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The Lover's Path Tarot: Oppression - Dido and Aeneas

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The Lover's Path Tarot: Oppression - Dido and Aeneas


The choice of Dido's tower for Card #16 of the Major Arcana, equivalent to The Tower, was a very creative decision. This is a truly deep tower card, both in image and background story. Dido has been left by her lover Aeneas. Although she is Queen of Carthage, Dido feels that life holds nothing for her. She builds a funeral pyre at the top of a lighthouse tower and lays down in the flames as her lover's ship sails away. In seemingly unbearable loss, the longing, despair, grief and anger that burns within leads her to the physical flames that end her life. As queen she perhaps has no close friends to help her, or she has rejected them all in her single-minded passion for Aeneas.

The painting conveys a strong sense of foreboding. Dido's face is full of sorrow. She has removed her crown, her sense of identity and purpose. As she approaches the tower she sees the ship carrying away her lover. Now she turns her back on him and holds one arm in the other, her inner wound expressed in her outer body. Just as her emotions storm within, her surroundings are full of heavy passion: the seas surge on the rock, the wind pulls at her dress, the sky and sea are ominously grey, and lightning tears at the distant horizon. At the top of the tower the desperate flames burn with the false hope of relief.

Although it never seems that way, it is from the greatest depths of sorrow that the greatest blessings come. If she could but wait for the dawn, take but one step at a time, there is hope for lasting healing. She has surrendered her soul to the man who leaves on the tide and now she feels completely empty - that there is nothing left for her. But all the love and beauty she gave to him are still hers, these are the very treasures that made her love so deep and real. It is not the man who leaves her, but her own self that made her love so priceless. She cannot recognize this yet, she has lost faith in life and in herself, but the truth is that only a gifted soul can feel the immense power of transformative love - the love she created with him is a rare and precious thing that only the fortunate ever experience. She is overcome by the very emotional depth that allowed her to experience erotic love in glorius fullness. At the peak of her human experience she forgot her sacred purpose, to burn as flame but not be consumed by it. This is the tragedy of her surrender to oppression.

***

John Haule has an interesting take on this story in The Lovers' Quarrel: Fight For Renewal. This site has a complete synopsis of Dido and Aeneas, this one contains the full text of Christopher Marlowe's play, and lastly here is information on the opera by Henry Purcell. These sources add details such as these: the couple made love in a cave and Aeneas never reclaimed his armour from her, Dido deceived her sister into having the funeral pyre built, Dido did throw away her crown, and although Dido fell on her lover's sword after she climbed onto the pyre this did not shorten her agony.
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darwinia  darwinia is offline
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I am still reading the book David, but this is one story where I knew the Purcell music very well and exhibited a lack of curiosity about the characters--unusual for me. It was only when I hit Virgil through Dante that I bought a copy of the Aeneid--a young adult copy with illustrations!

This book I have is very firmly in the Dido camp, portraying Aeneas as a callous MAN who does terrible things to his "toy" woman. Well doesn't that just wrap it all up nicely?

Maybe. Here is Aeneas, who has seen his citizens slaughtered and endured battle after battle, trying to found a new Troy. Talk about a heavy burden of duty and responsibility. He is carrying not just himself, but a whole civilization and trying to find a place of peace they can start anew.

We women often think men don't give a hoot about Home with a capital, the difference of our minds, the feminine abilities we have, the respite we offer from the world, but I think in actuality they do. It isn't "just" about sex (although that looms large, so to speak <g>.) I liked the article because it pointed out how torn Aeneas must have been.

I also think he got a bit fed up with Dido's inability to see his mission. She was giving him flak about his duty. It drove him to escape and put the matter out of his mind and get on with what he had been directed to do. We find that cold and heartless, but he had a civilization on his shoulders. Perhaps his "dalliance" with Dido gave him the courage to carry on when he must have felt terribly responsible for so many others and yet yearned for his own comfort. Sometimes such leaders yearn to be just a regular guy, but it isn't possible.

Compassion swings both ways, we tend to buy into these gender stereotypes too easily and start romanticizing tragedy into neat little compartments.

I liked the stuff about the Lover's Quarrel. I liked this line:

"There is always a struggle in romantic love between oneness and separation. . ."

And this paragraph:

"Generally one partner wants to renew his individuality while the other wants to renew their unity. One fights for archetypal, eternal values, while the other struggles to assert the necessities of personal differences and the realities of everyday. Insofar as each finds the other's position an annihilating threat to his own, they have fallen victim to the trap of polarization. In each case considered here, the quarrel eventually brought an end to the relationship. Ideally, it need not do so. It is not beyond the powers of human relationship to reconcile the heroic search for individual meaning with unitive contemplation of the divine spark."

