Alchemical Study Group - XIV Temperance


(From the Book)

"Art imitates nature."
--Rosarium Philosophorum (pg. 14)

After Death, we enjoy the nurturing of new life, symbolized by Temperance, who is the sustainer of all life. She is the mother aspect of the Great Goddess, and underlies the Anima Mundi, the masculine aspects of which are the mundane world. She is the symbol of time, and her pouring of water from one cup to another represents a clock (the hourglass). Temperance has learned to harness the processes and rhythms of nature. Her five-petalled flower is the rose, the symbol of perfection of alchemical process.

The alchemical process of Temperance is distillation. The image here is based on Mary the Jewess, the mythical inventor of distillation. She is also known as Bain-Marie, and appears in Michael Meier's Symbola Aureae mensae (1617). Distillation is the extraction of material from its solution by forced evaporation. It is the oldest and most fundamental stage of alchemy--the whole process is continual distillation. Hence, Temperence is often called the alchemist.

The woman in the card is the Mother Goddess aspect of the Great Goddess, who governs the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Duality is expressed in the celestial-terrestrial imagery, in which the water of life flows down from the heavens into her cup, and rises as steam in an eternal process. The two streams form an opening shaped like a vagina, which symbolizes the portal of life. Within the opening can be seen the Tree of Life, with five branches bearing five-petalled flowers. These represent the five senses of humankind, aas well as the four elements plus spirit, or the quinta essentia.

The number of Temperance is fourteen, which reduces to five (one plus four equals five), which is the number of perfection on a higher order.

Tarot wisdom: Temperance represents the continual life process. The key meaning of the card is renewal, a balancing of dual forces, and an achievement of harmony that lies beyond conscious control but simply is. Temperence is mistress of nature and its rhythms, and perfection is her goal. She is calm and centered, and maintains her steady rhythm in the face of storms and upheavals. Temperance reminds us that there is a higher order, a higher functioning, to all that goes on on the mundane plane. We can tune into this higher consciousness, and thus see a bigger picture, and become buffered from the upsets on lower levels.

Temperence also related to the word "temper," which means to make strong. Temperence can help our fortitude.


I have never really thought of Temperance as being about renewal. I like the link to the mother aspect of the goddess but this brings in a whole new layer of meaning for me. In the book place says that "Temperance represents the continual life process". How do others see this? I'm very interested to hear everyone's thoughts are on this card.