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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The middle way

Star Tarot, Cathy McClelland
In Tarot Wisdom: Spiritual Teachings and Deeper Meanings, Rachel Pollack goes out of her way to state more than once that the Temperance card is unexciting to her and one of her least favourites. She says it combines her three least favourite cards in one: 1+4=5, The Hierophant, while 4 reminds her of the Emperor.

I, on the other hand, have always loved the Temperance card, and in fact, find the the Temperance is often my favourite major in most decks, and is certainly one of the cards I look at when deciding whether to buy a new deck. I find this Temperance card from Cathy McClelland's self-published Star Tarot one of the most beautiful ones I have seen. Let's take a close look.

We have a gorgeous rainbow overarching a sun which crowns the head of an angel. Cathy says it is the Archangel Michael. The rainbow colours are repeated in the angel's oversized wings, wings so large they will not fit in the card. A golden disk adorns his forehead and flowing hair falls back behind his shoulders. He wears a red vest over a diaphanous white gown, with dark blue undersleeves. In his right hand he holds a golden chalice. In his left, a silver one, from which he pours a sparkling, multi-coloured liquid into the gold cup. The angle at which he pours is completely impossible, yet he does this with tranquil ease. His eyes may even be closed. (Let's see the Magician do that!) He stands with one foot on the land and the other on the water. Behind him a golden sun and a silver moon peep from between mountains and send their rivers of light pouring into the pool at his feet, which we realise looks more like the stars and blackness of space than water.

As usual with the Star Tarot, symbolism abounds in this card. All of it is completely traditional, Cathy has taken no liberties with this card, and I for one am glad of it, for I don't think the RWS Temperance card can be improved upon. But first, let's look at the meaning of the card.

Temperance is 1.  moderation in action, thought, or feeling: restraint;  2. a) habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions, b)  moderation in or abstinence from the use of alcoholic beverages (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). For me, this is actually what the Temperance card means. Temperance means 'temperance.'

The original Temperance cards, before the RWS used an angel and added esoteric/occult symbolism, featured a woman pouring a liquid from one cup to another. This used to be a common sight in homes and at dinner tables, as wine was watered down as a matter of course, and players of the original Tarocchi game would have had no trouble recognizing either the image or the concept of 'tempering'. Golden Dawn added the other stuff, which merely expands upon this concept by adding alchemical notions and making the card more about mixing the physical and spiritual to find a divine balance. The rainbow colours refer to Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the Gods. Also it is a reference, according to some sources, of the so-called 'rainbow bridge' that connects the realms.

Our true power lies in our ability to find balance and walk the middle path. What's not to like about that?

1 comment:

  1. I'm so with you on this. For me, Temperance shows a dynamic equilibrium. It's not boring, because we have to constantly tap into the flow of life to make sure we move a little bit this way or a step that way, to stay on that middle path. How can you be bored when you are constantly aware and adapting to life in all its glory? :)