is subdued. Even two desires, if united, are able to conquer almost the whole world.
“The picture also shows the power of infinity, that sphere of mysteries. For a consciousness that perceives the symbol of infinity above it, knows no obstacles and cannot be withstood”.
The astrologer says, that the Eleventh house is the house of the ‘friends.’ This means, that it contains those who are with us, and that which we have within the limit of our power, because ‘friendly,’ is that which is understood. The forces of nature, which we have mastered, are friendly to us and this is very well expressed by the woman who “is closing the jaws of a lion.” The latter stands for passion more particularly. She derives this force from the eternal or superhuman and this is indicated by the lemnescate above her head. In older editions of the card we find half the symbol for Aquarius, as a line of vibration added to it. Viewed from a purely astrological standpoint it is evident, that the force to conquer Leo should be found in the opposite sign, Aquarius. Early Renaissance must have seen this in the same way, as we find exactly the same image—only with one difference: it is there a young man, not a woman—a man closing the jaws of a lion in the capital of a pillar in the church of St. Andrew-the-Less in Vienna. Which proves at the same time, that the chosen image is not of a very recent date. (Musée du Trocadéro: Paris.)
Papus identifies it with the Hebrew letter Kaph, which he says “is a reinforcement of the Gimel—(Gemini)—so that we might say that it designates the hand of man in the act of grasping strongly. Ideas of strength are therefore applied to this letter.” We should say it is the grip of friendship. A well-known symbol in many societies of brotherhood consisted of two hands united in a close grip of friendship.
“It is connected with the mystery of union … in all planes …” (Waite), and this also is evident, because we are united with that which we have mastered and with people who are able to respond to our (electric) emanations of thought, or to whose emanations we ourselves respond.
A woman crowned with crown and cap of maintenance, who calmly, and Without effort, closes the jaws of a furious lion. She represents Strength.
Power, Might, Force, Strength, Fortitude.
Abuse of Power, Overbearingness, Want of Fortitude.
11th Hebrew letter (Kaph כ)
The hieroglyphic meaning of the Kaph is the hand of man, half closed and in the act of prehension, like the Gimel. But the Kaph is reinforcement of the Gimel, so that we might say that it designates the hand of man in the act of grasping strongly. Ideas of strength are therefore applied to this letter. The number 11, the first after the decade, gives a different value to the Kaph, which designates a reflected transitory life, a kind of mould, which receives and restores every variety of form.
It is derived from the letter ח (Heth, 8), which is itself derived from the sign of absolute life, ה (He, 5). Thus, allied on one side to the sign of elementary life (see the 8th arcanum), it joins to the signification of the letter Heth (ה) that of the organic sign ג (Gimel) (3rd arcanum), of which too it is merely a reinforcement.
The Kaph is a double letter, corresponding astronomically with March and Tuesday.
Only two ideas are expressed by this arcanum—
- The idea of strength.
- The idea of vitality.
A young girl calmly closing a lion’s mouth without any visible effort.
First idea: This young girl wears the vital sign ∞ upon her head.
Second idea: The 11th arcanum. is midway between the 8th and 14th arcana. In it we find the symbolism of the 8th arcanum. transformed to the physical plane. It is, in fact, the image of the power given by the sacred science (2nd arcanum) when justly applied (8).
- The Tarot by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, originally published 1888
- The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite, originally published 1910
- The Symbolism of the Tarot by P. D. Ouspensky, originally published 1913
- The Tarot of the Bohemians by “Papus” (Gérard Encausse), trans. by A. P. Morton, originally published 1892
- General Book of the Tarot by A. E. Thierens, originally published 1930