The Tarot Temperance card meaning in a nutshell:
Moderation in all
is ultimate persistence.
The image of the Temperance Tarot card is one of stillness. The simple explanation of Temperance is moderation, but there's nothing simple about it. This quality is regarded as the finest of all in just about every philosophy and religion of the world, all through time. Living modestly, with patience and contemplation, brings life into balance. That is what perseveres.
The oldest and most consistent philosophy of temperance is that of Taoism, as described by Lao Tzu around 2,500 years ago. He called it wu-wei, non-action, and insisted that the universe always returns to perfect balance if left alone. So, don't rock the boat.
But Lao Tzu was far from alone in praising moderation. Jesus was quite firm about it, stating that only those who are able to refrain from greed and excess can find the way to Heaven. Buddha was even more extreme about it, saying that one must resist every temptation, every engagement in the worldly, in order to escape the treadmill that is life. Actually, everywhere we go to find ancient wisdom about how to live our lives, the message is the same. Temperance. That's what the Tarot card tells.
The most famous symbol of what the Tarot Temperance card speaks of is yin and yang, the Chinese circle of polarities, where black and white embrace into a whole. In traditional Chinese cosmology, these two fundamental forces and the dynamics between them are what made the whole universe emerge.
Let's look at the picture on the Temperance Tarot card. The splendid angel pours water between cups. That's the ultimate image of balance. As Lao Tzu pointed out: Water always floats to the lowest place, thereby creating and keeping balance through modesty. To emphasize this fundamental lesson to be learned from water, the Tarot's angel of Temperance stands with one foot in it, and the other on land. Also the triangle on the angel's chest, each of its three sides the same size, speaks of balance on a divine level.
Moderation leads to balance, but it's a delicate thing to reach and to sustain. We can see this on the refined concentration of the Tarot Temperance angel and the risk of water spilling from the cups. Patience is needed. So is extreme sensitivity. You need to tread lightly, speak softly, and refrain from using any force, no matter how tempting when you approach the goal.
If the Tarot Temperance card refers to a person, it's someone with the quality of temperance - the ability to patiently await the solution and never try to rush it. If the Temperance card indicates an event, it advices extreme caution, because the final outcome is not what first appears. If you have the patience to wait, your reward will be sweet and lasting.
Saint Francis meditating. Panting by El Greco, c. 1595. El Greco also made other versions of this motif, which seems to have brought him solace. The meditation of this Medieval friar was quite different from Eastern techniques that we now know of, but still gave him peace of mind through his faith in Christ. Therefore, his eyes are on the crucifix.
A. E. Waite's Texts
14. Temperance. The winged figure of a female - who, in opposition to all doctrine concerning the hierarchy of angels, is usually allocated to this order of ministering spirits - is pouring liquid from one pitcher to another. In his last work on the Tarot, Dr. Papus abandons the traditional form and depicts a woman wearing an Egyptian head-dress. The first thing which seems clear on the surface is that the entire symbol has no especial connexion with Temperance, and the fact that this designation has always obtained for the card offers a very obvious instance of a meaning behind meaning, which is the title in chief to consideration in respect of the Tarot as a whole.
About the Tarot Temperance Card
The Inner Symbolism of the Tarot Temperance Card
A winged angel, with the sign of the sun upon his forehead and on his breast the square and triangle of the septenary. I speak of him in the masculine sense, but the figure 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 waters, thus 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. Hereof is some part of the Secret of Eternal Life, as it is possible to man in his incarnation. All the conventional emblems are renounced herein.
So also are the conventional meanings, which refer to changes in the seasons, perpetual movement of life and even the combination of ideas. It is, moreover, untrue to say that the figure symbolizes the genius of the sun, though it is the analogy of solar light, realized in the third part of our human triplicity. It is called Temperance fantastically, because, when the rule of it obtains in our consciousness, it tempers, combines and harmonises the psychic and material natures. Under that rule we know in our rational part something of whence we came and whither we are going.
Divinatory Meaning of the Tarot Temperance Card
Economy, moderation, frugality, management, accommodation. Reversed: Things connected with churches, religions, sects, the priesthood, sometimes even the priest who will marry the Querent; also disunion, unfortunate combinations, competing interests.
The Tarot Major Arcana
- The Magician
- The High Priestess
- The Empress
- The Emperor
- The Hierophant
- The Lovers
- The Chariot
- The Hermit
- Wheel of Fortune
- The Hanged Man
- The Devil
- The Tower
- The Star
- The Moon
- The Sun
- The World
- The Fool
This book by Stefan Stenudd presents an imaginative reading of the divination cards, i.e. focusing on what impressions the images and their symbols give. Several spreads are introduced, as well as the meanings of all the 78 cards and their pictures. Also, it gives many examples of symbolic and allegorical imagery within and beyond the Tarot. This book will help you find your own intuitive way of making inspired Tarot card readings. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.