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Understanding Tarot: Temperance

Tarot card art from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot Deck
The Understanding Tarot series is written by Claire Chilvers. It follows the Fool’s journey through the Major Arcana. You can find out more about Claire’s insights and readings at @ClaireChilversTarot

Keep calm and carry on.

Temperance sits like an oasis of calm in between two pairs of challenging and emotionally draining cards.

As we accompany our Fool on his journey through the Major Arcana, we have just met cards twelve and thirteen – The Hanged Man and Death, and his world has just changed forever.

Just a short step ahead in his journey are cards fifteen and sixteen – The Devil and The Tower. The brightness of card fourteen stands like a beacon of hope in between them all.

An angelic being with golden hair and a visible third eye shining brightly feels like a small break from the heavy and sometimes troubling lessons that are learned on what often seems like, the most difficult part of this adventure.

In my last article, I wrote about the Death card and the wave of emotions that sweep over us when we relate to the transformations and endings that are associated with this card.

It can feel like we are caught up in a storm and may never see the sun again. But, the storm subsides and the emotions calm and although we often learn at these times that life will never be the same again, it does, however, continue.

When we are left on the other side of our encounter with ‘Death’ in its many forms, who best to meet us there than a guiding angel? 

Who best to watch over us when we eventually stop spinning from the changes that have happened in our life and take a moment to ponder- “What now?” 

Because, regardless of whether someone has strutted majestically out of their ‘old life’ with a sense of excitement for the unknown or, whether they are sitting in the deafening silence of their familiar surroundings wishing a loved one who has gone forever was there to talk to, everyone, eventually, has to ask that question- “What now?”

The Guardian Angel of Temperance is the sweet voice within that quietly suggests that we can refer that question to another time.

Our intuition, signified by the third eye, that connects us to our own soul and the guides who are always with us. The one that reminds us to stay calm and carry on, to breathe, to rest, to not overreact, or self-destruct. To practice mindfulness and live in the present moment. “What now?” Will become clear when the time is right. 

Temperance can present itself in the people around us too. We all have a story of that ‘guardian angel’ who turned up and helped us when our world had been turned upside down.

For instance, a paramedic who calmly holds a patient’s hand and chats cheerily on a blue lighted journey to hospital. The stranger who lets you borrow their phone or lends you money when you find yourself unexpectedly stranded and alone. The friend who arrives with a homemade lasagne as they know you are too busy grieving to cook.

Or, in my case, the sister who visits your home to see her nephew for the first time and ends up babysitting and doing the ironing whilst you nap in an armchair! All giving the same loving message, ‘the universe will find ways to look after you, but you have to look after yourself too.’

All these examples are lessons that Temperance gives. Reminding us not to worry about what may be ahead of us (even if we feel it may be daunting), and to stop worrying about the past (because what’s happened has happened).

This is why Temperance is so perfectly placed as number fourteen. It helps us tap into our intuition and come to terms with the unexpected twists and turns on our life’s journey.

It is a momentary pause where someone may step in and keep an eye on you, or give you some much-needed respite before you continue on your life path to more valuable and enriching life lessons.

Of course, this can also be respite that is forced upon us – be it a trip to hospital or rehab. Temperance can also show up as a reminder that we are pushing our bodies to excess and need to moderate our behaviour or bad habits. (As these will be tested soon enough in our next card!)

It is the message to stay grounded and in control of your emotions (this is depicted with the angel’s feet – one in water, one on the Earth). 

After following on from what can sometimes be a chaotic or traumatic upheaval, Temperance is bringing an opportunity to show us what our lives could be like if we bought calmness and balance to it.

These powerful qualities can make the impossible possible – our angel shows us this by effortlessly pouring water from one cup to another, even though it is impossible to pour it sideways! 

We are also shown a glimmer of what the future holds, to the left our path is leading us onwards into the mountains where a golden crown hangs in the air.

To obtain this beautiful crown would require us to elevate ourselves higher than we have ever gone before – but as we can see anything is possible. And the best version of ourselves is beginning to make itself available through dreams and visions within our third eye chakra.

The Fool, on his journey, certainly has had some tough life lessons but if he can learn to keep himself balanced and calm, keep in touch with his intuition, and keep focused on his soul’s purpose, he should be able to continue on his path without fear. Which is a timely lesson indeed, as he strolls towards The Devil.

Read More from the Understanding Tarot Series

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