Temperance and the Star

I associate strongly with Water imagery, so it’s no surprise that I love both Temperance and the Star. I was thinking recently of the similarities and differences between these cards, and I want to suggest the possibility that Temperance is more of a human-scale quality while the Star represents qualities that are more divine. Perhaps by “human” and “divine” there I mean something more like “bounded” and “unbounded,” respectively, but human and divine seem to describe the ways I would look to experience these cards in my life.

Temperance and the Star are both pouring: Temperance is pouring from one vessel into another, and the card can represent in part the correct balance or mixture of two substances. This idea of pouring a finite amount from one finite vessel into another finite vessel is very familiar to us in our everyday lives.

By contrast, the Star is just pouring out, endlessly, upon the earth. Although she is pouring from a bowl that should be almost empty, my image of her is that she is constantly refilled from within, just as a star shines on us without being diminished in our sight. At first, the association of a Star with Water imagery seemed odd to me, but now it makes sense; she is pouring out blessings, healing, and all good things, in a gentle but ever-renewed stream, just as the stars’ gentle light is always available to us.

This perspective was reinforced by the recasting of the Star as Grace in Lunaea Weatherstone’s Mystical Cats Tarot, which I was just exploring via the Fool’s Dog app. (Aside: I love the Fool’s Dog apps for exploring a new deck. If I want to get the physical version, I can; if one particular deck is not for me, then very little time and effort and no physical resources have gone into the exploration. The Mystical Cats deck is definitely for me, though!)

However else we describe it, to me grace is defined in part by its boundlessness; a grace that is limited or partial is grudging and shoddy and not really grace at all. This kind of grace is an ideal, though, and because of that it’s not really human. For example, as much as a minister, priestess, or healer can want to be a conduit of grace, one of the lessons we all learn is that as human beings, we are limited and constrained. We cannot constantly give without renewing ourselves, and there are some things we cannot give. It’s not that healing or blessing is a zero-sum game and that we are sacrificing ourselves for others, but we don’t have the boundless inner resources of a star, either. Even if the blessings flow entirely through from the spirits, our time, energy, and attention are limited. We all have to learn to find our balance, to do what’s best, what we can, and what works. This approach is much more like Temperance – being temperate in the sense of applying ourselves best, and that when we do approach empty, we find ways to refill ourselves.

If I were to apply these interpretations in a reading, I would adjust whatever advice I was giving related to Temperance to try to apply it to a human scale: look for ways to refill yourself, find balance within the finite nature of your situation, and so on. For the Star, thinking about grace, I would advise someone to look to the divine more directly, including looking for the hidden but always-renewed sources of peace, blessing, healing, and joy in their heart and soul.

What do others think about the tentative comparison I’ve established here? Do you see similar human/divine connections between other cards in the Major Arcana?

Tea and Temperance

Today, I found myself in a Tarot card.

In her excellent book 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, Mary K. Greer spends a whole chapter on embodiment. (p183 ff) At its most basic, this means mimicking the posture or body position of the figure(s) on the card in questions in order to get a better understanding of the card. I believe, and more and more science is demonstrating, that we are inherently embodied creatures. Our metaphors like “cold shoulder” and “wash my hands of it” aren’t merely figures of speech – or more precisely, they are figures of speech because they reflect our embodied experiences, which run deeper than we might expect. Studies have shown unconscious physical associations with both of those phrases that directly affect how we perceive and interact with the world around us.

Greer’s example card for this exercise is the Four of Pentacles. While this is usually described as a “miser,” when I sat in the position of the person holding the pentacle in front of her chest and belly, I felt immediately as if I was shielding myself or warding something off. I wasn’t guarding the pentacle – I was using it to guard myself.

Today I had an insightful experience where I realized I was enacting another card: Temperance.

I love tea. I love it so much that I mention it on my “about me” page. But I’m not all that great at being extremely precise and exacting in my tea brewing, especially not first thing in the morning, or when there’s dishes in the sink and it’s easier to use the microwave than the kettle, etc. So most of the time, my tea tastes okay but not great. The universe has evolved a solution to this dilemma, though, in the form of the automatic teapot. I got myself one, and the heavens parted, the light shone down, the household spirits sang in harmony. Now I can drink great tea all the time. It’s fantabulous. (Those who think that labor-saving devices will lead irrevocably to decadence and the decline of civilization, sure, whatever, but at least we’ll be drinking good tea while doing so!)

But it’s also pretty dang heavy. The carafe has the heating element built into the bottom, so when you lift that plus a liter of tea, you’re suddenly handling something that’s not just steaming hot but also heavy for holding in one hand. As I was pouring from the carafe into my mug, I literally felt the transfer of weight between my hands, and noticed how much more comfortable it was to hold them both when they were more balanced.

Suddenly, there I was in the Temperance card, pouring between two vessels. But while most interpretations of this card talk about “mixing” two things, this interpretation was about weight.

A heavy weight is easier to bear when it’s more balanced. And all of you who have reached out to me, even in what you might think are “little” ways, are helping me keep my balance as I’m dealing with some heavy stuff. Thank you.