Temperance (Tarot card)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Temperance (XIV)

Temperance (XIV) is the fourteenth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. It is used in game playing as well as in divination.


A. E. Waite was a key figure in the development of modern Tarot interpretations. (Wood, 1998.) However, not all interpretations follow his ideas. It is important to remember that all Tarot decks used for divination are interpreted through the personal experience of those involved with the reading.

Some frequent keywords include:

  • Temperance — Harmony — Balance — Health
  • Moderation — Joining forces — Well—being — Recovery
  • Equilibrium — Transcendence — Unification — Healing
  • Synthesis — Bringing together opposites — Feeling secure

Temperance (Italian: La Temperanza) appears in the oldest Italian decks where it is numbered VI or VII. In the Tarot de Marseille and in most contemporary decks the card is numbered XIV. In the Thoth Tarot and decks influenced by it, this card is called Art rather than Temperance.

A woman mixing water into wine was a standard allegory of Temperance in European iconography. This statue is part of Peter of Verona's tomb.

Temperance is almost invariably depicted as a person pouring liquid from one receptacle into another. Historically, this was a standard symbol of the virtue temperance, one of the cardinal virtues, representing the dilution of wine with water. In many decks, the person is a winged person/angel, usually female or androgynous, and stands with one foot on water and one foot on land.

In addition to its literal meaning of temperance or moderation, the Temperance card is often interpreted as symbolizing the blending or synthesis of opposites. An influential tradition originating with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn associates Temperance with the astrological sign Sagittarius. It is also commonly associated with the letter ס (Samekh) in the Hebrew alphabet.

In the Rider-Waite image by Pamela Coleman-Smith (shown on this page) the Hebrew Tetragrammaton is on the angel's chest above the square and triangle. In the derivative Tarot decks this is usually not included.

Significance in divination[edit]

The appearance of Temperance in a reading may suggest to the Querent that moderation is required in some aspect of life [1]. Interpretations of this card's appearance may focus on bringing balance to the life of the Querent. In other interpretations the card may serve as a reminder that a compromise between two seemingly incompatible options is often the best option [2]. The precise place of this card in the Querent's life will be determined by other cards in the spread.

Mythopoetic approach[edit]

In most modern tarot decks, Temperance stands between Death and The Devil. He or she (traditions vary) guides the souls of the dead to judgment.

In some traditions, Temperance does the judging. In those schools, the cups in Temperance’s hands are the functional equivalent of scales, and Temperance, like Maat, an Egyptian goddess of wisdom, judges the soul’s worth before passing it on to the beasts of the underworld. In some stories, Maat both judges the souls against a feather and protects the scale from being tipped by Set. If the soul is heavier than a feather, it will be fed to the eater of souls.

In other traditions, Temperance is the remixing of life, accepting the dead into the underworld, into the blessed lands, and deciding what to send back into the fray. Every atom in our bodies has passed through thousands of forms, and will pass through thousands more. Temperance reminds us of our connection to the greater forces.

Others say that the vessels in the Angel’s hands represent the Golden Crucible of Taoism; the vessel that contains eternal life. Others say it is representative of the head feeding the stomach; unification of the physical and spiritual needs.

Temperance is associated through its cross sum (the sum of the digits) with The Hierophant. The Hierophant (ideally) brings the lessons of the other world into this one in an understandable form; Temperance (among other things) judges how well we have mastered the wisdom of the other worlds.

Even though this card is well lit by a setting sun, it is an underworld card. Observe, for example, the flowers called "IRIS" in the background. These represents the goddess Iris, another messenger goddess who transcends the individual realms.

The red wings of the Angel represent blood, life, and that which transcends the death of the individual.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Sun in the background conceals a crown. That crown is the ego, who has died and is at the cusp of the adventures of the night.

Some Jungians say that Temperance represents the unconscious, which can guide us, they contend, to a deeper understanding of ourselves. The one foot on the land, the other in the water, represents the unification of the external and internal, conscious and unconscious, realms.

Under these approaches, when Temperance appears, it is a warning or invitation to be prepared for a confrontation with the deepest questions of who we are, who we think we are, and who we will become.

Alternative decks[edit]

In the X/1999 Tarot version made by CLAMP, The Temperance is Arashi Kishuu.

In pop culture[edit]

  • In The House of the Dead 4, part of Sega's The House of the Dead series of light gun games, Temperance is the name of the fourth boss, a giant zombie who is ironically morbidly obese, and almost impervious to attack. All of the bosses in the House of the Dead are named after cards from the Major Arcana, and Temperance in particular was designed to invert the meaning of its namesake card.
  • In the SNES video game Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, the Temperance Tarot card depicts a woman instead of a winged angel wearing white robes and gathering water from a marsh. On drawing the card after liberation of one of the towns, it increases the Reputation Meter by 2 points, and cures all characters infected by status ailments when used in battle.[1]
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, "Temperance" was among the Major Arcana-based "Arcana Force" cards used by second season villain Sartorius, later released in the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game. It has the ability to negate battle damage to a player if they discard it from their hand or to halve damage received by either you or your opponent.


  • A. E. Waite's 1910 Pictorial Key to the Tarot
  • Hajo Banzhaf, Tarot and the Journey of the Hero (2000)
  • Most works by Joseph Campbell
  • G. Ronald Murphy, S.J., The Owl, The Raven, and The Dove: Religious Meaning of the Grimm's Magic Fairy Tales (2000)
  • Juliette Wood, Folklore 109 (1998):15-24, The Celtic Tarot and the Secret Tradition: A Study in Modern Legend Making (1998)

External links[edit]