Losing My Temperance
Queer Tarot, pt. 15
Look at me finding my way through the chronic fatigue brain-fog and finishing three entries in my LGBTQIA+ Tarot series in one day! (however long they take to be submitted and published)
If it's your first time reading my series, or anything on the Tarot, a moment of catch-up:
The Tarot is a series of symbols added to playing cards, depicting a spiritual journey, so the drawing of the cards from the deck can be used for meditation or fortune telling. The artist whose deck is most known as the "traditional" deck to modern knowledge, Pamela "Pixie" Colman Smith, was biracial and bisexual, and once you know that, it's hard to un-see the influence it had on her Tarot art. So I sought out Tarot readers in queer groups, and queer people in Tarot groups, online, to give me their perspectives to compile into this little series of blogs.
(to clarify: I use the word Queer, always, as a term of pride, never of shame)
Click on the links following to catch up completely: so far we've met the Fool; the Magician; the High Priestess; the Empress; the Emperor; the Hierophant; the Lovers; the Chariot; Strength; the Hermit; the Wheel of Fortune; the Hanged Man; and Death.
And here we are at Temperance!
Temperance is THE non-binary card, if there's one above all others; everything about the image suggests the "middle path" or "middle pillar", and there are layers of meaning in that for readers whose sexuality or gender identity goes beyond the binary.
"The Temperance Movement" might be the thing you associate with that word, or it might be how the word came into your vocabulary - moral cleanliness through abstinence, before there were such things as Alcoholics Anonymous or Rational Recovery. But no, that's not what Temperance is, in a dictionary sense or a Tarot sense. A temperate climate is one that lies between the heat of the tropics and the cold of the poles. Tempered metal is the proper blending together of all the layers of metals in smithcraft. Let me know if you're getting the idea of what this Tarot card image could symbolise to someone who's, let's say, genderfluid or bisexual!
Let's start, true to the message of the card, with the image in the centre. The Angel. One of the few things we're told about the nature of angels in the bible - our main source book of information about angelic spirits - is that, when we get to heaven, we will "...neither marry, nor be given in marriage, but will be like the angels in heaven"; and the way most interpreters understand that, is that angels are gender neutral and asexual. Some philosophies go further into the idea of the Divine Androgyne, a being who needs no outer affirmation of sexuality or gender identity since the perfect sense of fulfillment in balance of inner masculine and feminine is fully present. This, a Gnostic teacher may say, is what we as humanity once were, in our old divine state, and what we once again can be, when we once again reach divine heights.
The angel is red-winged, white-robed, and gold-crowned. Red and white are traditionally occult colours of the masculine and feminine, and this figure has both; while gold is the perfect substance that emerges from the purification of lesser substances. Red, white and gold were the names given to stages the workers materials went through in the process of being perfected, in old alchemy. On the one hand, alchemy gave birth to modern chemistry; on the other, alchemical symbolism became metaphors for the mind when psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis first became a thing. Go "deep into the mines" (into the dark recesses of your mind); get the "raw ore" (the part of yourself you need that got lost or went rotten); "purify the gold within" (get rid of the layers of loss, forgetfulness, guilt, doubt, fear and shame, so your forgotten qualities can shine again). In earlier versions the figure was read, yellow, green - all four colours of printers' ink available for the design, and the colours of all four elements.
The fairly clear and obvious symbolism in the fact that the angel in the card has one foot on earth, one foot in water, and is themself a creature of air and fire, I will leave those of you who find your sexuality and/or gender identity anywhere in the middle space between the opposite ends of those spectrums, to contemplate and meditate upon. Perhaps something will become clear and obvious to you about yourself, that you never saw the sings of in your own life before. That, too, is a message the Temperance card can be sent to give you: take your time. Discovery, especially self discovery, comes more often from slow recognition than sudden revelation. Some like, and some dislike, the use of the word "Queer", especially its inclusion as a letter in the LGBTQIA+ acronym. But not only can it be useful and empowering to someone who knows that they're something on the spectrum of gender and/or sexual identities, but doesn't quite know what; someone who's not taken the middle path out of some sense of wisdom, but because they feel like they're floating in the middle space having lost the ability to define themselves by the sexual or gender binary. Not only that, but the Q in LGBTQIA+ can and often does also stand for Quetioning - someone who's not yet ready to accept any label, even such a nebulous and numinous one as Queer, but is in the process of exploring non-conformity to the expected binary roles. One of the reasons for "all these new labels" that transphobes and homophobes complain about, is just this: "I have no idea who I'm attracted to or what my sexuality is or how to label it", can in itself be a definition of your sexuality. And, "I have no idea what kind of masculinity or femininity I feel most like my true self in, or how to label where I fit on that spectrum" can in itself be the defining thing about your gender identity.
Alice Cooper touched teenagers' lives in his early days with his song I'm Eighteen, about how teenagers don't know who they are because they get put upon them from others that they're kids, and that they're adults, at the same time:
I'm in the middle without any plans , I'm a boy and I'm a man
Don't always know what I'm talkin' 'bout , I'm livin' in the middle of doubt
'Cause I'm eighteen , I get confused everyday
Eighteen, I just don't know what to say...
That's how the song starts. But this wasn't a lament; it was a CELEBRATION. I'm this and I'm that; I'm not this and I'm not that; I'm just me, not anything that fits into anyone's box. The song ends:
...I'm eighteen AND I LIKE IT!
(And I love that I got to make this point by quoting a man with a woman's name!)
If you'd like to contact me through social media to have a reading with me online, using the perspectives I've shown above, you can click Here. If you'd like to join my LGBTQIA+ Tarot group on bookface, you can click Here.