card meanings & free reading



Temperance Major Arcana Tarot card.

The Meaning of the Temperance
Major Arcana Tarot Card in Readings

The Tarot Temperance card meaning in a nutshell:
Moderation in all
is ultimate persistence.

Patience — time passes.

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       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.

Yin and Yang        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 were 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 it is to push forward when you approach the goal.

Saint Francis meditating. Panting by El Greco, c. 1595.
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.

The Temperance Card as a Person

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. You may get impatient, even frustrated, but trust his or her tempo and try to slow down to it.

The Temperance Card as an Event

If the Temperance card indicates an event, which is mostly the case, it proposes 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. If you don't, then you are not likely to accomplish much at all. You might even make a bigger mess than what you faced in the beginning. The card can also simply imply that you have a time of inactivity ahead, where nothing much happens.

The Temperance Card as You

If the Tarot Temperance card position in the divination spread refers to you, it means you have ceased to act and learned patience — for the thing at hand or for good. Time will tell. It can also mean that you find yourself unable to act, although you feel the need. Something holds you back. It may be irritating, but still it can be a good thing. Haste should be avoided in most cases.

A. E. Waite about the Tarot Temperance Card

Click the header to read what A. E. Waite had to say about the Major Arcana Temperance Tarot card symbolism and meaning in divination.

The Major Arcana Tarot Cards

  1. The Magician

  2. The High Priestess

  3. The Empress

  4. The Emperor

  5. The Hierophant

  6. The Lovers

  7. The Chariot

  8. Strength

  9. The Hermit

  10. Wheel of Fortune

  11. Justice

  12. The Hanged Man

  13. Death

  14. Temperance

  15. The Devil

  16. The Tower

  17. The Star

  18. The Moon

  19. The Sun

  20. Judgement

  21. The World

  22. The Fool

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I'm a Swedish author. In addition to fiction, I've written books about the Tarot, Taoism, astrology and other metaphysical traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.