Tarot’s Temperance card has been showing up a lot in my readings lately.
I mostly read for other people, so my hunch is that Temperance energy is in the air — or perhaps should be. Because Temperance is generally one of the more difficult cards for me to articulate, I also wonder if my deck isn’t giving me a kick in the pants, saying, “Figure it out. Write a post, already.”
Temperance. A poised angel. Gorgeous wings. A halo that matches the promising sunrise in the distance. This tends to be one of the prettiest cards in the deck. And like many unusually pretty people, this card is easily misunderstood.
It is too easy to sell this card short by equating it with ‘patience.’ Being told to have patience is like being told to suck it up. Control your desires now and someone else will give you what they think you need when they are good and ready. But a patient stance doesn’t have to be a passive one. In fact, you can bring all your force and moxie to a situation and still be patient, as long as you strategically mix in the element of time. Patience on steroids.
Aleister Crowley likened Temperance to alchemy — the art of turning lead into gold or, more generally, of creating something that is greater than the sum of its parts. In his deck, Temperance is called “Art,” and is not passive at all. Rather than being placed in a bucolic scene, his angel is flanked by creepy creatures and is clearly in the midst of making a witch’s brew. Like witchcraft, the action here is both process- and outcome-oriented. One dark arm and one light arm (and two faces, as well), remind us to honor both the dark and light sides of ourselves as we make something out of the world around us.
And what a world is around this lady! Numerically, she’s sandwiched in between the Death and the Devil, with the promise of the Tower just ahead. She better keep her cool and gather her resources if she wants to survive. She is the calm at the eye of the tarot storm. However, in another ordering of the Major Arcana suit, Temperance rules the element of Water. While water has the power to buffet, infuse, undercut and overwhelm its subjects, Temperance has mastery over it. She can pour the liquid from jug to jug slowly, even sideways, hardly even looking at it.
When I got this in the center of a love reading recently, surrounded by pip cards that looked tumultuous and challenging, I said: “This relationship requires you to navigate emotional forces without losing control. You’re the mature one here — or, you are learning to be.”
As a ‘highest potential’ card in a birthday reading, Temperance says: “You are moving up a notch in your ability to take command of your life, rather than simply coping with things as they happen to you.”
In the business reading: “Play the long game.”
None of these interpretations says: “sit down and be patient.”
Tarot is more than a deck of cards. It is a way to examine the world and the choices we face. It is a tool for strengthening intuition and finding one’s inner voice. If you are interested in studying tarot with me, contact me to let me know!
The cards shown here, from top to bottom, are from the following tarot decks: Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Deck, the Thoth Tarot Deck by Crowley and Harris, and the Dreaming Way Tarot.