Placement: The Major Arcana

Description: The Temperance angel stands at the edge of a river, with one foot on land and the other in the water. The angel has two jugs, and pours water from one jug to another. In some versions, the angel appears androgynous, in others, there are two pairs of jugs.

In Rider Waite, zir robes are white, though ze wears dark red and blue in many older decks.

There is some debate as to what exactly Temperance is doing in the illustration. Is ze distributing the water equally between the two jugs so that two people may not go thirsty? Is ze testing zir water for purity? Is ze (oh horrors!) diluting wine?

Right side up:

Recovery from a loss. Temperance shows up in the Major Arcana immediately after Death. One foot on land represents acknowledging the material world, and the foot in the water acknowledges the spiritual world. Stepping into the water is akin to finding your footing again after trauma. Note that the Temperance angel does not dive headfirst into the water. The rocks are slippery. Recovery is slippery. Angels hate getting their down feathers wet.

Temperance is no fool. Ze is the opposite of The Fool. They may take the same geometry class but otherwise, they might as well be strangers. Temperance and Justice take lunch together in the cafeteria every day, each eating only one scoop of instant mash washed down with spring water and a multi-vitamin, while The Fool orders poutine, a chicken leg for his dog, a basket of Twizzlers filled with Pixy Stix, and a root beer float which he immediately spikes with Kahlua.

Upside down:

You have gone to extremes, so extreme that you may as well spell it eXtrEEEEEm! framed in jagged neon green. You “dive right in”, as they say, hitting “rock bottom”, and finding yourself “in deep”.

(A troubling thought occurs to me. To hit the rocks at the bottom, the water must be shallow. How then is the diver in deep? How fast is the current? Are there eels?)

You may fall into any number of destructive extremes, such as addiction, debt, clutter so wild that you must send an expedition of scouts to find your kitchen, or furiously obsessing to the point of sleeplessness over a diving analogy gone wrong.

Breathe. Center yourself. Have a multivitamin and some (sacrilege!) watered down wine.

Classic Temperance deaths:

  •  extreeeeem thirst
  • Worrying about worrying about worrying
  • Following Death
  • Trusting random heavenly bartenders