Eat and carouse with Bacchus, or munch dry bread with Jesus,
but don’t sit down without one of the Gods.
As I had mentioned a few weeks back, while I am offline during this period, I am attempting to keep my remarks on our Cards of the Week somewhat abbreviated. Nevertheless, we have received another very important Major Arcana for this week, and one that has been relatively rare.
This week, let us welcome the wisdom and moderation of Temperance.
Temperance comes from the Latin verb, “tempare” which means “to mix or combine.” While the temperance movement during the days of alcohol Prohibition gave this word an association of denial and abstinence, the concept of temperance originates from the Greek virtue called sophrosyne. It describes the excellence of character and soundness of mind that come from living a well-balanced, not austere, life. Temperance is a virtue that suggests moderation, not extremism.
In the Waite-Smith card, an angel stands between land and water, between the physical world and the flowing unknown. 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.
The Sun disc on his forehead is symbolic of the fiery Masculine, and the pool is the watery Feminine. Both dualities move and mingle within him, in peace.
And while he wears the Sun on his head, there is a golden, glowing crown in the background behind him. As Tarot expert Robert Place explains, “The landscape wears the crown, and the head wears the sun. Temperance mixes the inner world of the psyche with the external physical world.”
In addition, you’ll notice that 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, brings the gift of life reborn — just what our parched, weary world is needing 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.
Thresholds and Edges
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.
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 warn).
All the elements of our lives eventually flow into one another. The gift of Temperance is to be able to attune all our many aspects through the creation of magical combinations.
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.
The Virtue of Virtue
We live in a world of huge uncertainty and ongoing crisis. Ours is a culture that gives prestige to uncontrolled consumption, greed, extremism, and even violence. It would seem that we are in short supply of women and men that can carry themselves in quiet, calm composure.
The person who may be seen to possess the virtue of Temperance is consistently poised, grounded, and measured in word and deed. Surely such people are urgently needed now.
Do you know people who you might call temperate? The ones who keep a cool head in a crisis, who enjoy a good time but never go overboard? This is not always the sexiest, most entertaining trait but perhaps temperance as a virtue should be reconsidered.
Is there some loss, or change that has left you feeling broken, vulnerable, or unstable in some way? How might you be in need of adjustment or a reconciliation between the dark and light in your own world? Temperance is the middle path of tolerance, forgiveness, and integration.
This guardian teaches that healing is possible, indeed, it is imminent. It reveals that our sense of separation, conflict, and duality is an illusion. When we relinquish the need to control and dominate, and instead lean in to the movement of the eternally shifting energies, we discover that we are Whole.
There are cleansing rivers that run through us. They can offer insight and serenity, even as they continue to move and change us. We are always standing in the flow of the Divine.