Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tarot - Temperance

Basic Card Symbols

An angel (often female or genderless), a pool or river of water. Two cups or beakers, a fluid flowing between them.

Basic Tarot Story

Continuing on his spiritual path, the Fool begins to wonder how to reconcile the opposites that he's been facing: material and spiritual (which he hung between as the Hanged man), death and birth (the one leading into the other in the Death card). It is at this point that he comes upon a winged figure standing with one foot in a brook, the other on a rock. The radiant creature pours something from one flask into another. Drawing closer, the Fool sees that what is being poured from one flask is fire, while water flows from the other. The two are being blended together!

"How can you mix fire and water?" the Fool finally whispers. Never pausing the Angel answers, "You must have the right vessels and the right proportions." The Fool watches with wonder. "Can this be done with all opposites?" he asks. "Indeed," the Angel replies, "Any oppositions, fire and water, man and woman, thesis and anti-thesis, can be made to harmonize. It is only a lack of will, a disbelief in the possibility of unity, that keeps opposites, opposite." And that is when the Fool begins to understand that he is the one who is keeping his universe in twain, holding life/death, material world and spiritual world separate. In him, the two could merge, as in the vessels that the Angel uses to pour the elements, one to the other. All it takes, the Fool realizes, is the right proportions....and the right vessel.

Basic Tarot Meaning

It is hard, at first, to see where Sagittarius, the ruling sign of this card, fits in. Sagittarius is an expansive sign and Temperance is, on a surface level, about "tempering." Butler points out that the original pouring from cup to cup might have been about cutting wine with water. So this is a card about moderation. There is, however, another angle to the card, that of merging seemingly impossible opposites. Sagittarius, the centaur, merges beast and man into a unique creature. And then there is the bow and arrow, one moving, one stationary, working together to point the way. Temperance may be, at first glance, a warning to the Querent to "temper" their behavior, to cut their wine with water. But it may also be a reminder to the Querent that seemingly irreconcilable opposites may not be irreconcilable at all. Belief that fiery red and watery blue cannot be merged may be the only thing standing in the way of blending the two. Change the belief, measure out each with care, and you can create otherworldly violet.

Thirteen's Observations

This is one of the hardest cards to interpret. I think, perhaps, Crowley is most helpful in understanding it, as he calls the card: "alchemy." It sometimes works best for me to imagine the Angel wearing a lab coat and very carefully pouring measured amounts of colored liquids into beakers rather than cups.

This card really does seem to be less about moderation then about the Sagittarian desire to find a unified field theory, a way of blending opposites, achieving synthesis. In a reading, this card can mean that the Querent sees two opposite camps (choices, belief systems, families, friends) and no way to unite them. But sometimes the only reason the two won't blend is that we're not taking the time, not measuring out the right amounts (the Querent might, for example, be trying to merge two full families when blending has to occur bit by bit with individuals). It is also a reminder that a bow and arrow are useless apart, but together a formidable weapon. This card tells the Querent that they CAN and should put thesis and anti-thesis together to get the even more useful synthesis. But it will take time, care, patience and experimentation. And also, yes, moderation.