The Tower, Key XVI is one of the four cards in the Major Arcana which represent Cosmic Fatality. Strength, Key VIII is one of the four cards in the Major Arcana which represent the Cardinal Virtues. Both are power cards, The Tower for its shocking and destructive aspects and Strength for its fortitude and ability to offset anything negative. The Tower represents the external power and forces of the world around us and their impact on humanity. Strength represents the internal sense of empowerment and endurance of the individual. We might also perceive it as attainment of balance in the inner conciousness and outer self. Standing together, these two Major Arcana can offer the promise of coming through difficult, unpromising or dangerous situations intact - like the now iconic image of the young man facing down the tanks during the protests and massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989 or the Biblical story of David and Goliath. They can represent the destructive force of a natural disaster, like the earthquake in Haiti, and the people who stood their ground and helped who they could, until help from the rest of a watching world could get there. In an international disaster situation, The Tower and Strength well represent the power of a wired world to get the word out everywhere, to everyone. Buildings may crumble, bridges may rust but the debris will make stepping stones and a path to move forward on.
Courage is not the absence of fear,
but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
We have all experienced the impact of a mild electrical shock and the sensation of the current passing through our hand, arm or body. We have all seen on the news the impact of a Taser jolt on a human being or had an electrical appliance short circuit. We have seen modern war tactics described as Shock and Awe. We have all received news that shocked us; news of an accident, news of a death, news of an illness, news of a humanitarian catastrophe, news of a natural disaster, news of a loss. The medical interpretation of shock is something that jars your mind or emotions or something that disrupts your balance, mental state or movement. Shock can be a massive reaction to serious physical or emotional trauma in which the blood pressure drops and other life processes are impacted. Shock can leave us feeling confused, combative, anxious and with a sense of impending doom. What does it take to recover from these experiences? Physical, emotional and spiritual strength. Where is that strength coming from?
Inner strength will have a different meaning to different people. It is one of those concepts that we all ponder on at times as we seek meaning and purpose in our existence or experiences. Some people may think they lack this quality until life hard-tests them. They are suddenly on a journey of the spirit that closes doors while opening windows and force-teaches people to trust in themselves. Other people have nothing but contempt for "weakness" and go for the jugular - what is it about people that makes us kick people when they are already down or to relish in someone's downfall? Some people will view inner strength as dogged determination and stick-to-it-iveness. To others is a sense of confidence or personal power that comes from deep within the self. To some it is all about respect for self and others, self-assurance, adapability and a positive self-image. Inner strength is viewed as an innate part of the psyche of us all. We may perceive it as a willingness to fight, to not back down, to never surrender, to stand our ground even if we stand alone, to show mental toughness, or as a motivation to do better in our daily lives.
Look well into thyself;
there is a source of strength which will always spring up
if thou wilt always look there.
The familiar imagery of The Tower, shows us a Tower being split in two by a powerful bolt of lightning and two figures are plummeting to the ground - a bleak image indeed. Strength is generally depicted with a woman holding the mouth of a lion closed; she shows no fear at all. In the Rider Waite Smith Strength, the infinity symbol, the symbol of life, floats above her head and she holds the lion with a chain made of roses. In the Morgan Greer Tarot, she has a wreath of roses in her hair. Strength represents the astrological sign of Leo, a fire sign, ruled by the Sun. The Tower corresponds astrologically to the planet Mars named after the Roman God of War. Mars was a god of spring, growth in nature, and fertility, and the protector of cattle. The Tower with Strength is a strong message of survivorship.
Rider Waite Smith, Strength Key XVIII
We are familiar with the lightning bolt as a symbol of high voltage electrical currents and as a warning to stay away. We all know that lightning can strike anywhere but tends to like tall structures and is inherently dangerous. The symbol of lightning often depicts divine intervention or a big impact communication from a higher source. In many cultures, lightning represents the power of the Gods and the games they can sometimes play with people; it can be a creator or a destroyer. To the Greeks it was Zeus who threw the lightning, to the Romans it was Jupiter. To the Norse lightning was the strike of Thor's hammer. In the Bible, lightning is the light of truth. In Eastern cultures lightning is thought to be generated by Air and Sky dragons. Lightning is closely linked to the elements of fire and water. It is a wake-up call for us to pay attention to the positive and negative forces at work in our lives. The lion, the King of Beasts, represents power and danger too. To the ancient Egyptians, the lion represented Sekmet and the power of the sun. To the Greeks, lions pulled the chariots of Gods and Goddesses. In Buddhism, Buddha sits upon the lion as a throne that represents stability and wisdom. To the Hindu, the lion is an embodiment of Vishnu.
