Along with The Hierophant, Temperance is one of my birth cards. It embodies what I think is one of the most important aspects of Tarot:
The great thing about balance is it’s a non-judgmental concept. There are many people who will tell you things like ‘stop eating carbs’ or ‘go for a run every morning’. Whether or not you think those things are healthy, it’s not always practical to completely stop or start doing something. Habits take time and willpower to form. Embracing balance means to do what feels right to you, just keep it in moderation. Not much in life is black and white, and Temperance teaches us to appreciate the grey areas in life.
This isn’t about being a centrist, or never taking sides, it’s about recognising nuance, and the myth of duality. What do we often see as dual, or binary?
An idea I love about Temperance is that it can represent the inherent non-binary nature of gender. Rather than there being two genders, male and female, it makes more sense to see gender as a spectrum:
If you look at the symbol on the character in the Temperance card, you see a triangle inside a square. A triangle has three sides, and a square four. The third and fourth cards of the Tarot are the Empress and the Emperor, so it is like this character blends or balances those energies together. That is also what they are doing with those cups, and also by having one foot on land, and one in the water. Bringing together opposites, balancing and mixing what we usually see as separate.
There are other ways that you can bring this balance into your life. As the Little Red Tarot post says, think about things like work/life balance, or not making extreme decisions.
I am reminded of something that Weston says a few times in his podcast Root Lock Radio: you contain multitudes. I’m not sure who came up with that phrase first, but it possibly comes from this poem by Walt Whitman:
Song of Myself, 51
Walt Whitman – 1819-1892
The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?
When you pull the Temperance card, think about what aspects of your life need balance. A lot of people struggle with black-and-white thinking. This is also sometimes called ‘splitting’. It’s the inability or difficulty to see the middle ground. Look for words like ‘never’ or ‘always’ in your thinking patterns: ‘I always screw things up’, ‘I’ll never find any friends’.
Noticing these patterns is the first mindful step towards reframing your thoughts in a more nuanced way. What ideas do you have for changing such thoughts?
Earlier I mentioned habits, and that’s something we will revisit next time when we discuss card 15: The Devil. Like Death, this is not a scary card, but it does show us what can happen if we do not practice Temperance.