Reconciliation is to understand both sides; to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Another visit from a red-winged angel this week! On the week of the Full Moon and the shift from Capricorn to Aquarius, Temperance makes a rather rare appearance.
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 warns us to avoid extremism. It is the virtue of finding the middle path.
In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the angel stands balanced between land and sea, between the physical world and the flowing unconscious. (Waite does not assign either male or female attributes to the angel, but for clarity, I’ll refer to “him.”)
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.
In the background, the yellow irises speak 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 needs right now.
On his head, the angel wears the symbol of the Sun. Upon his chest is a triangle with a square, both of which are powerful symbols in many cultures. The square is the Syringa, symbolizing the Sacred Four. It is a very old symbol of equality, honesty, fairness, rational thought, and morality, in common use even today, when we talk about “square dealings,” thanks to the Freemasons and other esoteric traditions.
Within the square is the triangle, an equally old and powerful symbol representing Divine Mystery. From the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph “Mer,” which symbolized both the pyramid shape and the name Egypt itself, to the holy Trinity of Christianity, this three-sided shape has shaped humanity. The triangle is the basis of the most sacred Hindu and Buddhist mandalas, especially the Sri Yantra mandala, which is the Yantra of Creation, depicting the OM mantra, the primordial sound of creation.
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 were to trace the motion of the pouring, it would be revealed as none other than the lemniscate, symbol of Infinity.
In the Fool’s Journey, which is one name for the story that can be discerned when you lay out the Major Arcana cards in order, Temperance follows the Death card. Thus, it is the reconciliation and re-integration, after great loss or change. It can be how we bring things back together and re-establish harmony after some extreme circumstance. The flow of life continues.
In the aftermath of a mass murder that some feel may have been pushed by the language and attitude of extremism, Temperance is mediation, the doorway to restoring balance. In a political environment of bitter partisanship and intolerance that has nearly shut down all progress, Temperance reminds us that there is a middle ground we must find. There can be a meeting place of balance and peace where all views are understood and honored.
On a personal level, is there some loss that has left you feeling broken or unstable in some way? How might you be in need of balance, or a reconciliation of the dark and light in your own world? Temperance is the middle path of tolerance, forgiveness, and integration.
Is there an opportunity this week for you to first see things from one side, and then understand from another? In this way, Temperance offers the hand of clarity and wisdom.
In what ways do you sometimes attempt to compartmentalize your life, for instance, walling off your social life from your spirituality, or your work persona from you as a family member?
Temperance teaches that these divisions, as well as our deeper fears about loss and separation are false, for all the elements of our lives truly flow into one another. And we are always standing in the flow of the Divine.
The gift of Temperance is that we can and must reconcile all of our aspects. Our suffering can be relieved only when all sides are understood. Then, like the alchemists of old, we can find the magical blend, the true Elixir of Life itself.
There are cleansing rivers that run through us, that can offer healing to us, even as they continue to move and change us. This week, a great treasure is given as we are invited to allow the flow of Mystery to bring us back to balance.