Tarot Stories: Temperance and the Balance of Life and Craft



Balancing my personal life and moments of creativity has been an interesting dance. As a rule, I’ve always separated the two, writing only when I’m alone and the house is quiet or when I don’t have anything else on my mind that demands my attention, like packing for a family trip or preparing for a presentation for my Muggle career. I’ve tried to keep writing and creating art and showing up in all of my life’s roles separate from one another. But life imitates art imitates life, and sometimes life and art can occur simultaneously, the choreography of which can be tricky.


My two sons moving out of the house is a relative example. In the summer of 2021, while I was helping them both pack their things and then schlepping them off to their respective destinations (a first apartment and college), writing was set on the back burner. At the time, my novel The Scars We Choose Book Two was in the works, the majority of Book One’s readers patiently waiting to know what happened next in Scarlett’s story. But as soon as I heard packing tape screeching from my eldest son’s bedroom, her story had to wait. Focusing on anything other than our looming empty nest became nearly impossible.


Although I was dedicated to helping my sons with their moves, my mind often escaped to my desk where my book waited. For fleeting moments—especially when the waves of grief hit—I worried that I might never return to writing again. And then during my drive home from taking my youngest son to college (after I finished ugly-face bawling) a message flitted through my mind, as gentle as a butterfly on a breeze: Creativity doesn’t wait around on life to get out of the way before it steps in; it’s always there, soaking up the events and storing memories that can be stitched into future stories.


Artists and writers often inject themselves into their work. I’m no different; Scarlett’s story is partly my own. During my drive that day, it occurred to me that while I had been putting off the craft of storytelling until the moments when everything else quieted down, I was simultaneously living and experiencing the life events that would more than likely inspire future writing. As a storyteller, I don’t have to feel guilty for letting several days pass before my fingers touch the keyboard; the writing is happening inside my head and with my whole heart.


In the Tarot, the Temperance card sweeps in directly after Death—after an intense transformation—to teach us how to reconcile the past with the present, how to heal old wounds and turn their scars into stories, and how to restore harmony and balance. Temperance reminds us that it’s necessary to take time to heal, adjusting to new circumstances and pouring emotion and/or energy into new relationships, ideas, and endeavors. With one foot on land and one in the water, Temperance honors the balance of being in the here and now, while also imagining what may come.


My fellow writers, when life tilts you away from your keyboard, try to be easy on yourself. Consider the act of observation and participation not only an important aspect of living but an extraordinary benefit to your craft. Sometimes you’ll have to pause your typing to experience the moments that will inspire you. I think it’s a dance worth learning.



What's happening in the Temperance card?


The Temperance card features an angel, thought to be one of two archangels: Gabriel or Michael. In the Bible, Gabriel is a messenger of God, and his messages are mostly concerned with time and the infusion of spirit with earthly matter. Michael, on the other hand, is an archangel of healing and protection[1]. Alternatively, Temperance’s angel could be Greek goddess Iris, goddess of the sea and sky and messenger of the Olympians. In many depictions of Iris, she carries a chalice or larger vessel. In the Temperance card, the irises growing along the waterside support this mythology; they represent faith, hope, trust, valor, and wisdom[2]. In the card’s background, crawling from the water to the mountains, we see the path of spiritual attainment, its golden color underscoring the card’s alchemical references. Who can recall another golden path on which its travelers sought individual attainment? Lastly, also in the card’s background, a glowing crown-like shape hovers above the mountains, a metaphor for crowning achievement.



Temperance: A Deep Dive


When the Temperance card lands on your desk, it might be time to refocus, practice balance, and/or seek healing. Focusing on the parts of your life that need attention can also help nurture your creative energy. A vacation, staycation, a walk, research, self-care, reorganization of priorities, redistribution of need-to-haves and nice-to-haves might help you with the balance you’re seeking both in your life and in your writing.


