Sense and Sensibility
When I interpret the Temperance card, it is usually in one of two ways. First, there is temperance in
the sense of tempering a blade or other tool for strength, putting it first in fire, then in water,
then in fire again -- the process of stressing and blessing creating something that endures. The other
way I look at Temperance is in terms of moderation, finding a balance between extremes. In many decks,
such as Rider-Waite-Smith, an angel or woman is shown standing partly on water and partly on land,
pouring from a blessing vessel, symbolizing what seems to be a synthesis between these two
interpretations: moderation, balance, blessing, strengthening.
For my Temperance card in the LiteraTarot deck, I chose the book Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen.
The story of the two Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, seems to me to capture both senses of the
Temperance card. The emotional stresses and challenges strengthen and transform both women, bringing
them to a balanced, temperate center. Dreamy, romantic Marianne grounds herself in more realistic views
of love, and achieves "an apparent composure of mind. . . which must eventually lead her to contentment
and cheerfulness." Elinor, on the other hand, who perhaps erred too far to the other extreme of
correctness and propriety, allows her loving heart to have the full expression it longs for. Marianne
becomes less selfish, and Elinor comes to accept that her own needs and desires are valid as well. At
the end of the book, the sisters are happily married, both their families blessed by the angel of
temperance. In my card, Elinor attends to the practical duty of the moment, while Marianne loses
herself in romantic reverie. The traditional vessel pouring forth blessings is here represented by the
teapot, from which flows a brew that brings calmness, strength, and harmony.