(The above image is a copy of The Temperance card in a standard Rider-Waite Tarot deck. The 8 symbols pointed out above are explained below.)
The Temperance card is the last cardinal virtue to be read in the Tarot deck. As one might imagine, the card illustrates temperance. It reminds us to live a balanced life and to not engage with manic fanaticism.
For more information about The Temperance card, check out A. E. Waite’s description here.
Point 1 – THE ANGEL
The only figure in the card is the angel. While previous cards illustrated group dynamics that could lead to multiple interpretations, the Temperance card is more focused. Temperance, being one of the three cardinal virtues in Tarot, is undeniably holy. A reader cannot shy away from the divine necessity of temperance.
Point 2 – THE BREASTPLATE
The breastplate of the angel is a reiteration of the crown in The Justice card (another cardinal virtue) The breastplate illustrates a triangle within a square. The triangle is the trinity while the square is the compass; together they reveal a harmony between the spiritual and the material worlds. Above the breastplate is the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, or the unspeakable name of God.
Point 3 – THE MIXING OF THE TWO CUPS
The angel is mixing together two cups. Like the breastplate, this is symbolic of a union between two extremes. In line with the idea of temperance, the significance of the two cups isn’t to have one cup fuller than the other; the significance is that both cups need each other.
Point 4 – THE POND
At the bottom of the card, there is a pond of blue water. From previous Tarot cards, we can determine that the source of this pond comes from the river that appears in many of the cards, the river which originates from The High Priestess’ robe. This signifies that the pond is a vestibule for the subconscious.
Point 5 – THE ANGEL’S FEET
One of the angel’s feet is in the water while the other one is on land. This illustrates the union of the subconscious and the conscious. This paradoxical union is a reiteration of the angel’s breastplate and mixing of the two cups. It reveals the ideal of temperance: equilibrium between opposites.
Point 6 – THE LONG PATH
Towards the left of the card, there is a long path towards a mountain. While the angel is in a state of rest, the card suggests that this is temporary. The path to enlightenment is not over yet. We still have a long way to go. The long path is a reminder of this, and it is an encouragement that the summit of the mountain is in sight.
Point 7 – THE SUN AND THE ANGEL’S HALO
Behind the angel’s head shines a halo. This halo is then repeated in the setting sun on top of the mountain. Not only does the halo stress the holiness of temperance (It is a cardinal virtue after all), its repetition on the mountain reveals the holiness of the destination of the reader. The halo on the mountain illustrates the enlightenment at the end of the tarot deck.
Point 8 – THE ANGEL’S WINGS
The angel’s wings are the color of fire. They illustrate passion and dedication to the ideals of temperance. The wings are so wide that they extend outside the limits of the card. This is a reminder that temperance can be found in other cards as well. It is not limited to this one card.
An Upright Temperance encourages balance. Perhaps you are at a crossroads where you could make a decision that brings frantic energy into your life. An Upright Temperance suggests proceeding with caution. Don’t get caught up in fanaticism. Keep your head cool and maintain moderation in all aspects of your life.
A Reverse Temperance suggest you are in a state of imbalance. Perhaps you are reveling in success or over-indulging in certain substances. Perhaps you are focusing all of your energy on one thing. A Reverse Temperance is a reminder for moderation. An upside-down pyramid is easily toppled. Spread out your attention to multiple things in order to have a well-rounded life.
For more Tarot Card Meanings, check out our blog here.
About the author: John Taylor is a content writer and freelancer through the company Upwork.com. You may view his freelancing profile here. He has a B. A. in English, with a specialty in technical writing, from Texas A&M University and a M. A. in English from the University of Glasgow. You may view his previous articles about Tarot here and his LinkedIn profile here.