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Discussion Group Temperance


I did a card write up on Temperance else where and it made me look more closely at the symbolism of this card and I thought I might share it with those of you who are interested;

Book T gives it the esoteric title: Daughter of the Reconcilers, The Bringer Forth of Life, I can see how the first part of the title fits in well with this card,as Temperance is all about finding the middle ground, mixing and blending elements so that they may work together. I had to ponder the Bringer Forth of Life part and thought that perhaps it relates to balancing the spiritual and physical elements in order to create a higher consciousness.

What do you think?

In Waite's PKT we are told that this is the archangel Michael and that he is wearing the white cloak of purity and wisdom. Like the Star he has one foot on land and the other in the water and this again represents a balance of emotional and physical states. He pours water from one cup to the other and again Waite says the top represents conscious and the bottom sub-consciousness. Because Temperance is mixing and blending these two elements it also serves to represent the union of masculine and feminine, active and passive.

Now in Robert M. Places book Tarot, History, Symbolism and Divination he informs us that Waite acknowledges that the angelic figure is neither masculine nor feminine and he goes on to tell us that his red and violet wings + the symbol of the sun on his head gives him a connection to both the Archangel Michael and the Goddess Iris. I think in older printings of cards there is a rainbow arching across the sky - but Pixie seems to have left that element out but has added yellow Irises' to the side of the angel.

There is a quote in Places book that I think is relevant to the connection:

"In Revelation 10:1-2, there is a great angel, thought to be Michael, who stands on the sea and the land with a rainbow on his head and a face that radiates like the sun."

This is what I managed to find out about the goddess Iris:
Apparently in Greek Mythology Iris was the goddess of the rainbow and the messenger of the Olympian gods. She was also a goddess of sea and sky and the daughter of Thaumas "the wondrous" a marine god and Elektra her mother "the amber" a cloud-nymph. Apparently for those Greeks who lived in the coastal areas the rainbow's arc was most often seen spanning the distance between cloud and sea so Iris was believed to replenish the rain-clouds with water from the sea. She was also the messenger of the gods and could I think be considered the female equivalent of Hermes. According to Pictures of the Heart "She carried a pitcher which contained water for putting perjurers to sleep. The rainbow is considered both the essence of Iris and the pathway by which she traveled." Apparently the Iris flowers on this card could then be connected to her by relating to her qualities as a divine messenger.

The square on Michael's chest is a symbol of spirit contained in matter, and a very good friend who is far more knowledgeable than I explained the symbolism of the square and triangle to me "The square is matter- the world- everything we can feel taste and see and is like the number four; four winds, four directions, four Apostles, four elements etc etc. The triangle is the three nature of everything- Mother/Father/Child -Heaven/Earth/Man - body/soul spirit. It is an upward triangle- so it is Fire-Solar- like the pyramids- The trinity or three persons within God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit- so it is the fire of the Spirit in the world."

Another interesting aspect of this card is that on his head we see the Sun and in a light in the sky where we would expect to see the sun we see a gold crown. I wonder if the Sun could be seen to be an expression of the human soul and the Crown an expression of the physical and by changing their places it shows how Temperance is mixing these two aspects of the human existence ummm

Temperance is a card that symbolizes mixing and blending of the opposites and initially the connection between the Archangel Michael and the Goddess and her connection to the rainbow it shows us that what is above is also below and blends the two elements of the spiritual and the physical together.

*My thanks to Roseanne for her insights on the triangle and the square.
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