When I was first learning to read tarot, I would pull far too many cards far too often. The concept was exciting, so I would ask about every little aspect of my day – what I would do later, what I had done yesterday, what I was thinking, on and on it went. One day, right before I was about to put the deck away, I decided to ask another sophomoric question: “What should I do now?” I hastily pulled a card, and then started laughing. It was Temperance. I nodded in agreement and decided to put the deck away, having understood the lesson.
On the cover of Temperance, we see an angel, hovering just slightly above the ground. He pours one cup of water into another, seeking to achieve balance between them. Likewise, we can see that he has one foot on the ground and another in the water – another sign that he is seeking to achieve balance in his behavior. In all things, balance.
If you hadn't guessed yet, Temperance is the card of balance – more importantly, it's message is to seek balance. The card does not show if the angel will successfully reach equilibrium between his two cups, but it shows that he's trying. The angel must not pour too much, nor too little – he had to keep a steady hand in order to assure that he achieves the balance he seeks. Another aspect this card can hold is the need to join forces, or combine ideas and elements in order for something to succeed – the angel can only succeed in balancing the cups by combining the water they contain.
When Temperance comes up in readings, it's asking you to assess what you need to achieve balance and equilibrium in your life or situation. Do you need to hold yourself back from making rash decisions? Do you need to push yourself forward into action? What needs to happen in order for you to reach a place where you are centered? Is there an area in your life where you are causing this imbalance? Assess your personal relationships, your work, and your recent actions – is there anywhere that you should seek the balance that Temperance urges you to find?
Applying this card in certain roles, we can see the balance finding it's way into places like Past, Present, and Future. In the past, it shows that you once sought balance – it does, however, define whether or not you achieved that balance... merely that you sought it. If you see it in your Present, you know that you are trying to find the balance in your present-day predicament. For the Future, you know you will need to start pursuing balance in order to find your appropriate path from your current situation.
Temperance can be seen in other cards of both the major and minor arcana, such as Justice and the Six of Pentacles. With Justice, we see the need for balance through just means – this equals that, cause and effect, and that people “will get theirs”. Temperance does not necessarily embody the final result of balance – it merely states that balance must be achieved and striven for. With the Six of Pentacles, we are asked to analyze who has what – who has power, money, and other element of the earth? With Temperance, it asks us to use what we identify in cards such as the Six of Pentacles to seek balance – look for ways to balance out resources between different parties, and you will achieve peace. With Temperance, the focus is less on what is or is not present – instead, focus is on how to even those principles out.