Can we control our fate – or is our destiny carved in stone?
If a man is destined to drown, he will drown even in a spoonful of water.
Others court Luck as if she were there to be wooed – in the words of Frank Sinatra, luck be a lady tonight.
Others say that we can control our own destinies, if we can but unravel life’s mysteries;
“It is we that are blind, not Fortune; because our eye is too dim to discern the mystery of her effects, we foolishly paint her blind, and hoodwink the providence of the Almighty.” (Sir Thomas Browne)
Or as the metaphysicist James Allen would have it: “Man is manacled only by himself; thought and action are the jailers of Fate.”
It is this dilemma that forms the central them of Elizabeth Stroud’s novel, The Wedding Shroud.
Her new husband, Mastarna, is a battle scarred and world weary veteran twice her age. After they are married he takes her home to Veii, and a totally alien culture, where she is held in contempt by most Etruscans. But her duty to Rome bends her to obedience.
Does she try and change her destiny or is it futile?
Mastarna is a gambler and his tesserae, his dice, make constant appearances throughout the novel. For him, all life is a gamble and he continually tempts Fate. He struggles against it and he is contemptuous of it.
Blind Fortune – or Nortia as she is to the Etruscans – has hurt him so badly he no longer cares if he lives or dies anyway.
Nortia was Fortuna, and she became one of Rome’s major deities.
She was usually depicted holding a cornucopia in one hand, representing her ability to bestow prosperity; in the other she has a ship’s rudder, because she alone controls how lives are steered. Often she was also blindfolded; because good luck does not always come to those who most deserve it.
As Fate would have it, she lost her temples over time – but not her adherents, even after the advent of Christianity. She still appears on card 10 of the Tarot Major Arcana, the “Wheel of Fortune.” We still wish each other luck, some of us wear lucky charms. Most superstition is actually belief in Fortuna.
Ask any gambler.
But it was Rome that identified Fortuna with virtus – strength of character.
“How, therefore, is she good, who without discernment comes to both the good and to the bad?”
Augustus was outraged that bad people should have good luck. It may have been why he and other church fathers invented hell.
Boethius, in his Consolation of Philosophy, written as he faced execution, concluded that even the most random and ruinous events were part of God’s hidden plan, and it was pointless to resist. Fortune must be God’s divine instrument.
God’s instrument or random chance?
Irreversible fate or the consequence of our own action -or inaction?
For all man’s history it remains an underpinning tenet of belief on which no two people seem to exactly agree. From it springs all drama, in fiction and in life.
Throughout The Wedding Shroud Caecilia is forced to choose between confronting her own destiny or accepting it, as a Roman and as a woman. This is not just a clash between two warring states but between two philosophies. The Estrucans are not only in conflict with Rome but with each other.
If the Gods decide our fate – can the Gods be forestalled or even swayed?
It’s a question each of us face every day.
In the end Caecilia’s own fate hinges on this one irony; that we ultimately meet our destiny on the very road we have taken to avoid it.
JOIN MY MAILING LIST! If you enjoy my blog, why not sign up for the monthly newsletter? Sign on for exclusive opportunities to win free books and news of upcoming releases, available to MEMBERS ONLY. Sign up for THE NEWSLETTER here!!!