Tarot: Symbolism of the Temperance

Hermit’s view on the Lady of the Crescent Well as the Temperance:

Trump 14 in the Revenant Tarot deck.
Trump 14 in the Revenant Tarot deck.

Alchemy and harmony are what the Temperance is all about. Mixing two substances in precise proportions so that they balance each other and flow together, but always in moderation. Dezna, also known as the Lady of the Crescent Well, is the daughter of the Wanderer, goddess of Autumn, and Alromé, the god of Spring. She is equal parts water and air, feminine and masculine – in energy, anyway – and has tasted both freedom and seclusion. Dezna controls the oceans’ tides, and so learned early on how easily the precarious balance of too much and too little can be tipped. She is also a goddess of healing, and alchemy, which makes her a near-perfect fit for this card.

There are many similarities between this version of the Temperance, and the Rider-Waite one. In that version, the card’s space is taken up mostly by a red-winged and white-robed angel, with one foot on dry land and one in the water. In the Revenant deck, we have a young goddess in a silver dress, sitting on a rock, with one foot dipping into the water and one resting on another stone. The land, in this case, represents the material, physical world, and the worries and needs thereof. She is firmly grounded in this world, since she is sitting on the stone, which serves as a reminder to make realistic goals, be grounded in our ambitions. She doesn’t dwell on forcing herself to be grounded, though, since her gaze is pointed up, at the water forming an orb above her.

The water, in this and many other cases, stands for the Otherworlds, the unconscious land of dreams, and the wisdom held there. While Dezna only has one foot in the water, she is playing with it, experimenting and thinking about it. She draws the water up from the pool of the unconscious with her right hand – which signifies the awake and logical mind – and pulls it up into an orb with her left hand, which, because of its position, in this case represents the super-conscious mind, or super-ego. The flow of water from bottom to top represents the raising of awareness from a lower plane to a higher one. Dezna is balanced in all three minds, which serves as a reminder to be balanced in all three areas of the self: body, mind, and spirit. These three areas are also represented by the stones upon which she sits (body), the pool that she draws the water from (spirit), and the air that helps to shape the orb (mind).

Another message in this card can be seen if we look at Desna’s arms, and imagine a blade in place of the water. In this case, it would seem as though she’s checking the blade’s sharpness and strength, seeing how it had been tempered. In this case, the querent would be the steel of the sword. After the fire of the Death card, the blade has now been quenched, and strengthened by the heat. However, the blade can crack if it isn’t quenched properly, and in this light, Temperance is a card of healing, resting after turmoil, and not just heading straight in to something else. Only half of Dezna’s foot is in the pool, which signifies a need to “test the waters” before jumping in to unknown situations.

The zodiac sign for this card is Sagittarius, a teacher of truth, enthusiasm, tolerance, and beauty. Sagittarius is a centaur, the mixing together of two completely different beasts, man and horse. A melding of freedom and thought. It is a reminder that sometimes opposites, however irreconcilable they seem to be, can be made to compromise, and form something incredible and effective. Sagittarius is also represented by a bow and arrow, another melding of two opposites. The bow is stationary, but helps the arrow to fly, and both would be useless without the other. However, as anyone who has ever picked up a bow and arrow for the first time and tried to shoot it knows, it takes time, patience, and experimentation to be able to shoot well, accurately, and precisely. It also takes moderation, because too many failed attempts to shoot will leave behind bruised arms, cut thumbs, and very, very sore fingers.

The rune on this card is Laguz, the watery rune. It is change embodied, the alchemy of turning one form of matter or energy into another. It’s about flow of one idea or movement into another, a shapeshifter. It can be used in the working of energy, or the shifting of awareness from plane to plane, as Dezna does with the water. It is also a deceptive rune, which draws in the caster and forces them to come face to face with themselves. It’s not a rune that can just be dipped into, like a toe into a river, it is one that must be jumped into with the full intention and ability to swim. It is another reminder to experiment carefully, as there can sometimes be a riptide swirling just under the surface.

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