The temperance tarot card is meant to embody the concepts of patience and balance. While the imagery used can vary quite a lot (perhaps more than any of the other major arcana), there are often various opposed symbols displayed on the card to highlight this necessary balance between opposing elements and concepts.
Keywords associated with the Temperance Card
Upright: Balance, health, well-being, efficiency, common ground, and collaboration
Reversed: Imbalance, dissonance, anxiety, frustration, and competing interests
Traditional Representation and Description of the Temperance Card
Temperance (Italian: La Temperanza) appears in the oldest Italian decks where it is numbered VI or VII. In the Tarot de Marseille and in most contemporary decks, the card is numbered XIV. In the Thoth Tarot and decks influenced by it, this card is called Art rather than Temperance.
A woman mixing water into wine was a standard allegory of Temperance in European iconography. This statue is part of Peter of Verona’s tomb.
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, one of the cardinal virtues, 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.
At the end of the path in the lower left part of the card, there is a crown to show the attainment of a goal, or mastery thereof.
In the Rider-Waite image by Pamela Coleman-Smith (shown on this page) the Hebrew Tetragrammaton is on the angel’s chest above the square and triangle. In the derivative Tarot decks, this is usually not included.
Modern Representations of the Temperance Card
The calm and quiet angel depicted on the Temperance card is standing between opposite concepts, halfway between one and the other. It is a reminder of the importance to find balance in all things and always keep in mind the interests of all involved parties before making any rash or unilateral decision.
Temperance and modern politics
Year after year it seems that the world is getting more radicalized by the minute. What used to be mere disagreements of opinion now readily turns into flame wars or heated arguments. Even outside of a tarot reading, it can be a good idea to keep in mind the lessons taught by the Temperance card.
Respect other people and their different viewpoints, do not turn an ideological confrontation into a wild arena where there are no limits. Avoid personal attacks and try to agree to disagree if you feel that all the elements involved in the discussion are too deeply rooted in their own beliefs. Society has thrived through the centuries thanks to humankind’s ability to favor informed decisions instead of primal instincts.
The Mythic Tarot (1986)
The Haindl Tarot (1990)
Osho Zen Tarot (1995)
Law of Attraction Tarot (2011)
Spellcaster Tarot (2016)
Ostara Tarot (2017)
Upright Temperance Card Meaning
The traditional representation of the Temperance card, like in the classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck, is that of a winged figure (an angel with androgynous features, neither male nor female) holding two cups, water flowing between them. The liquid is sometimes colored blue and red, to show the transition between hot and cold water.
Another common theme in the depictions of the Temperance card is to have the barefoot angel with one foot on solid ground and one foot in the water, again showing two opposite states brought together by the figure of the angel.
As its name suggests, Temperance in tarot is meant to suggest the importance of balance, objectivity, and patience for the problem at hand. While most people would really agree that extremes are bad in matters of politics or religion, the meaning of the Temperance card reminds us that extremes are just as bad in any other concept in life.
The meaning of the Temperance card can also be a call for better management of your schedule and priorities, or a warning against excessive spending and impulse purchases, especially when your finances are low.
In a Question about Love and Relationship
The number 14 card of the Major Arcana, Temperance, represents balance, harmony, and optimism regarding romance and relationships. “Slow and steady wins the race” is the motto of this card where a relationship question is concerned. This card reflects the stability and security we want in our love affairs.
If you are single, this card shows up to get you thinking about the kind of person that would balance you through your relationship. Are you a loud person, who needs a quiet companion? Or do you actually need an equally loud person? What do you need for optimum equilibrium in your lover?
If you are in a relationship, this card indicates that you need to assess your relationship and see if it is in or out of balance. If you feel the card is just affirming your good fortune, then enjoy the positive reinforcement of the card. If you find you wish you had what the card means, then you need to do some work to improve or get out of your relationship.
In a Question about Career and Work
Career encompasses school and education if that is your current stage; work that is necessary, but not what you would consider a career path; and your actual career path. Regardless of your current stage of development, Temperance represents a need to find balance and the optimum effort in school or at work.
If you are a student and this is your card, then you need to consider how you are balancing school and your personal life. You want to be sure your schoolwork is not hurting your personal life or your personal life hurting your academic goals.
If you are working, but not doing something you would consider a career, then this card will encourage you to put in the necessary time, no more or no less. Be a hard and competent worker while on the job, but once your day is done or the work is complete, leave work thoughts at work. Conversely, try not to bring personal concerns into work; balance in this case is keeping those two realms separate.
If you are in a career path, then this card can encourage you to understand how your personal life and your career integrate. A career is meant to be a calling, a personal engagement, so balance is not achieved by separation, but my blending and weaving the personal and professional into a matrix of success in all areas of your life.
Reversed Temperance Card Meaning
The main message of the Temperance card in a reversed position is a conflict between opposing forces and the negative consequences it can bring as a result. It can also be a form of advice against trying to mix and match concepts, items, or people that are too dissimilar to work well together; and when combined would clearly be inferior to the sum of their parts.
In a Question about Love and Relationship
Reversed, this card certainly can indicate frustration and anxiety about the relationships. Clearly, something is out of balance, with you, or your partner. If it is an ongoing problem, the reversed card indicates the imbalance will persist. If this card “surprises you”, then you may need to look inside or ask if there is an imbalance brewing or already in play that you have been ignoring or suppressing.
In a Question about Career and Work
When this card appears reversed in a question about work or career, then you are most likely dealing with frustration and anxiety about your job. Depending on the other cards around this card, you may not be able to do much, or you may be given insight on what needs to be done to get the situation back into balance.
The Fool’s Journey
Some of the lessons that the Fool had to learn were quite extremes in polar opposites, from the Hermit to the Hanged Man, and when mixed together might become confusing or messy. This is where the Temperance tarot card becomes essential, offering a fundamental lesson to find the balance in all things.
The Fool learns that most of the serious problems and issues encountered in the world often stem from a lack of balance and people blindly yielding to the extremes of one particular aspect of their personality, to the exclusion of all the others. Temperance is a reminder to always try and see matters from another point of view, and find a proper way to balance it all. When successful, this gives the Fool a new sense of realization, health, and well-being.
Meditating with Temperance
Another very introspective card, meditating using the temperance major arcana is a great way to take a step back and get away from the usual rush of everyday life. Take some time to look at your own life, and try to objectively determine which aspects have improved these part few months, and conversely which ones have taken a turn for the worse.
Weigh the pros and cons in any difficult dilemma you encounter, and try to always keep an open mind when you consider all sides in a given problem. Try to take the path of least resistance, find a solution that will be as positive as can be for all the parties involved in that problem. When you try to find a solution that can satisfy everyone instead of maximizing your own interests, it gets much easier to find an acceptable compromise.