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The Meaning of
the "Temperance" Tarot Card

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What is the inverted meaning of
the "Temperance" card?

The Meaning of the "Temperance"
Tarot Card

The Symbolism of the Temperance Card

The Temperance tarot card shows a winged angel walking on earth. The angel balances with one foot dipped into a clear water pool, and the other resting on land — signifying a balance between the real world and the spiritual.

The angel, who's gender is ambiguous, pours water between two golden cups.

Perched on the angel's head we see the circular zodiac symbol for the sun. The zodiac symbol for the sun and the angel's head are surrounded by an aura of light

... On closer inspection, the "sun" rising over the mountains in the distance appears to be a radiant crown, shining with the brightness of the sun.

On closer inspection, the "sun" rising over the mountains in the distance appears to be a radiant crown, shining with the brightness of the sun. This crown-as-sun mirrors the sun-as-crown worn by the angel. The concepts are swapped: The sun has taken the place of the angel's crown, while a crown has taken the place of the sun. This symbolic mirroring connects the virtue of temperance to a balance with the greater universe. The act of moderation is an act of unity and singularity with everything in nature; a oneness with all things.

The angelic figure wears a simple white gown, emblazoned with the triangular alchemical symbol for Fire contained in a square. The square and triangle combination form the concept of the septenary — indicating the importance of the number 7, one of the most spiritual numbers in numerology.

Behind the angel, two golden iris flowers grow in the grass, symbolizing faith and hope.

NOTE: The philosophical concept of temperance is important to a number of philosophical belief systems including the ancient Greek, Buddhist, and Judeo-Christian beliefs as well as contemporary psychology. Philosophically, temperance can be divided into two distinct but similar meanings: The first is restraint over one's emotions and desires. The second is self-discipline, and a disciplined life. The Athenian philospher Plato defined the virtue of temperance as having four qualities: [1] having quietness, [2]having modesty, [3] following one's own path, [4] and understanding oneself. While all belief systems have their own additions to the core virtues of temperance they all revolve around these central ideas of moderation, personal restraint and self-control. The traditional artistic representation of temperance was typically a woman pouring water from one vessel to another, signifying a mixture, or a tempering of desires and ambitions. The act of pouring-water itself is also one that requires a degree of caution, control and slowness. The traditional image of personified temperance pouring water between two cups is not unique to the tarot.

How to Interpret the Temperance Card

There are two primary meanings to the Temperance card which are similar but distinct:

The first message is one of moderation, which is similar to the Buddhist concept of walking the middle path. The card represents the concept of avoiding extremes, both internally and externally.

... balancing one's lifestyle and ambitions with a greater consciousness of the world around us

Temperance points to a lifestyle of moderation and balancing one's life and ambitions with a greater consciousness for the world around us.

The second meaning, which is a more immediate form of moderation, is a control of our own inner emotions and desires. The card may serve as a gentle reminder to avoid making decisions in the heat of the moment or while feeling intense emotion.

When Temperance appears in a reading it is generally a pointer towards a personal middle path of some kind; A call to exercise personal restraint and to place conscious and rational thought before raw desire.

The card may also reference a person who exemplifies the virtues of Temperance, or it may point to a past event where restraint and moderation were important factors.

Generally speaking, the card is a positive one, and has overtones of patience, an even temper, abstinence and harmony with the environment.

The Temperance Card Inverted

The reversed Temperance card represents a lack of personal control which has led to an imbalance or an excessive amount of something. It may represent a lifestyle which indulges in something excessively, or it may represent an emotional outbreak or some other excessive behavior.

There are many ways we can momentarily let desire or emotion control our actions, and get the better of our judgement.

The card may reference something commonplace like a tendency to binge on junk food, social media or TV shows. Or it may reference a more serious habit which is leading to major life imbalances.

In many cases, the inverted Temperance card may reference a specific occasion when composure or self-control was lost. This may represent anything from an accidental shopping splurge or a decision made in the heat of the moment. There are many ways we can momentarily let desire or emotion control our actions, and get the better of our judgement.

Whether the Temperance card points to a greater lifestyle imbalance, or a short-term loss of control will depend on the specific reading. If the reference is unclear, look to the surrounding cards in your tarot spread, or pull a clarifying card for more guidance.

The reversed Temperance tarot card reminds us that moderation and restraint are a vital path to success and a greater connection to the universe. When we lose control of our ambitions, desires or emotions, we take a step backwards and we hurt only ourselves.

Common Symbols Found On the Temperance Card

Tarot cards often use a a symbolic language to illustrate additional information about each card. The Temperance makes use of at least six common, repeating Tarot symbols. Each of these symbols can add greater levels of interpretation to the card.

The symbols which appear on the Temperance card are:

  • Pathways and Roads

    Pathways and roads symbolism appears on the Temperance card:

    Roads and paths in Tarot imagery may indicate an actual trip or a journey, but frequently imply a personal or metaphysical journey of some kind. In the second case, roads and paths may indicate a passage from one state of being to another, or from one feeling to another one. Paths remind us that the Tarot, like life itself, is a journey.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Pathways and Roads" in Tarot  

  • Water

    Water symbolism appears on the Temperance card:

    In Tarot imagery, water appears in multiple forms — ranging from secluded pools, to meandering rivers and streams, to endless seas and oceans. While each of these types of water may imply a more specified meaning, water in the simplest terms references nourishment, emotion and our intuitive nature. In the Tarot deck, water is more prominent in the Minor Arcana, and is more often (but not always) found in the Suit of Cups.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Water" in Tarot  

  • Pools of Water

    Pools of water symbolism appears on the Temperance card:

    Even more than streams, oceans or rivers — standing pools of water in classic the Tarot deck indicate peaceful springs of spiritual energy. Surrounded by natural life, or manifestations of Divine power, pools of water often suggest positive messages of creative growth, rejuvenation and sustainability.

    NOTE: The figure on the Temperance card has one foot in the pool of water, and one foot placed firmly on dry land. This mix of wet and dry reinforces Temperance's messages of moderation and the Middle Path. The foot position also illustrates the messages of self-discipline.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Pools of Water" in Tarot  

  • Alchemy Symbols

    Alchemy symbols symbolism appears on the Temperance card:

    Alchemy symbols appearing in Tarot indicate an association with a particular element — or the concepts of fundamental change and more importantly, transmutation from one emotional, physical or spiritual state to a new one. It's worth considering that in the Rider Waite Tarot, all three of the cards concealing subtle alchemy symbols also symbolically and visually reference the idea of two opposite, or different states of being.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Alchemy Symbols" in Tarot  

  • Green Fields

    Green fields symbolism appears on the Temperance card:

    Green fields in Rider-Waite Tarot symbolism generally indicate possibility, prosperity, wholesomeness and health. Although green fields are generally associated with positivity, they are sometimes included on cards with an overall negative message for contrasting between negative and positive concepts — in the background and foreground of the card.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Green Fields" in Tarot  

  • Grey skies

    Grey skies symbolism appears on the Temperance card:

    The colors of the sky in Tarot symbolism often hide small hints pointing to the message of each card. Grey-colored skies often indicate a degree of uncertainty. This overcast or grey colored sky is neither bad, nor necessarily good.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Grey skies" in Tarot  

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