Card Meaning: XIV Temperance

The Temperance
Element: Fire
Astrology: Sagittarius
Hebrew letter: Samekh, ס


  In previous cards we had the choices as the central theme that needs to be comprehended. The Justice card had the scales, The Hanged Man had to choose between spiritual and material and the Death had a contrast between death and life. Now it is time for a moderation and finding the middle ground between the opposites. To be temperate is to show self-restraint. In the world where our senses can be lost from time to time in the jungle of indulgences one must have a calm inner point where opposites can meet and bring everything in balance. It is the state of a calm deliberation. Usually bringing opposites together results in a combat, explosion and war. Bringing them together in a non-destructive manner is a true work and art, no wonder Alister Crawley called this particular card The Art. Unity of opposites is indeed the Alchemical Marriage. The trick in this card is not to stop drinking wine, but to mix it with water in proper ratio, the true ratio is what the figure on the card learns by mixing fluids between two chalices. The choice of The Hanged Man is between spirit and ego. The Temperance answers by balancing the two, ego needs to be transcended, not destroyed. Preservation of Self and Individuality is achieved by the lesson of The Temperance. One single drop of water can enter the ocean and it is never lost, but now it is a conscious part of the all.


  The earliest known list of the Trumps (Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis) calls this card La Temperentia (Temperance). It's one of the three cards that represent the cardinal virtues in the Tarot, the others being Justice and Strength (The Hermit is considered by some, the fourth, missing virtue -  Prudence). In the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, a woman wears a blue dress adorned with golden stars. In the Tarot de Marseille, La Temperance (Temperance)  a woman is portrayed with wings and with a flower in her hair.  In some decks of Marseille tarot, a balance of the card is underscored by illustrating a woman's dress half blue and half red.


  Moderation and patience, healing and unity. Do not act too emotionally on happenings around you, take a deep breath, think and than act. Temperance integrates opposities through bringing together spirit and matter. Try new things while maintaining present security. If reversed it indicates discord and excess. Be aware of indulgence, lack of vision, loss of control, impatience, conflict and quarrels causing domestic strife.

angel, two cups, four elements in balance, YHVH

   We see the return of the angel from the card number six - The Lovers. In the card of duality where he enters the scene, he was protecting the Garden of Eden and now he makes his second appareance in the card that is all about unity and balancing opposities. Duality is cast aside, a curse of knowledge of good and evil, spirit and matter, male and female, Yin and Yang is overcome. We overcome ego as we transcedent duality that we have learnt to see in The Lovers. The angel shows four-fold symbolism, he stands in the water with one foot and on the earth with other one, he has wings to fly in the air, around the head there is a fiery hue and symbol of the Sun on the forehead.  All four elements are present and tempered in this angel of temperance. The angel shows us that these different forces do not need to work against each other. They are in harmony as can be your body and your spirit. The angel is holding two cups and is pouring the water from one cup into the other. The act of mixing the contents may be symbolic of mixing water and wine, or may refer to a proper balance of the four humors, as Robert M. Place suggests in his book The Tarot. According to Van Rijnberk in his book Le Tarot, the act of pouring liquid from one urn into another was taken as the synonym of metempsychosis (transmigration of souls) in ancient Greece. Upon his breasts, the angel has a triangle inside a square. Square is four and represents a matter, triangle is three, representing spirit. Thus, the spirit is animating force inside the matter. The number three is also a very profound motif of this card, it explains the art of uniting the opposities. There is a thesis and there is an antithesis which unite in a synthesis. In a way it is also described in the act of pouring the water between two cups. Two cups are thesis and antithesis and the water between is synthesis. Water is a symbol of life so it is no wonder that synthesis of opposities brings life as would unity between male and female bring a child. Above the square is something very intriguing. It looks like a part of the folds of the angel’s gown, but they are Hebrew letters Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh. That is God's holy name, implying that angel is in fact personification of the God itself. Moreover, its placement above the square implies that the nature is manifested through God in the archetype of the number seven, triangle inside a square equals seven - The Chariot card. In the background we see a long pathway towards the blue mountains, similar to those in the Strength card. In previous card - the Death, the Sun vaguely resembled the crown and was just peaking over horizon and here it is well above the horizon implying that we are on a way to the promised land, but that we are yet to walk that long pathway to the mountains.

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.

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by A.E. Waitee

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