Today we will be discussing “Temperance” and “The Devil’”

XIV – Temperance

This is the card of Artistic endeavors, Alchemists’ dreaming and Metaphors of poets: it allows us to flourish emotionally, creatively, and spiritually. Everything flows in the same direction. It shows a winged angel, both of masculine and feminine genders, that is pouring water from a silver cup to a gold cup, epitomizing the power of artistic creation that tries to make the Impossible possible (not always possible) The right balance of elements is shown by the position of the angel’s feet. One of them is on land (we need to stay grounded) and the other one is on water (we need to go with the flow) In the background there is a winding path that represents the journey of Life, and the golden crown represents our Higher Purpose in this Life. In Numerology the number 14 symbolizes Stability, and the combination of the single numbers gives 5, which is the quintessential symbol of change and upheaval.

Upright Temperance

This card  brings balance, patience, and moderation to our lives. It shows that we must keep our composure in stressful situations; we must “keep our cool.” If possible, we refrain from being stubborn and try to take “the middle road” or at least make honest attempts to understand other people’s opinions, even if we do not agree with them. It epitomizes the basic tenet of Alchemy: to combine different elements to create something altogether new. The most common example is a successful couple relationship: one individual plus another individual have a romantic bonding that is much more than the sum of the two. When this card appears, it means that we are in the right path: we are learning at a good pace, enjoying the process fully.

Reversed Temperance

After some excesses, it is time to restore the equilibrium in our lives. It could be that there was splurging on food, drinking, sex, shopping, etc. It does not mean that you have to engage in Abstinence but rather that you have to show Moderation. Something might be “off in our lives” and we should change our lifestyle. It is a warning sign “to hold our horse’s rein and dismount” before real harm happens to us.

Note. This reproduction of Piero del Pollaiolo’s Temperance was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Philosophical significance

This word derives from ancient Greek; one possibility is sophrosne, which means “self-restraint”, and the other one is enkrateias, which means “control over oneself.” Plato included temperance as one of the four cardinal virtues of the ideal city. In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, and Stoic philosopher, wrote that it separates us humans form the rest of the Animal Kingdom. The ability to control our desires and impulses differentiates us from other creatures driven by instinct only. Humans have the capacity of domesticate our appetites and not allow them to control our volition. Thomas Aquinas, the great Christian philosopher wrote: “the temperate man does not shun all pleasures, but those that are immoderate and contrary to reason.” Blaise Pascal wrote the temperance is the right balance between the two extremes of “wild desire” and “abstinence.” Immanuel Kant wrote that the critical role of the Arts and Sciences in our societies is to promote Rationality in our dealings with each other; as a result there will be temperance in the physical outcomes. Charles Darwin argued that, in order to create a harmonious set of societal relations, there must be some level of personal restrain of our animal impulses.

XV – The Devil

This card shows a representation of the Devil that is based on an earlier deity called Pan , which represented the natural beauty, lust, playfulness, the pleasures of the flesh. It was such a popular image of the Pagan iconography that the Christian missionaries decided to add the intimidating goat’s horns to scare the faithful away in the Fourth Century, a time in history when the new religion had to compete with older beliefs. When this card appears, we must ask ourselves: what is wrong in our lives? Are we stepping over social rules for our pure enjoyment? Are we harming someone, especially those persons that are closer to us? The Beast has a hypnotic stare that mesmerizes its victims. The two human victims have loose chaining around their necks, which means that they are being manipulated via their greed. The devilish influence is changing their physicality, as they are growing tails. The Beast is doing the Vulcan salute with his right hand and is holding a burning torch in his left one. In Numerology, 15 means Antagonism and the sum of the two numbers gives 6, the symbol of lovers. Even the happiest of couples, have the potential of conflict in their lives.

Upright Devil

This card represents our darkest side, all the negative forces within our spirits. Biddy Tarot said in her magisterial narrative of this card: “You may be at the effect of negative habits, dependencies, behaviors, thought patterns, relationships, and addictions. You have found yourself trapped between the short-term pleasure you receive and the long-term pain you experience.” When this card appears, we must pay attention to some core beliefs that could have been mistaken or outdated under the present circumstances. This card is a powerful beam of light that illuminates a darker side of ourselves. It is a golden opportunity to correct what is truly necessary.

Reversed Devil

When this card appears, it means that, before undertaking a new journey in your life, you must get rid of some excessive ballast that could slow your boat’s progression. It could be a toxic relationship, drug or alcohol abuse, bad career choices, etc. Also it might mean that you have to face adversity and manage your stress and anxiety. Or perhaps you are hiding a terrible secret from your loved ones? Clean your act. Moreover, you should practice the Buddhist technique of detachment to appreciate a better perspective in an old problem or challenge. The time to change is right now.

Note. This reproduction of Caravaggio’s David with the head of Goliath was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Philosophical significance

Ever since the Holocaust, social scientists, social activists, politicians, journalists, media influencers, etc. have been trying to understand why certain human beings commit these unspeakable atrocities on other people. This is more relevant than ever in our times when Ukraine has been invaded by barbaric Russian forces intent on harming thousands of civilians to coerce the defenders into surrender. There are:

  1. Broader concept of Evil: it picks any broad state of affairs, vengeful action, or character flaw. It is divided in turn into natural evil (i.e. a hurricane) and moral evil, which requires the action or default of moral agents.
  2. Narrower concept of Evil: despicable actions in a limited context.

Some evil skeptics have questioned its use due to the following reasons:

  1. It brings an unwanted metaphysical concept that implies the Supernatural.
  2. This concept is useless because it lacks explanatory power.
  3. Could be wrongly used causing harm to innocent people.

We will continue discussing the various implications of the Concept of Evil in an upcoming podcast.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us. Don’t leave me alone.


5 thoughts on “Symbology in Tarot – Major Arcana Part VIII

  1. Good morning Dr. sahib.

    Certainly, we’ve to act in moderation and shun heightened emotional outbursts since walking in the middle of the road takes us somewhere whereas when we act without any introspection, it means we are using more of our brain and neglecting our heart.

    What is happening in Ukraine is really very tragic. it should be borne in mind that no problem could be resolved ‘through the barrel of a gun’. One day you’ll have to sit across and talk with each other to resolve differences.

    Tanks and warm regards



        Thank you ever so much for your most valuable comments, on my write ups too. Your comments are always of motivational value.



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