Fortitude is one of the four cardinal virtues. It reflects the mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation in a courageous way.
Unlike The Wheel of Fortune that spins around out of our control, Fortitude recovers stability. It allows us to withstand whichever difficulties may block us from attaining our true goals.
Traditionally, the allegory of Fortitude (also called Strength) shows a woman with a broken column – such iconography is symbolically related to mental strength. The original depictions seem to be more linked to the biblical tales of Samson who destroyed the pillars of the temple; and for that feat he was converted into an icon of physical and moral strength.
In our version, the feminine figure is holding the column instead of breaking it, preventing it from collapsing. Whenever stability is compromised we need to find what the Christians call “the courage of the soul” and hold the column with all our strength.
The Lion at her feet is another common element to the allegory, and its ferociousness represents our passions. In this case it is shown laying down on a leash, which means that we have full control over our strong emotions such as anger or lust.
The main figure is portrayed in a very peaceful mood in order to inspire us to seek the middle point between our intellectual and animal impulses. She does not request an absolute negation of our wild instincts, but to keep balance, allowing energy to flow equally from both poles. The Mind is very often stimulated by physical pleasures, so their total repression and denial might only increase our insecurity and lack of self-esteem.
From a psychological view, the Lion, related to the Sun, represents our Ego that grows up unconstrained and childish if we do not moderate it. The astrological connection to Leo gives it attributes such as arrogance or tendency to dominate the others. Therefore, Fortitude calls us to tame the beast in order to keep our inner harmony.
Upright Meaning and Interpretation
Inner Strength, Control, Courage.
Fortitude is a card for inner strength. It represents the mastering of our wild emotions in order to bring calmness to our lives.
It is a favourable card that symbolises overcoming challenges, usually related to inner challenges such as fears or anxieties. You will finally have a sense of balance in your life.
Fortitude teaches us to be patient and compassionate to ourselves and others. That way you will find peace and you will calm down the turbulence inside your heart or mind.
As soon as you moderate your wild impulses you will be able to see the beauty of the world. The obstacles will look smaller than before and the puzzles easier to solve.
Reversed Meaning and Interpretation
Self-Doubt, Uncontrolled Emotions, Weakness.
Fortitude in reverse may signify that you feel weak and vulnerable. Your self-confidence is strongly affected and that makes you feel more anxious and apprehensive.
In order to summon your inner strength, first try to rest and restore your energy levels. Then, avoid people who make you feel inferior – most of them are just cocky or envious people who need to hide their fragilities.
This card reversed can also suggest anger issues, impulsiveness or uncontrolled emotions contained within you. Your “Wild Lion” is out and you need urgently to tame it, otherwise you and people close to you will be affected by it. Do not impose your ideals over others in an arrogant manner, you are not the centre of the universe.
The consequences could not be the best, so try to relax and see things from other people’s perspective before you act. Be kind and receptive to different opinions.
Strength follows the most popular image from the arcanum. It portrays Hercules defeating the Nemean Lion as a classical allegory of strength. Unlike the Fortitude, this alternative card shows a violent battle for control, between man and beast. This battle occurs inside our minds and might be associated with the struggle between Ego, Superego and Id from Freudian theories of behaviour.
The Lion who searches for instant pleasure and gratification is the “Id”.
The Man struggling to tame the Lion is the “Superego”, repressing the impulses of the beast based on morals and judgments about right and wrong.
These two extremes need to be balanced; and then the Ego joins in. Alchemically speaking, the Lion is the Matter – the Salt. The Man is the Soul – the Sulphur; and from their perpetual battle of opposites, a mediator is born – the Mind, Mercury.
In the Rider-Waite tradition, the allegorical figure of Strength struggles to close the mouth of the lion, taming his ferocious urges. In our version, the main character, Hercules, opens the beast’s mouth to dominate it. His goal is to control his unrestrained passions effectively.