You must meet the outer world
With your inner world,
Or existence will crush you.
~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakenings
Blessings! A miracle is in the works for this week that brings the celebration of Imbolc (sometimes referred to as Candlemas or Brigid). The appearance of Temperance in this holy time is a powerful gift.
Just as Temperance follows the Death card in the journey of the Major Arcana, Imbolc is the cross-quarter observance that comes after the darkest night of Yule, but before the full resurrection of Spring.
At this time, the Dark Crone Goddess transforms into the Maiden of Poetry, Fire, and Healing. For those who know how to see them, the first signs of Spring are showing themselves. The days are longer, the lambs are being born, the world has shifted, and hope shines in the candles we light to welcome the returning Goddess.
Temperance comes from the Latin verb, “tempare” which means “to mix or combine.” While the Temperance Leagues during the days of alcohol Prohibition gave this word an association of denial and abstinence, Temperance in fact urges us to avoid extremism.
Here we see an angel straddling between land and sea, between the physical world and the flowing unconscious. His right foot (which is traditionally a symbol of our conscious awareness) is dipped into the waters of the subconscious where he is able to quiet and deepen. His left foot (which is the unconscious) stands upon the land, indicating he is also grounded.
How do you find that liminal threshold where you can go deep into the unknown Mysteries, yet still be in physical awareness and consciousness? This is the mystic borderland, where magic is possible, where alchemy transforms our life’s lead into gold, sorrow to peace, grief to healing.
In the Waite-Smith version, there are yellow irises in the background. They remind us of Zeus’s messenger Iris, who traveled to the Underworld to fill Her golden cup with water from the River Styx, the river crossed by the souls of the dead. Such water, retrieved from the land of the dead, would bring the gift of life reborn, just what our winter-weary world is receiving now.
Look closely at this beautiful card, and note how it is all about blending, moving, and the flowing waters of Mystery that are within and all around us. If you try imitating the angel’s pouring movements, you will see your motions make a number 8 on its side – the cosmic lemniscate, the symbol of eternity.
However, if you do try this, I would advise you to mirror it with empty cups only. The angel pours the cups magically into one another, defying physics, for the cups are not lined up in a way that “normal” gravity would permit, without spilling. The flow that he is creating points us to miracles and wonders.
So many people compartmentalize their lives and hide parts of themselves. They separate their working life, their spiritual life, their social life, who they are with their families, who they are in their privacy.
Yet here we have a demonstration that we must meet our outer world with our inner self, lest experience crush us (as the cards that follow Temperance would warn).
Our beliefs about separation are false, for like it or not, all the elements of our lives do flow into one another. The gift of Temperance is to be able to balance all aspects, creating magical combinations, and the alchemy of harmony.
This is an invitation to understand your personal synergy – that the total of who you are is so much more than the sum of your parts. The secret within this moving meditation is that you are One.
At this sacred moment, traditionally a time for taking spiritual vows and dedicating ourselves to some Divine purpose, there are cleansing rivers of awakening and healing offered.
What elixir of life have you been seeking? What distortions, dark losses, and base parts of your life are in need of the Alchemist within you, in order to turn them into gold?
Using our finest magical skills to integrate ourselves in all of our inner and outer parts, transformation is ours to now create. Experience not only does not crush us, it polishes us into gold.