Temperance in the Tarot

 

temperance

 

An angel stands on the edge of a placid body of water, one foot on the ground and one foot in the water.  She holds a chalice in each hand and is pouring water from one into the other. A shining solar disk is on her forehead and a triangle is emblazoned upon her chest.  A road runs off into the distance where a crown glows like the sun just beyond a range of mountains.

This is one of those cards that’s always sweet to find in your reading.  It basically means nothing’s wrong and everything’s right. You’re in the flow and life is good.

This card often appears after the questioner has gone through a difficult phase in life and has earned a period of peace through his or her hard work.  It may indicate tranquility in life in general or in specific areas of life such as relationships, work, or home. Look at the surrounding cards for clues.

Above all else, this card talks about balance and peace.  Psychologists interpret water as representing emotions in dreams.  The angel has one foot in the water and one foot on land, indicating that she can fully indulge in emotions while staying well grounded.

This is not a card of gain, per se.  The water being poured from one cup to the other is not increasing, it stays the same.  The message is that the questioner has enough just as it is.

REVERSED – This may indicate a period of intemperance of some sort.  It could be drinking too much, partying too much, working too much, even worrying too much.  The key here is to carve out a little time for peaceful reflection and rest. Do some yoga or tai chi.  Curl up with a book. Take a bubble bath. Chill.

A Few Extra Thoughts About Temperance

Temperance is one of the most under-defined cards in the Major Arcana, so it can be kind of fun to look at.  The standard quickie definition is that it stands for moderation which is probably true on a certain level since the card was, indeed, originally named, “Moderation.”

So, if a questioner draws the Temperance card you can just say, “Well, it looks like this is a period of moderation and balance in your life.”  If it’s reversed you can just say, “You’re really drinking like a swine, you sot.”

Just kidding.  

“You may be overdoing your recreational libations a tiny bit.”  There, that’s better.

Aleister Crowley named this card, “Art,” in his Thoth Tarot deck.  A trifle puzzling until you realize that he was referring to the art of alchemy.  And there is strong symbolism in the card showing the mixing of two different elements in the two chalices just as the alchemists did in their rituals and experiments.

Arthur E. Waite flipped off into some weird place with his definition, stating:  “All of the conventional symbols are renounced herein . . . So also are the conventional meanings.”

Okay . . .  I’m guessing they didn’t know that the hell to make of it, either.

This particular image – a woman pouring water from one jug to another – was actually all over Europe prior to the first recorded publication of the Tarot.

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That might be expected since Temperance is one of the four cardinal virtues of the catholic church.  The usual take on it is that the woman is mixing water with wine, thus diluting the effects of alcohol and showing temperance.

But then the Tarot – as usual – does something a little weird with the image.  The woman is converted into an angel, even in the very early decks. Why?

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My theory – and it’s only a theory – is that the card may refer to another meaning of the word, “temperance.”  As in, “to temper.”

If you want to make a metal harder or more flexible you add other metals to it when it’s in a molten state to change the composition of the material.  You take it’s basic nature and you add something that changes it but builds on that basic nature without destroying it.

This card might very well refer to the adding of a, “divine element,” to basic human nature.

We’ve all seen the, “ancient aliens,” shows where they expound on the fact that something radical happened at one point in our species history.  We share so many of the characteristics of our simian cousins that the link between us and the apes is undeniable. Yet, somehow, sometime, somewhere, something happened that caused us to be entirely different is so many ways.  We developed agriculture, art, philosophy, science, religions, etc., etc., etc.

The ancient aliens take on it is that some higher species flew down in their space gizmos and fiddled around with our basic DNA to manipulate us into a more advanced  species. Just exactly WHY they did that isn’t quite clear. Maybe they were on a picnic and they were bored.

An equally unprovable theory (which I happen to like better) is that human souls began incarnating in simian bodies and that the DNA changed over time to match the souls.  Thus the angel mixing up a fresh brew of whatever is in those two chalices, literally adding a, “divine spark,” to the body of an ape.

Dr. Candace Perk demonstrated that our brains manufacture neuropeptides that match our emotional states and that these bond with receptor cells throughout the body.  Without going into too many boring details our emotions literally manufacture our bodies cells and that recurs about every 2 months.

So why couldn’t a Higher Soul in a simian body literally remanufacture it?

It’s an intriguing question.  I’d always looked at the road in the background of this card as leading AWAY from the angel and the distant crown as a goal to be achieved through the practice of moderation.  But maybe that’s the road that the angel just walked down, from the divine . . . to us.

Sound too weird to be true?  Hey . . . Donald Trump is the President of the United States.  All weirdness is now on the table.

 

The Magician Tarot Card

 

 

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There are a couple of elements involved in this card because it really operates on two levels.  The first, more mystical, level involves the ability to use your powers of imagination and concentration to make whatever you want to manifest on the material plane.  This card indicates that the questioner is at a place in life where all of the elements are coming together for a successful new enterprise. The individual involved literally has the ability to visualize what he or she wants to happen and bring it into being.  It’s a very strong card and shows that a lot of magic is operating in the questioners life.

A secondary meaning can be gleaned from the name of this card in the older Tarot decks:  The Juggler. He isn’t simply The Magician in the mystical sense, he’s also The Magician in the sense of a magician’s stage show.  He has the ability to juggle a half dozen balls in the air and dazzle you with illusions. In this sense it shows that the questioner not only has the ability to make a new project manifest, he also has the ability to promote it successfully and sell it to the people who can back him financially or emotionally

If this card shows up when you’re wondering if a new or different idea might work, there’s a very simple answer:  GO FOR IT!

REVERSED:  This is still a very powerful card but it comes with several warnings.  Be very sure that any new project is in alignment with your Higher Self and you aren’t simply acting out of ego or greed.

