On Tarot Patrons, Part 2: Pulchritudo in Omnia

[If you haven’t read Part 1, you can do so here.]

In my previous post, I talked about the idea of having a Tarot patron, a card that represents me and what I do as a reader. I think of this card as different from a significator, representing something aspirational (outside of and higher than the self) as opposed to just reflecting my personality. And for the longest time, my Tarot patron was the old patriarch himself, the Hierophant.

But change is coming on the wind, my friends. The Hierophant has been my patron for almost as long as I’ve been reading Tarot, but of late I have felt his influence waning, and a new star is rising on my horizon.

Many months ago now, the illustrious Kelly-Ann Maddox put out a YouTube video highlighting the God and Goddess Tarot spread, with which she performs readings on her Etsy shop for clients who are looking to identify and connect with a patron or matron deity. And I, being a Tarot enthusiast, decided to use this spread to reflect on my relationship with my Tarot patron.

patrongoldbottle
This is what comes up when you search “Patron” on Google images. I should probably have seen that coming.

I won’t go into the specifics of the reading, but what’s significant is that one (and only) one card from the Major Arcana showed up–and in the second rung of the spread, no less. That card was Temperance.

I’ll be honest, I was surprised to see Temperance show up in this reading. It had never been a card that I had connected strongly with, either in a positive or negative sense. I mean, Temperance was fine. When it showed up in a reading, it was a useful card and had interesting things to say about my querents. But I just didn’t find it terribly important for my personal practice. I didn’t hate Temperance, but I didn’t love it, either. I was rather indifferent about the whole thing.

So I set the reading aside, and I didn’t give the matter any further thought. I continued in my work with the Hierophant. But somewhere behind the scenes, celestial water was being poured from one jug into another, and the balance has started to tip.

Recent months–and the past two weeks in particular*–have seen a lot of sudden, major changes in my life. Long-lost friends have returned. There are rumblings of a potential change in direction in my career. And the whole thing reeks of the alchemical process of becoming, of that crazy moment where a whole bunch of disparate parts come together to create something new and transcendent. This, to me, is Temperance.

raimundus_lullus_alchemic_page

On the traditional Tree of Life, Temperance lies on the path between the Sephiroth of Yesod (connected to the moon and the unconscious self) and Tiphereth (the sun and the conscious ego-self). It represents the process of integrating the former into the latter. This, in itself, is a very Jungy concept,** and for those of you who know me and my blog, you may well recognize it as being very in line with what I consider the purpose of my Tarot practice. Tarot for me is about this psychological transformation–a transformation that’s embedded in the Temperance card, that’s reflected in every reading I perform for myself and others, and that’s manifesting in the real world right now with changes happening in my life.

I’m also intrigued by Temperance’s second title (given to it in the Thoth deck): Art. I am not an artist, and God and the devil know I haven’t even got a drop of potential talent, but art is something that’s really quite important to me. I spend a lot of my free time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray at a very young age (and actually just finished rereading it a week or two ago), and was profoundly influenced by it. I can’t help feeling that in many ways, art allows us to transcend reality. It allows us to strive for a higher ideal, a beauty that we can’t accomplish in the mortal world.

claude_monet_-_rouen_cathedral_facade_sunset
The internet doesn’t do this piece justice. It flattens the brushstrokes and detracts from Monet’s incredible use of light. Still, this is one of my favorite pieces from the Met.

Ah, but I’m getting romantic. Forgive me. The point is, art matters to me. It really, really matters to me. And I pursue beauty in everything I do.*** It’s hard to say that without sounding shallow, but I would like to clarify here that I’m talking about a very abstract, formal, literary sense of the word “beauty”. I’m not talking about physical appearance, but about trying to live a beautiful life. I want to be the sort of person who belongs in a novel, a character of whom weary graduate students in English literature would say, “If I could have a drink with any three characters from the canon, I’d choose Gatsby, Mercutio, and Jack”. I want the story of my life to be a work of art unto itself–and a beautiful one, at that.

And while we’re at it, I want a pony, and a castle, and peace on Earth.

But for this kind of aspiration, this way of thinking about life, the Temperance card (or rather, Art) is a perfect patron. And in Tarot reading, where (for those of you who don’t already know me) my approach is very much based on the integration of tensions expressed through form and structure, Temperance is once again a beautiful patron. I’ve actually written previously on the way that Tarot can be viewed as an art.

So there you have it, ladies and germs. My imminent Tarot patron is Temperance. I haven’t quite made the transition yet, although it’s in the works, but I’m looking forward to expanding on a relationship with this card that I would otherwise never have considered trying to build.


 

*Hence the delay to my usual weekly-ish posting schedule.

**Jung never really talked about Tarot except for one talk where he mistakenly claimed that the deck originated with the Gypsies. Nevertheless, he loved alchemy.

***In the words of Oscar Wilde, “I admit that I think that it is better to be beautiful than to be good. But on the other hand, no one is more ready than I am to acknowledge that it is better to be good than to be ugly.”

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