I don't even narrow it to romantic love, I think this is a peculiar thing that humans do in all friendships. Unity is not restricted to romantic love. We feel the push for autonomy and the threat of unity, just as surely in friendship, although perhaps not as intensely or violently.
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Dido herself was a strong, independent woman by all accounts, travelled, a widow, from Phoenicia to Lybia and founded Carthage.

How did she suddenly turn so tragic... perhaps only by the interference by Zeus, Hermes, Aphrodite and Hera.

There's an excellent telling of the story from sources such as The Aeneid, Fasti etc.. at:
http://homepage.mac.com/cparada/GML/Dido.html

Not suspecting that Dido was planning her own death, Anna made the arrangements required of her. And on the same day the Trojans left Carthage, the queen scaled the funeral pyre and let herself fall upon Aeneas' sword. Too late came the servants and Anna, whom Dido duped with the tale of the enchantress. Yet Dido's agony was long, and they say that Hera, taking pity on her sufferings, sent Iris to part the soul from the body. For, it is explained, as Dido was dying neither a natural death nor through the violence of others, but instead was driven by a crazed impulse, Persephone had not yet clipped the golden tress from her head. But as Iris flew down from Olympus she announced:

"This offering, sacred to Hades, I take as bidden, and from your body set you free."

With these words the goddess snipped the golden hair and Dido died. Such was the end of this queen, who escaping her country founded a great kingdom, but sacrificed everything, except her love, for Aeneas' sake.


Well love does make you crazy


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Quote:
Originally Posted by darwinia
I am still reading the book David, but this is one story where I knew the Purcell music very well and exhibited a lack of curiosity about the characters--unusual for me. It was only when I hit Virgil through Dante that I bought a copy of the Aeneid--a young adult copy with illustrations!
I have never heard the opera - what are your impressions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by darwinia
We women often think men don't give a hoot about Home with a capital, the difference of our minds, the feminine abilities we have, the respite we offer from the world, but I think in actuality they do. It isn't "just" about sex (although that looms large, so to speak <g>.) I liked the article because it pointed out how torn Aeneas must have been.
I think Kris suggested that also, that Aeneas really did love Dido, that it was perhaps the hardest decision he had ever made. All the interference from gods and goddesses is really another way of talking about the internal wrestling that he had to deal with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darwinia
Compassion swings both ways, we tend to buy into these gender stereotypes too easily and start romanticizing tragedy into neat little compartments.
Yes indeed. If you see Aeneas as not the paper-cutout bad guy then the story actually deepens significantly. From my experience, the depths of sorrow are not so deep when one partner loses interest and the other wants to continue, its when both partners still love each other deeply - and very likely for always - but circumstances prevent them from continuing in relationship. I think this situation is even worse than the death of a partner, for each still knows that the other is out there somewhere, yet in this life forever divided. As far as my human growth is concerned it is that situation which has brought the greatest dividends, the highest tower of Oppression in which the fires burn the most unbearably. If one can learn to live through that, with out dying out physically or spirituality, the joy of Grace, Card #17, is truly sublime.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darwinia
I liked the stuff about the Lover's Quarrel. I liked this line:

"There is always a struggle in romantic love between oneness and separation. . ."
Somewhere in the book I think John also mentions how each person tends to take up a role as either an advocate of unity or of separation. If one partner changes her or his role then the other tends to compensate by taking the opposite stance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darwinia
I don't even narrow it to romantic love, I think this is a peculiar thing that humans do in all friendships. Unity is not restricted to romantic love. We feel the push for autonomy and the threat of unity, just as surely in friendship, although perhaps not as intensely or violently.
Yes, absolutely. Its also that same sort of balance that we somehow need to achieve when we work on a particular project - how much do we give to it, how much do we need to keep separated? I find its also the same here at the ATF.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sophie-David
I have never heard the opera - what are your impressions?
They play one popular piece on the radio, or I used to hear it anyway when I could pick up the CBC, but now I can't pick up any classical stations. I've never heard the entire opera but this one selection I am very familiar with--I feel stupid saying that because I really don't know the whole opera--just this piece and I don't know the name of it. I'm not an opera fan, I just like the major arias and stories.

Quote:
I think this situation is even worse than the death of a partner, for each still knows that the other is out there somewhere, yet in this life forever divided.
Well, there is that niggling resentment about the situation and choices made that might destroy such longing. But yes, something lingers, you feel the pull, there's a door in your mind.

Quote:
Yes, absolutely. Its also that same sort of balance that we somehow need to achieve when we work on a particular project - how much do we give to it, how much do we need to keep separated? I find its also the same here at the ATF.
Yes.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by irisa
There's an excellent telling of the story from sources such as The Aeneid, Fasti etc.. at:
http://homepage.mac.com/cparada/GML/Dido.html
Actually I put this link in my first post, but I think you had a good idea in bringing it forward with an extended quote.
Quote:
Originally Posted by irisa
Well love does make you crazy
As long as its not permanent this can be a good thing!
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