It’s All About Temperance

TemperanceI’m a collector, a Tarot addict as you know, and I’ve just stumbled onto the beautiful Llewellyn Tarot deck. The first image that caught my eye was that of Temperance or as titled here ‘Keeper of the Well’.

For me Temperance is one of those cards that usually doesn’t pull much of a punch in readings. It’s important, it has a message to give but it just doesn’t seem to have the same clout as Death or the Devil for example.

Temperance isn’t even a word we use much any more in our every day language. What does it really mean anyway?

According to it means the following:

1. Moderation or self-restraint in action; self control.
2. Habitual moderation in the indulgence of a natural appetite or passion, esp. in the use of alcoholic liquors.
3. Total abstinence from alcoholic liquors.

This definition got me thinking…. is self control really valid in our modern society?

We can pretty much do as we want these days. We spend what we want whether we have it to spend or not; we eat what we like; we drink what we like; we smoke; we work incredibly long hours. We’re wild, we’re uncontrollable, we’re out to have a good time.

With all of this freedom why would we want to show any kind of self-restraint? We’re having fun, right?

Well actually, perhaps we’re not.

If we balanced out a little we could possibly find what’s missing in our lives. If we saved a little money each month we might feel financially secure instead of dreading the bills. Perhaps if we ate healthily some of the time we wouldn’t be an obese nation. If we didn’t drink quite so much perhaps we’d learn to cope better with life. If we cut back on some of our working hours we might find joy again in our families.

Maybe, just maybe, with a little temperance in our lives we can become happy.

And that message from Temperance is probably the hardest hitting of all.




3 Responses

  1. Yes, in these times we do, many of us, require more than a little temperance. Not only in what we do, but in our expectations. We need to “temper” our beliefs that we have the right to anything we want (encouraged by our consumer-based economy)and if we don’t get it, that someone is to blame or maybe that we ourselves are failures. This is an extensive issue you’ve raised for our consideration.

    I’d like to add that in my own years of working with The Tarot I’ve found Temperance to be a very hard-hitting card, indeed. In that old sense of tempering the sword — holding it in flame and then plunging it in water to make it strong — it has often indicated a time of great trial. What I often hear when I see Temperance is that old saying “What does not kill us makes us stronger!” I also vaguely recall reading somewhere years back when I was studying the Tarot card Major’s paths on The Tree of Life in the Qabala that Temperance’s path is the most difficult of all. To a certain degree I’d have to agree with that. 🙂

    Nice blog!

  2. I’ve always seen the Temperance card as Alchemy, which is I believe the Thoth deck’s name for it. Temperance is certainly about making careful and prudent decisions, but it can also be seen as the juxtaposition of two different ideas or concepts to make another. I always like the Rider Smith illustration where the angel is pouring some kind of liquid, actually sideways into another vessel. I like the idea of taking two different concepts and combining them to make a new idea. This really is the essence of Postmodernism, which is really an art movement, and philosophy, that I ironically don’t even like!

  3. Thank you for that useful analysis of temperance. I often struggle to conjure up a relevant definition for the card, and have to look it up over and over. For some reason, it just doesn’t ‘stick’.

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