Eiffel Tower Struck by Lightning
He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity.
I have written much on The Tower. I may call the 9 of Swords the "Tremendous Headache" card but I call The Tower the "Mother of All Migraines"; sometimes I think I should keep my mouth shut because things that I say have a habit of becoming reality. My Mother has just been diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme Stage IV brain cancer. It is the second most aggressive form of brain cancer and has a poor prognosis because of her age. Very little progress has been made in the treatment of this cancer in the last 25 years. Treatment, as with any cancer, is still cut, burn and poison. There are long term survivor stories and from these I will take my hope. Often there are no symptoms and the tumours are found incidentally. They can already be the size of tennis or baseballs before they are found which makes for a very poor prognosis. They can occur on any part of the brain and often re-occur after excision within 2cm of the original lesion. We now realize that her only symptom was the Tinnitus and hearing problems she was experiencing. My Mother is 77 years old and her Mother was almost completely deaf, with this family history no real investigation was done to discover the source of her hearing issues. She awoke one morning 5 weeks ago, unable to speak. My Father and my brother took her to the hospital and she was sent for a Cat Scan. By the time they had returned from the hospital where the scan was done, her doctor was phoning for her to be taken back to the hospital, pick up the Scan and then go to another hospital where she was admitted. They had found a 3cm lesion on the Corpus Collasum of her brain - it looks like a butterfly. It is in the midline of her brain, just behind her hairline. She had brain surgery to do the biopsy and excise some of the lesion. The operation was tricky as the tumour is badly situated. For the first three days she was extremely confused as she didn't know where she was or what was happening to her. She was in shock; we were all in shock. The final diagnosis was even more devasting - this is not for the faint of heart. After the diagnosis, with her hearing back and the state of confusion gone, my Mother was working her bed like she was in training for the Olympics. I went in to visit her after the diagnosis and she asked me if I had spoken to my Father. I told her I had and said "We go forward." "I'm going to fight" was her reply with a solid nod of her head and I answered "Not one step backwards." I held her hand and the energy flowing between us made both of our arms shake. It felt like a powerful electrical current passing through both of us.
"Transformations No. 5" by Jack Shadbolt
Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do.
But to hold it together when everyone else
would understand if you fell apart,
that's true strength.
My Mother nursed for 44 years. She saved lives, brought life into the world and helped the dying leave this world. She epitomizes inner strength and has high standards. She has helped many people at their deepest and darkest times. She has had few health problems. She is on a treadmill regularly and came back from 2 knee replacements quickly. She is possessed of a deep and abiding faith in God and she believes in the power of medicine. The size of her lesion at 3 cm makes her an ideal candidate for radiosurgery treatment with the Gamma KnifeŽ. It is only effective for tumours less than 4cm in size. This is a non-invasive neurosurgical procedure that uses high dosage radiation to target and treat diseased brain tissue without damaging surrounding tissue. This allows physicians to operate on brain lesions usually considered inoperable. It is used to treat malignant tumors of the brain (primary brain tumors or metastatic tumors), benign brain tumors (meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, acoustic neuromas), blood vessel defects (arteriovenous malformations) and functional problems (trigeminal neuralgia). It is being evaluated for use in treating epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. A mask is used that prevents the patient from moving their head during the treatment - it is quite a piece of headgear. It reminds me of the Strength card with the woman holding the lion's head steady - as Waite says, "her beneficent fortitude has already subdued the lion." My Mother's treatments last 25 minutes each and she will be having 30. The Tower, to me, epitomizes the radiation treatment itself. The bolt of lightning is destroying the tumour, except this is controlled by the hopefully steady and skilled hands of the technician facilitating the treatment, the Thor of Radiology.
