Temperance Artwork Description
“A winged angel, with the sign of the sun upon its forehead and on its breast the square and triangle of the septenary. Although some regard this angel as feminine [see controversies and observations below], it is neither male nor female. It is held to be pouring the essences of life from chalice to chalice. It has one foot upon the earth and one upon water, so illustrating the nature of the essences. A direct path goes up to certain heights on the verge of the horizon, and above there is a great light, through which a crown is seen vaguely. Here is some part of the secret of eternal life, as it is possible to man in his incarnation.” 1
- Alternate Names: Art, Alchemy.
- Fourteen: 14 Moderation, Synthesis.
- Element: Fire.
- Rune: Raido “Journey, Ride, Reunion”.
- Crystal/Gem: Blue Lace Agate.
- Kabbalah: Samekh “Prop Hand”.
- Astrological: Sagittarius.
- Astronomical: Eridanus.
Temperance Basic Meaning
The moderation of materials (rather than exclusion of materials) to create a refined substance or result. Things which sit well together, or have a good “chemistry”. The unification of unrelated things. The blending which occurs here is not so much about different elements working together in an environment, rather the elements fusing into one single element.
Temperance Controversies and Observations
From my research, I concluded that there was issue of the angel’s gender. Because this is a card of combining opposites until they refine into one single element, androgyny fits the angel appropriately—androgyny is the blurring of gender-definition due to a delicate balance (or no presence of) gender.
“A winged female figure, usually regarded as an angel, is pouring liquid from one pitcher to another. The first thing which seems clear on the surface is that the symbol has no especial connection with Temperance, making the image a very obvious instance of a meaning behind meaning, as is often the case with the Tarot as a whole.” 1
“Meaning: Economy, moderation, frugality, management, accommodation.
Reversed: Things connected with churches, religions, sects, the priesthood; also disunion, unfortunate combinations, competing interests.” 1
“Your guardian angel watches over you; learning to be patient; self-control; making sound decisions; working with groups of people; compromise; happy partnerships.” 2
“Basic Tarot Symbols: An angel (often female or genderless), a pool or river of water. Two cups or beakers, a fluid flowing between them.
Basic Tarot Meaning: It is hard, at first, to see where Sagittarius, the ruling sign of this card, fits in. Sagittarius is an expansive sign and we often identify Temperance with abstinence. Temperance, however, really means moderation. Thus, you don’t give up wine, but rather cut the wine with water.
There is, however, another angle to the card, that of “tempering” or transforming-thus we continue on from Death, which prepared us for transformation. With tempering, iron is transformed into steel with heating and cooling, fire and water.
Similarly, Sagittarius, the centaur, is another one of those creatures that merges beast and man into something unique. Yet not so unique as men and horses have often ‘merged’ together, the one on the back of the other to form a unit. And then there is the bow and arrow, one moving, one stationary, working together to point the way. Temperance may be, at first glance, a warning to ‘temper’ your behavior, but it may also be a reminder that seemingly irreconcilable opposites may not be irreconcilable.
Sagittarius is a sign of optimism, philosophy, and taking risks. This card urges the querent to have faith that they can merge fiery red and watery blue into otherworldly violet. But they will need to experiment, have confidence, and try, try, again.
Thirteen’s Observations: In many ways, this card is about the Sagittarian desire to find a unified field theory, a way of blending opposites, achieving synthesis. Crowley calls the card: ‘Alchemy’ and that might well be the best definition for it. In fact, it sometimes works best for me to imagine the Angel wearing a lab coat and very carefully pouring measured amounts of colored liquids into beakers rather than cups.
One thing to remember is that Temperance isn’t about surrendering either the water or the wine. It is about mixing things until you get exactly what you want, which is usually a perfect blend of the two.
In a reading, this card often represents a situation where the querent can’t get opposites to ‘blend’ together (choices, belief systems, families, friends) and may feel that they have to give up something. Temperance tells the querent that they don’t have to do that. It says that a synthesis can be achieved if the querent is willing to keep on trying, experimenting, and adjusting the amounts. The Querent might, for example, be trying to merge two full families when blending has to occur bit by bit with individuals. This is where the ‘moderation’ message comes in. Try to make your ambition more realistic and you might well achieve it.
The card is also a reminder that a bow and arrow are useless apart, but together a formidable weapon. This card tells the querent that they CAN and should put thesis and anti-thesis together to get the even more useful synthesis. But it will take time, care, patience and experimentation. And, yes, moderation.” 3
Axank’s Dream Recollection
January 8-9, 2012