If you’re dealing with someone else’s new project take a very careful look at it before you commit to backing it.  Be sure that the magician you’re dealing with isn’t a con artist who’s shilling you for support but will never complete the project.

There is also a strong warning to stay alert and not miss new opportunities that are right under your nose.

A couple of additional thoughts about the Magician:

One of the issues that you need to think about when you’re dealing with this card is, “What is magic?”

We all know the magic of nature.  Any kind of newborn is magical, from a baby to a kitten.  The magic of love. The beautifully transient magic of a rainbow or a shooting star.  A hidden waterfall in a silent forest.

But how does personal magic work?  Aleister Crowley defined magic as, “”the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”, including both “mundane” acts of will as well as ritual magic.

In other words it’s using your will power to make something manifest in your life.  You can view it as something as simple as lying in bed in the morning and contemplating how you’re going to make coffee manifest in your life.  “I’m going to get out of bed. I’ll put water in the carafe, I’ll put the filter basket in the coffee maker, I’ll put the coffee in the basket, and I’ll press the on switch.”

Of course, we don’t go through that sequence of thinking.  We just DO it because we already know how to do it.

Magic involves making something manifest in your life when you don’t know HOW to do it.  But there is a basic pattern, a framework that you can use even if you don’t know exactly how to make it come about.  You start by visualizing it. Try to get as clear a picture in your mind as you possibly can of what you want.

Then pour energy into it.  You actually have to take some time – even a little time each day – to visualize what you want and imagine it coming into being.  If you belong to a particular tradition such a Wicca or Neo-Paganism you may have rituals you’ll want to do at this point such as burning particular herbs or incense and gathering minerals and crystals for extra energy

Feel it.  Visualizations don’t work if all they are is an idea.  They need feelings, the deeper and stronger the better.  While you’re visualizing what you want to come into being try to summon as much joy and happiness as you can.  If you’re a more physical person you may want to dance or chant to enhance the emotional depth.

Wait and watch.  Remember: this is something that you want but you DON’T KNOW how to make it happen.  You’ve started at point A with, “This is what I want.” You’ve gone to point C with the visualization of it.  All the intermediate steps to your goal that you might call Point B will be provided as you go along but you have to watch for the signs and omens for what you should do next.  And that’s the magic of it: knock and the door will open and a pathway will appear.

One more quick thought before we move on from the Magician and that’s about the Magician reversed.  In most of the New Agey Tarot definitions you’ll find that it’s defined along the lines of being out of harmony with the universe or a failure to concentrate on the task at hand or perhaps a caution that someone you’re dealing with is a con artist.

There’s also another meaning which isn’t much discussed anymore and that’s plain old Black Magic.  Just as you can heal someone by intently pouring loving energy into them, so you can sicken someone by intently pouring hatred into them.  It’s very real.

We think of Black Magic in terms of what see in the movies.  An old woman sticking needles into a voodoo doll or a black robed man chanting incantations.  Oddly, a much more common version of it is everyday prayer or mental obsession. I knew a woman who claimed to be a very devout Catholic who would regularly sit down, say her rosary, and pray for terrible things to happen to people who had offended her.  She didn’t get that what she was doing was Black Magic. She was sending concentrated hate energy at the people she was, “praying about,” and her rosary was her ritual tool.

In the same sense, if we become obsessed with someone having hurt or offended us and we go through the day wishing them nothing but ill, we’re sending hate.  It’s Black Magic, albeit on a very amateur, informal scale. So if you get the Magician reversed in a reading you’re doing don’t automatically assume that it’s about ego trips or missed opportunities.  It may point to something more sinister going on.

The Major Arcana of the Tarot

 

The Major Arcana are composed of 22 cards and are the original heart of the Tarot deck.  They can be dated back to the 15th century where they emerged in Europe as the basis for card games.  The symbolism of the cards is so complex that it’s difficult to believe that they were conceived merely as a game but any further clues as to their origin have been lost in time.

Theories about the Major Arcana abound and the occultists of the late Victorian era, such as A.E. Waite and Aleister Crowley, spun some whoppers.  Based upon who you listen to the cards may have originated in ancient Egypt or perhaps Atlantis and Plato himself may or may not have been familiar with them.  

There are also those who claim that the Major Arcana conceal a secret doctrine, a path to higher realms and knowledge that only a few can decipher.  My personal experience with the cards is that those claims are nonsense. If there’s a path hidden in the Major Arcana it’s so overgrown that it would take a bulldozer to find it.  Emphasis on the, “bull.”

So what are the cards of the Major Arcana?  Modern psychologists, particularly Jungians, like to compare them to archetypal images, primordial representations buried in the unconscious of all humans.  And they may be right but that leaves unanswered the questions of who composed them and for what purpose.

There are a few things about them that we can say with certainty.  The Major Arcana represent . . . well, MAJOR forces in our lives. When we encounter the Major Arcana in a reading we know that some significant, life changing events are happening to the questioner.  We’re talking about births, deaths, disasters, major karma coming home to roost, and profound spiritual renewal.

In some cases the questioner herself may be causing the appearance of the major force.  In the card The Devil, for instance, we have a willful embrace of ignorance, cruelty, and mindless sexuality.  The Hanged Man may show up when we choose to take a break from life and reassess our spirituality.

In other cases, the cards may appear because of events which are external to the questioner and over which he has no control.  The Death card may appear frequently after the loss of a loved one. The Tower may pop up after a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a flood.

The best way that I can conceptualize the presence of a card from the Major Arcana in a reading is as a  powerful wind blowing through your life. You can’t stop the wind. You can fight against it, you can give into it and let it blow you where it will, or you can hunker down and wait for it to pass.  The one thing you can’t do is ignore it.  When you see a card from the Major Arcana PAY ATTENTION!