In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author and educator Stephen Covey described a construct known as the emotional bank account[3]. Put simply, every relationship has an emotional bank account, which is balanced by deposits and withdrawals. The most fulfilling relationships thrive on aspects like trust, honesty, and commitment, and in order to establish and nurture these qualities, one must receive just as much as they are providing. There’s a statement, credit for which is unknown, that says, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” In the Temperance card, the angel’s cups are balanced; they are pouring an equal amount from one cup to the other. As writers, it’s important that we seek a similar, nourishing balance. For me, this looks like living intentionally, observing and feeling and experiencing every aspect of my life so that when I sit down to write, I can pour from a full cup.


In the 14th century, the Temperance card used to be titled “The Alchemist.” Rising in popularity during the Middle Ages, alchemy was a speculative practice that combined scientific and metaphysical theory. Preceding chemistry, alchemy’s main initiatives were creating an anti-aging or immortality elixir and changing base metals (mainly lead) into gold. Why gold? Because, according to alchemists, gold symbolized human renewal and regeneration[4]. In the Tarot, water represents these same virtues, and Temperance’s angel uses the element for restoration and recovery following significant events or circumstances.

Temperance Reversed: The Shadow

When reversed, the angel teeters off-balance, their chalices fallen, and the the path to attainment flooded. If this card lands reversed on your writer’s desk, it could be an indicator that you and/or your character(s) are experiencing an unsteadiness, an upheaval of harmony, and a challenge to set things straight. Your lead isn’t turning to gold and not even the philosopher’s stone could help you achieve immortality. The reversal of this card conveys an adjustment after a great shift in equilibrium. Perhaps your life and/or your story has been disrupted and you or your characters are striving to manage your sea legs.



Notable Symbols for the Temperance Card

Suit

Major Arcana

Element

Spirit / Fire

Numerology

In numerology, the number 14 represents the expression of personal freedom, independence, self-determination, and lingering curiosity. When adding 1 + 4, we get 5, the number belonging to The Hierophant card. Because the number five lends to change, instability, and conflict, we can infer that Temperance’s angel is working against these energies, encouraging balance and harmony.

Other Symbols

Angel—An angel is a heavenly messenger or helper.


Solar disc over the third eye—This represents knowledge and the sun.


Path—The path is a metaphor for journey.


Glowing crown—crowning achievement


Mountains—security, stability, and steady foundation


Iris—faith, hope, trust, valor, and wisdom


Water—intuition, healing, rejuvenation


Triangle inside a square—The triangle represents God, Sprit, and humanity, while the square denotes the physical world[5].



Temperance, Characterized


Temperance is an individual who seeks balance, compromise, and above all, harmony. They are a person of integrity, creative and insightful but not overly dramatic or emotional. This is an even-tempered person who might come across as a fence rider, someone who refuses to take sides.


Alternatively, during the moments when you are experiencing work-life balance and/or writing-life balance, you are demonstrating Temperance energy. Whatever it is that has afforded you the time to write apart from your other everyday roles, stay at it! Keep those creative juices flowing… from cup to cup.



Who can the figure in the card be?


A bartender, a tightrope walker, a choreographer, a yogi, a chiropractor, a healer, a therapist.



Notable characters, people, or personas


Brian Flanagan in Cocktail; Nik Wallenda of The Flying Wallendas; choreographer, dancer, and actress Debbie Allen; Dolly in my novel Only the Rocks That Float; Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting


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Sources:

  1. Hazel, D. (2019, July 16). Angels in the Tarot Cards with Donna Hazel. Biddy Tarot. Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://www.biddytarot.com/angels-in-tarot-cards/

  2. Hazel, D. (2019, July 16). Angels in the Tarot Cards with Donna Hazel. Biddy Tarot. Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://www.biddytarot.com/angels-in-tarot-cards/

  3. Covey, S. R., Collins, J., & Covey, S. (2020, May 19). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: 30th Anniversary Edition (The Covey Habits Series) (Anniversary). Simon & Schuster.

  4. Radford, B. (2016, March 24). What is Alchemy? livescience.com. Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://www.livescience.com/39314-alchemy.html

  5. Ouspensky, P. D. (2022, October 21). The Symbolism of The TAROT.



Next on the blog, I will continue my Tarot Stories series with the next card in the Major Arcana: The Devil. But, don't worry. The Devil only has as much power as you allow.



In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.


Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself. And that's a good thing!


When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.





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