Tarot author Tony Willis just posted a new article on auntietarot about the 14th trump card, Temperance. (https://auntietarot.wordpress.com/) Most of it is an exhaustive and well-written recapitulation of ideas that I’ve come across before, but I took one entirely new concept away from my reading of his observations: that of “reversibility.” The thought is that the figure of Temperance will pour all of the fluid out of the upper vessel into the lower one until the latter is full, then switch their positions and reverse the process, repeating ad infinitum. My personal take on the image is that it shows an absolute economy of effort and consummate finesse, with no wasted motion and not one drop spilled (this is the source of the title I give the card in my own practice: “the Fine Art of Right Action”).
In practical – that is, divinatory – terms, Tony’s revelation has me thinking that Temperance may offer the possibility of reversing direction in a situation, especially if the path my sitter has been on hasn’t been an especially fortunate or productive one. I sometimes see Temperance as a “tipping point” card anyway, since reaching a locus of equilibrium creates an opportunity to go either way with its influence. Balance can be a delicate (and temporary) state of suspended animation, and it is more often one of dynamic tension than of static rest. It suggests a “pause to regroup” before continuing on, and is not necessarily a destination but rather a “way-station” on the journey. In short, it is more about “process” than “product.”
The philosophical keynote of its astrological correspondence – Sagittarius – is facile and adaptable as befits a mutable Fire sign. Although academia and orthodoxy are ascribed to this “higher mind” exponent of the zodiac (I often think it would be a better fit for the Hierophant, since 14 reduces to 5), I see it more as manifesting the quicksilver fluidity of the mystical visionary than the exacting rigidity of Establishment mores or dogma. Sagittarius is thus a predominantly “mental” sign that is light on its feet thanks to its Jupiter rulership. Temperance should therefore have a moderate and subtle touch as an agent for reconciliation of opposing viewpoints and not the sober adjudicatory bluntness of Justice. It has been said that what is passing between the two vessels isn’t physical water but spiritual essence (which is why it can flow laterally without falling); in that light, Temperance’s mode of operation might be seen as one of “aeration” and not simply homogenization – increasing the buoyancy and permeability of its charge in readiness for its transmutation.
My previous thoughts on this subject are here: