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Tarot and the Sign Sagittarius

By Anthony Louis

On November 21, the Sun began its month-long trek through Sagittarius, the sign of the celestial archer, which is assigned to the temperance card of the tarot. Sagittarius’ ruler, the planet Jupiter, is linked to the tarot’s wheel of fortune card. The sign Sagittarius belongs to fire, one of the four elements of Greek philosophy. The tarot’s fiery suit of wands depicts typical scenes from human life having to do with inspiration, enterprise, action, energy, enthusiasm, competition and achievement.

The Cardinal Virtue of Temperance

The Greek philosophers, beginning with Socrates, spoke of four natural virtues: prudence (i.e., wisdom, or virtuous use of the intellect), temperance (i.e., moderation and self-control, or virtuous regulation of the emotions), fortitude (i.e., courage, or virtuous effort of the human will) and justice (the result of the combined virtuous activity of the intellect, emotions and will). These four virtues were also called the cardinal virtues (from the Latin cardo, meaning “hinge”) because all other virtuous attitudes hinge on them, just as the four seasons of the year hinge on the cardinal signs of the zodiac.

One theory of the origin of the tarot argues that the tarot cards are a picture book designed to teach moral and spiritual lessons. In support of this theory, the tarot does have major arcana cards for three of the four cardinal virtues: temperance, fortitude (strength) and justice. Missing from the tarot is a card for prudence (wisdom), but the originators of the tarot may have felt that proper use of the tarot would result in wisdom, that is, virtuous use of the intellect.

Temperance and the Tarot

Temperance Tarot CardIn the tarot, temperance refers to the blending, moderation and tempering of disparate elements to achieve a balanced whole that is greater and more harmonious than the sum of its parts. The Rider-Waite-Smith temperance card shows a winged angel with one foot in water and the other on the Earth. The Sun rises in the background, and the angel is pouring a liquid from one chalice to another. All four elements (fire, earth, air, and water) are harmoniously blended on the card, and the angel is mixing the contents of his two chalices in a balanced fashion.

The word “temperance” derives from the Latin temperantia (moderation and self-control). The Greek word for temperance is sophrosune, which also means moderation and self-control, but with the added sense of harmonia (well-balanced integration) of the soul. The virtue of temperance is found in the inscription on Apollo’s temple at Delphi, which has been translated as “nothing in excess” or “everything in moderation.”

Artists sometimes portray the Roman goddess Temperantia as standing under a rainbow, an ancient symbol of the harmonious blending of elements. The rainbow consists of seven colors, one for each visible planet of our solar system. The giant multicolored arch that appears after a rainstorm looks like a divine bow similar to the one used by the celestial archer Sagittarius. The principles of tolerance and broad-mindedness suggested by the rainbow are positive attributes of natives of the Sun sign Sagittarius.

Jupiter and the Wheel of Fortune

Fortune Tarot CardJupiter, the ruler of Sagittarius, is traditionally called the greater benefic, that is, the god of luck and good fortune. The wheel of fortune card of the tarot teaches us that luck can change and that fortune is really part of a universal cycle of ups and downs. By linking temperance (Sagittarius) to the wheel of fortune (Jupiter), the tarot may be advising us to “temper” ourselves through developing the virtue of temperance so that we are better able to cope with the inevitable downturns in our fortune.

Questions Posed by the Temperance and Wheel of Fortune Cards

When the temperance or wheel of fortune cards appear in a reading, we should ask ourselves a series of questions. Are we acting with a balance of intellect, will and emotion? Are we being fair and just in our dealings with others? Where in our lives are we going to extremes or behaving in excess? Are we taking advantage of opportunities and lucky breaks? Are we prepared for good as well as bad times? Are we confronting situations that allow us to temper our character, like steel, to make ourselves stronger and more durable? Are we blending the disparate elements of our lives into a more beautiful and harmonious whole?

Tarot Meditations While the Sun is in Sagittarius

The period when the Sun transits through Sagittarius and makes ready to enter the underworld at the Winter Solstice is an excellent time to meditate on the tarot’s temperance and wheel of fortune cards, as well as on the fiery suit of wands of the minor arcana.

To prepare for meditation, sit or lie in a comfortable place and allow your body to be free of tension and distractions. Pay attention to your breathing. Feel your breath go in and out as you inhale and exhale. If distracting thoughts enter your mind, simply observe them and allow them to float by as you gently return your attention to your breathing. When you have established a steady, comfortable rhythm of breathing rhythmically in and out, turn your focus to the tarot card you have selected for meditation.

Observe the card and contemplate its images. Imagine yourself as a character or element in the card. In your mind’s eye, enter the card and become part of its scene. What are you thinking and feeling? What questions are you asking of the other characters in the card? What do they expect of you? What is the story that underlines the scene on the card? How does that story relate to your own life? Take your time playing out the story as if you were in a dream. When you have completed your meditation, you may wish to record your observations in a tarot notebook for review later on.

Further, if you are interested in the connections between tarot and astrology, here are some books you may find useful.

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot by Rachel Pollack, Element Books.
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack, Thoresons Publishing
Tarot and the Journey of the Hero by Hajo Banzhaf, Weiser Publications.
Tarot Companion by Tracy Porter, Llewellyn Publications.
Tarot Plain and Simple by Tony Louis, Llewellyn Publications.

Notes

What is the Tarot?

The traditional tarot consists of 78 cards divided into 22 major arcana cards (greater secrets) and 56 minor arcana cards (lesser secrets). The major arcana cards depict 22 spiritual lessons in allegorical fashion. The 56 minor arcana cards are similar to a modern deck of 52 playing cards and consist of four suits containing ten pip or numbered cards plus four court cards in each suit. The most influential tarot deck of the past century, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, was conceived by Arthur Waite, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith and published by Rider in 1910.

Bio:
Anthony Louis is the author of Horary Astrology Plain and Simple and of Tarot Plain and Simple (Llewellyn Publications) and has also authored computer reports on secondary progressions and vocational astrology for Halloran Software. He has lectured internationally and has been published widely in astrological literature. Send an email to the author.


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