Balance, moderation, patience, purpose, meaning
Imbalance, excess, lack of long term vision
Description of Rider-Waite-Smith
The central figure of the Temperance card is the Angel Michael, firey wings outspread. One foot firmly planted upon the solid earth, a toe dipped into the swirling waters, he unites the higher spiritual self with the physical world and emotional spheres. This image, which is wholy one of balance represents the cardinal virtue of Temperance, the state to which we all aspir. The case therefore represents a time of weighing up ones actions, thoughts and feelings carefully, but this should not be taken as a form of hesitancy. The water of the cups is ever flowing and the river beneath the angels feet is clear, this is not a card of stagnation and is better interpreted as being a time to advance with caution but advance you must. The very act of the angel “dipping the toe in” can itself be a clear message in a reading.
As with the Magician and other cards within the Major Arcana the four elements are in stark evidence in the form of dominant colours. The balance between Earth (green), Air (white), Fire (red) and Water (blue) sits within the wider context of balance indicated by the card.
The figure of an angel, presumably Michael, dominates the image. They stand with one foot on solid land with the other foot in the flowing water before them. This represents more balance within the cards, the balance between our actions in the physical world and our emotions. The angel also represents the balance between heaven and earth, with the white robes representing higher spirituality and the red wings the fire of heaven, or faith. The angel brings these elements into balance with the physicality of the earth and the emotional flow of water.
In the angels, hands are two cups with eater flowing between them. The mixing of fluids, in this case water, is an alchemical proces. The operator is required to find the right balance between two substances, or states, to be able to achieve an end. Another way to view this is that the angel is attempting to share the liquid equally across both cups, thus representing emotional balance in different way.
Temperance of the Arcana
The character represented by the Temperance card is the last of the courtiers, Volta. She is a small selft person, with red hair and a dropping eye and she is placed in charge of the food provisions of the city in times of both celebration and trouble. Unfortunately, like all the courtiers, Volta represents the inversed nature of the Temperancr card, lacking any of the cards positive attributes. She is given to over indulgence, begging and stealing food that might otherwise have been for others, and speaks often unwisely in a seeming panic. Unlike Vlastomil and Valdemar she prove redemable in the game, an unwilling participant in the plan of the Devil. When the spirit of the corrupted Arcana is expelled it is revealed to be a half starved rodent like creature with exposed ribs and spine. This is not the animal that appears on the Temperance card of the Arcana however, and Volta is represented elsewhere in the game as a white dove.
It is the white bird, which I like to interpret as a dove, which dominates the imagery of the card. Winged with gossamer and stood waist deep in water with the cups suspended between her hands as water close between them, the card has lost its balance of all four elements but the theme still remains. Air and Water are opposing elements in the magical compass, and can also be interpreted in the light of the Rider Waite Smith’s symbolism as balance between the higher spiritual and emotional selves. This should not preclude the physical and material, for the figure itself embodied the material form and should recall these qualities to you. Considering the image of the Dove herself, a creature associated in many mainstream religions as a bird of peace, she also brings to mind the peace a temperant personality and purpose.The face of the bird is calm and reposed, implying a sense of patience and self control. Actions are cautious and careful, not stagnated but taken with consideration and mindfulness and the flowing water between the cups reminds us of this and the overall theme of balance.