After the purging experience of Death, it is necessary to rebuild and improve on that which has been left over. Now that old habits and beliefs are gone forever, new attitudes must be acquired to fill the gaps and make you whole again. This process of reconstruction and harmonization is shown by the card called Temperance. The verb "to temper" means to modify or strengthen by adding a new component to an existing substance or mixture, and this broad defintion can be applied to many areas of your life. But all applications of Temperance share the common theme of moderation and balance, culminating in the creation of a centered and well-rounded being.
In most Tarot decks the red-on-white symbology first shown in the Magician appears on the card in some form. The temperance of desire (red) with purity (white) is one of the most fundamental manifestations of this card, as is the reverse (purity with desire). The angel on the Rider-Waite deck, who wears a white robe and has red wings, is a perfect illustration of this. Purity of heart and mind gives you a solid base to fall back upon, but only through the desire for personal growth can you ever develop. The angel's white robes give him his basic form, but only through the control of his red wings comes his ability to fly.
The act of Temperance can also refer to the coming together of two distinct beings that must function as one. Obviously this refers to relationships, but also to friendships, partnerships, and all kinds of compromises and committees. This can also take place on an internal level, when you confront your deepest desires and your most irrational fears and, instead of getting rid of them, you incorporate them into yourself and grow stronger because of the temperance. If you throw away your Shadow it cannot help you, but by accepting it you bring it under your control. Perfect harmony with oneself is one of the two lessons of this card, and the one often seen in readings.
Temperance also represents an appreciation of moderation through experience of the extremes; to use an analogy, to live through the darkest night and the brightest day to appreciate both the twilight and the dawn. Only through seeing and acknowledging both sides - the positive and the negative - can you integrate both into your personality. Another facet of the Temperance card is that you must not strive to become totally positive, even though that might seem like a good goal. Life seeks balance and if you strive to be a totally positive being you will be fighting the current all the way. Better to embrace moderation and go with the flow.
The two situations in which Temperance will most often appear are in the context of your relationships with others and with yourself. In the former case, a need for balance is often implied. Conflict can only be resolved through compromise and cooperation, and two people who both acknowledge this cannot be in conflict for long, because they always balance things out before they become problematic. Likewise, they enjoy the good times but know that they cannot last forever, and are not disappointed on darker days. If a relationship seems out of balance in any way, Temperance must be taken as a sign to start fixing things before it gets too far out of balance and it is irrevocably destroyed.
Often, though, before you can achieve harmony in your relationships with the people around you, you must make peace with yourself. Inner imbalances can often manifest in the physical world if they are not attended to, whether or not the imbalance is a negative one. Having a lifestyle that is optimistic to the point of believing yourself to be invincible will lead to problems, maybe even more so than a lifestyle of pessimism and paranoia. Balance is best achieved through turning to the Inner Voice for guidance. Temperance is a card of health, and its appearance shows that your inner power is ready to heal you and make you stronger.Copyright 2000 James Rioux