We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

MapQuest Doesn't Help
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“Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation.” - William Lyon Phelps

I've never been one much for the "middle road." The middle road is boring. This virtue, Temperance, is tough for me, given to excess as I am. Excess is where I am inspired, creative, productive and feel as if I am truly alive. I have had to learn moderation, it doesn't come naturally to me. Moderation feels a bit too "safe" for me, a bit too tight-ass, like someone made a rule that says, "You can go this far, but no farther." Fool that I tend to be, I'm pretty sure I can go farther, especially if you get in my grill and tell me no. Still, I have to agree with Mark Twain in that one can easily take temperance to extremes, just as you can take anything off the rails. He said: "Temperate temperance is best. Intemperate temperance injures the cause of temperance, while temperate temperance helps it in its fight against intemperate intemperance. Fanatics will never learn that, though it be written in letters of gold across the sky."- Notebook, 1896

That idea helps me deal with the times Temperance shows up as advice in my readings. Normally I would rail against it, because she's no fun, but I have to admit she is rather wise. Since the time of the early Marseilles decks she has often been pictured with wings, though as a personification of a virtue, she's not supposed to be an angel, per se. Justice didn't get the bell rung for her wings and neither did Strength (Fortitude), why did Temperance? Because you can't find the middle road on MapQuest, that's why. If we didn't have some divine guidance in this, we'd all be irretrievably lost. Nah, honestly, I don't know why she has wings and the other tarot virtues don't. However, I do like to think it's because, well, at least for me, I need a little extra help in order to find just the right combination of things. It takes a lot of patience and soul searching to pick out all the various components in just the right measure and come up with a way of walking though a tough time intact.

Which leads me to the other aspect of Temperance: alchemy. In some decks this is called Alchemy because it represents that quest to discover or create a new element out of existing materials. The ancient study of alchemy wasn't merely the quest to turn base metals into gold, the find The Philosopher's Stone or a panacea that would cure all the world's ills, although they certainly hoped it could yield up those treasures. It was a proto-scientific field that combined the study of the elements of the earth with spiritual knowledge and discovery. Imagine that! I wonder if "Creation Scientists" would mind being labeled "alchemists?" You think? I have a feeling they'd be insulted by the connection to magick, but really, what they profess is similar to what ancient alchemists pursued, though I think the alchemists should be the ones feeling insulted by the comparison. In Temperance that very mingling of elemental and spiritual is what is depicted, which is maybe why Temperance got her wings, in order to better symbolize the spiritual aspect of the experiment. She is often, if not always, shown pouring liquid from one container to another. Originally, she was known to be watering the wine, which results in moderate drinking, whether you like it or not. That reminds me of that story in the New Testament where Jesus alchemically turns water into wine at that wedding at Cana. Apparently the wine Jesus makes is not watered at all because when it was tasted one of the stewards said to the groom, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now."(John 2:10 NRSV) That Jesus knew how to throw a party. From what I could gather about him from reading all those stories in the Bible, he wasn't so big on Temperance himself most of the time. Tut!

Temperance is itself an alchemical mingling, a bringing together of elemental and spiritual, with patience, knowledge, wisdom (they are quite different), fortitude, and a dash of divine intervention. When she appears she bears good news, that you're on the right track, you're soon to shout "Eureka!" in your own personal laboratory. If she shows up in a relationship reading she may be saying the personalities are rather slow to mix, but they mix well with some work and patience. She's not in a hurry, so she indicates things will likely take some time, just keep at it, whatever you're doing. She warns us extremists to take caution and temper our wildishness a bit, to find that middle road, not the shortcut.

This image is from The Housewives Tarot, a really cute, 50's kitch deck that is not just a novelty deck, I promise. The fun facade is deceiving, this deck gives it to you with cheek and humor, but it gives it to you straight. Temperance in this deck is all about the alchemy, getting just the right measure of just the right ingredients in a mixer. If any of you have done any baking, you know, probably from sad experience that if you fudge or rush or don't pay attention to directions, forget it. The result is usually inedible. So disappointing when the cake you slaved over for hours tastes like poo. Bet you didn't realize Temperance has some sorrow and anger in the recipe, too, did you? Well, maybe you did. It was news to me. Just like that time I tried to make chocolate chip cookies with no baking soda. Who knew? So Temperance might be a bit tedious and boring, but the results are worth it.

There is an old saying: "The high road leads to heaven, the low road leads to hell, but the middle road leads to Faerie." If going to Faerie means enchantment and secrets revealed, magic and wonder and cookies that don't taste like ass then that middle road might not be so bad after all. But I still can't find it on a map...sigh.


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