What is Temperance? The dictionary defines it as “moderation in action, thought or feeling; restraint; a habitual moderation in the indulgence of appetites or passions (especially in regards to alcohol).” However, the Tarot, always encouraging us to think in archetypes, tells us Temperance is alchemy, art, blending. There is a much larger sense of this card than simply using restraint in our consumption of wine. The card is traditionally presented as an angel pours water between two vessels as she stands with one foot on land and one in the water suggesting the eternal blending of all that is above and all that is below.
One way to think of Temperance is along the lines of kitchen alchemy… we read a recipe, say for cake, process it in our brain, gather the ingredients and follow (more or less) the instructions. Once you start blending those ingredients, they cannot be separated. When the ingredients are all mixed together we don’t have cake – that requires the heat of the oven to bring the final magic. Too little time in the oven and the cake won’t cook. Too long in the oven and the cake burns. But just the right heat and time in the oven produces a lovely cake. We might ruin several potential cakes in the process but we learn, perfect, and can become great cake bakers with continued practice and maybe by attending a class on cake baking. Here we do come to understand moderation – too much or too little just doesn’t work but just the correct combination brings everything together just right. (Goldilocks and the Three Bears as alchemists? Just a thought!) We might also accidently invent an entirely new cake that is more delicious and becomes our new favorite.
But the archetype of alchemy is so much more than this. In the card above we see Temperance in a magical potion being created. The witch knows how to work her magic, blending her intention, ingredients, and actions into her potion to create the desired results. Like the traditional angel, she pours her formula between two vessels, getting it just right. She has started with an intention. She uses her knowledge to gather the right ingredients and applies her skill to bring her intention through the cauldron and into reality. She is working her magic, her alchemy. Herbs dry in the rafters, magic symbols are found throughout her room, holding their wisdom and powers until called upon. Steam from the cauldron mixes with the air around it, and the open window shows us our witch is part of the world outside as well as in her workspace. A rainbow reminds us of the inseparable combination of air, water, light and our vision to see it. This concept is true from the micro to macrocosm… from the cellular level of her body, the wood beams, the fabric of her dress to the mountain in the distance, the elements of the water, air, fire and earth. It is all inter-related.
How are you working your magic in the world? What are you intending, gathering, blending and bringing forth? We are given all we need to live and thrive from an amazingly abundant world. We have talents, inclinations, loves and desires. We have intuition, skill, wisdom and bodies that enable us to move through and interact with that world. We all give back to this world, to the great cauldron of life. We may do it intentionally or with a clueless unawareness, but we are all doing it, all the time. Our own personal blend of magic is a constant force of knowledge, wisdom, practice and creation. Sometimes we end up with results that are unexpected. They could be disappointing or a major revelation. There is always an element of the unknown with our magic and we have to stay open to the process of learning and – well – magic!
Temperance is cosmic recycling. Instead of use/throw away/repeat, we use/re-use/re-purpose, and keep the flow going. We learn from teachers and become teachers sharing vast resources with others whether that be how to belly dance, do math, or bake bread. Nothing stays the same. There is always a moving and flowing going on in the cosmos, our world and in each of us. We are all alchemists all the time. We are taking from the world and giving back using our own unique style and the world is changed by us. When we teach a child to read the potential of that child is changed forever. We don’t know what they will choose to study or how they will use that knowledge, because they take the skill of reading and use it to explore their own interests which can take them anywhere. When we are stagnant, stuck, not actively in that flow, we miss it. We desire change; we seek out ways to get going again. Our create-ability drives us to look, to learn and to share and joy flows from this process. We are happiest when we are giving back, when we are creating, when we learn, teach and experience the magic of “our eternal becoming*” Nothing is promised to us except the resources of the entire world. How we use them is up us – it is how we make our magic.
Card is Temperance from Druidcraft Tarot by Philip Carr-Gomm
*to quote Normandi Ellis
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