The Temperance Tarot (XIV)

Key Meanings

Moderation. Balance. Tempering opposites.

The Temperance Tarot—Original RWSThe Temperance Tarot—Original Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck.

Meaning of the Temperance Tarot

The Temperance tarot is about moderation, balance, and equilibrium. It’s about mixing, blending, or tempering opposites to bring about a balance. 

When Temperance appears, it’s asking you to avoid being extreme in your emotions—establish emotional balance. This moderation is called for both in the ways in which you deal with yourself and with others. 

It’s also about adapting to others or to different situations.

Some form of management of, or mediation between others might be needed, whether it’s in a work related or personal situation. Sometimes this card can show that you need to mediate between two distinct worlds.

The Temperance tarot might also be asking you to moderate your view of romantic relationships, or your attitudes towards situations or people at work. 

It’s possible that you’re facing an emotional and difficult situation at home or work, and you need to deal with the situation calmly. 

Compromise might be needed.

Cooperation with other people could also be called for.

Sometimes the tarot is very literal, and temperance, in the form of abstinence from alcohol or drugs, may be required.

The need for tolerance towards your own weaknesses, and those of others, might be suggested. Also, the need for patience with yourself and others is stressed.

In a reading about spiritual development, the Temperance tarot might be suggesting that you should make sure you balance your life between the physical (work, your career, and perhaps exercise) and your spiritual activities.

Reversed Meanings of the Temperance Tarot

Many of the opposites of the above could be indicated, such as impatience, over-indulgence, and differences of opinion.

Reversed, the card might also mean that the upright meanings apply, but that the energy is more internalized. It could also mean there’s a blockage, or perhaps you’re revisiting a situation. Perhaps you’re being asked to consider Temperance from a different perspective. 

The Temperance Tarot of the Marseille deck (Jean Dodal).The Temperance Tarot of the Marseille deck (Jean Dodal).

Images, Symbols, and More

The Temperance tarot card shows an angel pouring water from one cup to another. This can be interpreted in varying ways: the mixing of spirit and consciousness, fire and water, or hot and cold water in order to balance the temperature.

Traditionally, the image of a woman mixing water with wine was a common symbol of temperance (one of the cardinal virtues) and is fairly commonly seen in art.

In most tarot decks, the angel is female, or hermaphrodite (as in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck). 

The angel has one foot on the land (representing the material world), and one foot in the water (representing the unconscious).

The Temperance tarot is related astrologically to Sagittarius, which represents enthusiasm, tolerance, and the truth.

The Major Arcana


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