The Gamma Knife
The Tower represents nightmares, disruptions in our sleep pattern or powerful visions. Strength represents the 8th sense, divination. At the time of my Mother's hospitalization during her stage of serious confusion and before we had a diagnosis, I had a powerful dream/vision. I saw my Mother in the Cat Scan and saw the tumour perfectly - a butterfly in her head. In this vision, I pulled the tumour out through a spot just above her third eye. I just kept pulling until it came out. My Mother saw me and smiled at me. During this time I was praying without ceasing asking for intercession. I asked for God to send her good angels and a golden angel to keep Death away. After the surgery, which restored her clarity immediately, I brought my Mother in a golden angel to sit in her window and watch over her. She looked and me and kept looking at that angel as if recognizing it and trying to remember where she had seen it before, She said nothing, but I was sure she had seen one during her three day fugue. She had been in surgery for many hours that day and has a very long scar running down the side of her head. During the surgery, I prayed fervently for the surgeon to have a steady hand and to give us a good surgical outcome. I prayed for so many things all that long day and into the night that I can't even remember them all now. The surgical outcome was good, the tumour is small, she has a fighting spirit and has some things working in her favour right now. Since the surgery, she has no more Tinnitus and isn't using her hearing aids at all. Initially she had difficulty reading but that has resolved itself and her eyesight is improved as well. Her memory is good. She has some tightness in her jaw, typical with brain surgery, but her speech is clear. If she has had a busy day visiting, she gets tired and her speech is less clear. She has just completed her second week of chemo by pill and radiation. She is doing very well, her left side is impacted but I know she is going to be okay because she wants to get her hair done. None of this is preventing her from enjoying the Olympic hockey and figure skating on television.
The Tower and Strength can represent the debilitating effects of a stroke, aneurysm, head/brain injury or fall and the physical rehabilitation required to return to health. They can represent the abused among us finding safe refuge, finding the strength to go and finding the strength to stay gone from an untenable relationship. The Tower and Strength can represent the self-sabotage and destructive force of addictions, bad choices and rebuilding the path to a manageable and sober life. When your back is against a wall you can't take one step backwards. They are the homeless and hungry finding food and shelter and the mentally ill finding comfort and treatment that truly helps. They are the phone call that comes at any time of the day or night that changes your life forever and the first friend through the door after your whole world has fallen who says "I care.". They are the crash and the thunder that awaken hope. The Tower blows away lies and Strength gives us the courage to face the truth. These cards can be telling us who is the rock and the glue that holds a family together and who or what is the destructive force tearing apart the same family. We are reminded that blame is the most destructive force in any relationship and the moral value that will never allow us to improve. We need to learn to fix the problem and not fix the blame. The Tower and Strength are a message for those of us who feel dangerously unloved, think we are unlovable or who are living without love, that someone is coming to show us how to trust in love again. For the co-dependent among us, and there are many, they are telling us to let go of our bad bargains; take back our personal power; walk away clean with grace and dignity. They remind us that is better to be alone than badly accompanied. The Tower is about having a damn good cry and Strength is the emotional release and relief you feel after you do. Most importantly of all, together they teach us that love is the most powerful force in the Universe and that only love prevails. Perhaps, my Mother's favourite quote sums it all up the best, "Life is the most precious gift from God."
Thank you for taking the time to read this today. I would ask for prayers, blessings and positive healing energies for my Mother and for anyone else fighting cancer at this time. My prayers and thoughts are with other families. It is my hope is that you understand that we are not powerless in the face of illness; our love, hope, resolute faith and compassion can make all the difference in the world to achieving survivorship and a positive outcome even if it seems to be against overwhelming odds. As T.S. Eliot says"The faith the love and the hope are all in the waiting." I extend much thanks and gratitude to everyone, of so many belief systems, who are praying and burning candles for my Mother. I am touched beyond measure or expression. One of my friends said I was being a tower of strength, which inspired this article, but it is more truthful to say that I am shaking like a human, being.
1 Samuel 17:49 KJV
And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone,
and slang [it],
and smote the Philistine in his forehead,
that the stone sunk into his forehead;
and he fell upon his face to the earth.
Hindu Healing Mandala courtesy of Artur Machado
The Tower Key XVI: Acts of God, force-majeures
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2009-10
Mom died on July 11, 2010, click here to see her Tribute page. I miss you so much Mom.
The Chariot Key VII & Temperance Key VII: Tenancity and Adapatability, Learning the Hard Way
This is the second article in a four part series on cosmic fatality and virtue