Queering the Tarot: 14. Temperance

Queering the Tarot is a guest post series written by Cassandra Snow. Cassandra takes the most common interpretations and manifestations of the cards and discuss ways you might read them for a LGBTQQIA* client—or for yourself.

Read all posts in the series here!

cosmos tarot and oracle

Cosmos Tarot and Oracle

Queering the Tarot: 14. Temperance

The Temperance card is a beautiful, uplifting card of balance and harmony. It is also a problem card for a lot of readers. ‘Balance’ and ‘harmony’ seem like straightforward ideas, but it’s hard to read those ideas for other people and it’s hard to guess at what ‘balance’ means to the seeker and what area of one’s life needs it.

When I’m teaching, I usually start here: if Temperance shows up in a reading positively, it indicates that a karmic balance will soon swing in your favor, and if it is surrounded by unfavorable cards it is reminded you that life requires hard times as well, but that you will come through this favorably.

Afro-Brazilian Tarot

Afro-Brazilian Tarot

As such, most popular incarnations of the card include visions of rainbows—a promise that the rain always ends. This card teaches a crucial lesson about staying balanced and harmonious within ourselves and in the world around us too, and it is in this note that we begin queering this card.

While balance and inner peace are important for everyone, these lessons from Temperance hit a little harder for those of any marginalized identity, and that brings us right into the queer community and meeting their needs in a reading. It’s important to recognize how much harder finding harmony in your life and self may be when you’re trapped in a situation where you have to be closeted, where you are unsafe, or if you are at a point where you’re not even sure who you are or how you identify.

Additionally, outside clatter from queerphobic people in our lives and harmful media messages can create a wholly unbalanced self, no matter how hard we try to strike a balance. Frequently if Temperance shows up in these readings, it’s likely showing up as a reminder that finding a balance is both necessary and difficult. Surrounding cards will tell how to navigate this fine line, but certainly when queering this card, Temperance goes from being a peaceful image of someone filling one cup without depleting another, to being an image of someone stranded on a tight rope and having to stay calm.

Occasionally in a queer-centric reading, Temperance does show up bearing good news. If we are asking about the outcome of a situation where our sexual or gender identity plays a part and we receive Temperance as an outcome instead of advice, the promise of the rainbow (an obvious symbol not lost on many querants) and the promise of harmony that brings are what’s important.

Justice League Tarot

Justice League Tarot

Balance and harmony may also mean something different in the Temperance card when we start looking at our careers or any sort of vocation. In this case, this card’s lesson is that you should be seeking a situation where you can combine the things you love with the things you’re good at, and achieving balance that way. You should then also be using that energy to move in the world creating harmony with your steps. In short, Temperance frequently shows up for queer seekers as a sign that it’s time to move into an activist role within your local LGBTQQIAP+ community. You are being called on to make the world better by using your own voice and story to motivate yourself and create change, and you are being called on to create satisfaction for yourself the same way. In queering the tarot, this is actually the most common interpretation of this card that I’ve seen come up. The time to be a part of this community has passed, and it is now time to ascend into either a supporting role for other queer folk, or a leadership role in making change.

The Temperance card also speaks to moderation, and how important that concept is. As we seek to retain balance in our lives, that also means we can’t fill one cup by depleting another. That first message of self-care that I talked about is crucial for that. You can not solely pour your energy into activist work or in matters concerning your gender or sexual identity. It is so tempting to do so—I frequently have to pull back from things because I’ve lost sense of who I am beyond “queer.” It’s completely natural to give into this once we find people that accept us, but we are whole people and it’s important to monitor and nurture our other identities too. I’m also an artist, a geek, a witch, a damn good sister to siblings by both blood and choice, and so many other things that deserve my attention sometimes. Even as I, and many of us, make my money, my art, my life around queer things, it is important to nurture all sides of that beyond the identity itself.

Moderation is also an incredibly important message of Temperance for querents from our community because we have a really rad sober community within the larger queer community, and it’s wonderful that those resources are out there. That being said, the literal lesson of moderation within the Temperance card is to monitor your vices and escape mechanisms closely, and make sure you’re not overindulging. Drug and alcohol abuse are a fact of any group in society, but I know for queer clients this issue has specifically come up as a reminder not to go too far, or for those in sobriety as a reminder that life balance is ultra-key to continuation of sobriety. Temperance could also be a clue for you as a reader that the person you’re reading for is in sobriety, so be careful how you speak of indulgence or before recommending seeking community in an alcohol-soaked hangout.

book of shadows as above

The Book of Shadows (As Above) Tarot

Finally, Temperance is also a card that comes up frequently in regards to sexual and gender fluidity. It is a card of balancing multiple cups, and the lesson or vision of fluidity literally runs through the card. While High Priestess is the card I most get in regards to a fluid identity, Temperance is really valuable as well and indicates that the querent may be happier if they embrace a more fluid identity. Whereas the High Priestess most frequently indicates genderfluidity, I see Temperance show up most surrounding sexual or romantic fluidity. It can and does show up in either case however, and knowing the difference between non-monosexual identities and being sexually or romantically fluid and knowing the difference between a genderqueer or genderfluid identity is really important.

Prisma Visions

Prisma Visions Tarot

Temperance is one of the trickier cards to read for someone else, because one person’s balance is another’s chaos. Some of this will become abundantly clear by the question at hand. If someone is asking about a relationship or identity, that idea of sexual or genderfluidity is probably closest to where you need to be reading, whereas if a seeker is asking about job or community roles, it’s going to be about combining your skill sets and passions and walking with balance and alignment in the world at large. Still, in a general reading or unclear time period of someone’s life, check in with yourself or the seeker to see what resonates as you talk through this card.

It is arguably one of the most individualized in the deck, but delving into it a little deeper and relying on other cards to fill in the bigger picture will provide the crucial messages for a queer client. Additionally, it’s important to remember that tarot, like any intuitive or metaphysical art, isn’t always a clear or tangible thing with a clear cut result or message. Sometimes you’re being called to just sit and simmer on the word “harmony” and see what springs forth from there. There is a temptation of modern witches and seers to make our craft “legit” by assigning it fool-proof secular value. Sometimes that just isn’t there, and frequently the Temperance card has a deeper, more spiritual message for us that we or our querent are being asked to mull over long after the reading is done.

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