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Meaning of the Tarot card Temperance


Some frequent keywords are:

Temperance ----- Harmony ----- Balance ----- Health

Moderation ----- Joining forces ----- Well-being ----- Recovery

Equilibrium ----- Transcendence ----- Unification ------ Healing

Synthesis ----- Bringing together opposites ---- Feeling secure

Temperance (Italian: La Temperanza) is a Major Arcana Tarot card, numbered VI or VII in the oldest Italian decks, but XIV in the Tarot de Marseille and in most contemporary decks. In the Thoth Tarot and decks influenced by it, this card is called Art rather than Temperance. Temperance is almost invariably depicted as a person pouring liquid from one receptacle into another. Historically, this was a standard symbol of the virtue temperance, representing the dilution of wine with water. In many decks, the person is a winged angel, usually female or androgynous, and stands with one foot on water and one foot on land. In addition to its literal meaning of temperance or moderation, the Temperance card is often interpreted as symbolizing the blending or synthesis of opposites. An influential tradition originating with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn associates Temperance with the astrological sign Sagittarius. It is also commonly associated with the letter Samekh in the Hebrew alphabet.


Some say that when Temperance appears in a reading it tells the Querant that moderation is required in some aspect of life. The precise place in the Querant's life will be determined by other cards in the spread.

Mythopoetic Approach

In most modern tarot decks, Temperance stands between Death and The Devil. He or she (traditions vary) guides the souls of the dead to judgment. In some traditions, Temperance does the judging. In those schools, the cups in Temperance's hands are the functional equivalent of scales, and Temperance, like Maat, an Egyptian goddess of wisdom, judges the soul's worth before passing it on to the beasts of the underworld. In some stories, Maat both judges the souls against a feather and protects the scale from being tipped by Set. If the soul is heavier than a feather, it will be fed to the eater of souls, so we should all be darn grateful to Maat. In other traditions, Temperance is the remixing of life. Accepting the dead into the underworld, into the bosom of the carbon cycle, into the blessed lands, and deciding what to send back into the fray. Every atom in our bodies have passed through thousands of forms, and will pass through thousands more. Temperance reminds us of our connection to the greater forces. Others say that the vessels in the Angel's hands represent the Golden Crucible of Taoism; the vessel that contains eternal life. Others say it is representative of the head feeding the stomach; unification of the physical and spiritual needs. Temperance is associated through its cross sum (the sum of the digits) with The Hierophant. The Hierophant (ideally) brings the lessons of the other world into this one in an understandable form; Temperance (among other things) judges how well we have mastered the wisdom the other worlds. Even though this card is well lit by a setting sun, it is an underworld card. Hark at the lilies in the background. Lilies grow in Hades, and the lily represents the goddess Iris, another messenger goddess who transcends the individual realms. The Easter Lily sometimes represents the death of Christ on the Cross, and the three days He spent in the underworld before the Resurrection. The red wings of the Angel represents blood, represents life, represents that which transcends the death of the individual. It can also represent the moment where a person's energies go from growing upwards, to growing inwards. In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Sun in the background conceals a crown. That crown is the ego, who has died and is at the cusp of the adventures of the night. Some Jungians say that Temperance represents the unconscious, which can guide us, they contend, to a deeper understanding of ourselves, and maybe even a meaningful life. The one foot on the land, the other in the water, represents the unification of the external and internal, conscious and unconscious, realms. Under these approaches, when Temperance appears, it is a warning or invitation to be prepared for a confrontation with the deepest questions. Who we are. Who we apparently are. Who we think we are. Who we will become.

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