Atu XIV: Temperance/Art
Card Number: 14
Suit: Major Arcana
Astrological Analog: Sagittarius
Theme: Union of opposites, broadened horizons, spirit and matter as one, Alchemical product
Positive qualities: Emotional and spiritual evolution, epiphany that resolves dilemma
Negative Qualities: Forcing square pegs into round holes, losing oneself in union.
Undoubtedly my favorite card in the entire deck, so this might get long. Many of the Major Arcana, particularly after Atu IV – the emperor, stress the themes of opposites. The Hierophant, though earthly, espouses divine view and doctrine. The Lovers, still two separate entities, show their longing for union. On this goes, until we might give up that which we adore but stands in our own way – in Atu XIII, Death. Here, we “die”. We realize that the perceptions and assumptions were entirely unfounded, and in Atu XIV they are built anew.
Death, as the vital ingredient for growth:
The forest might grow so wild as to eventually entangle itself into stagnation or entropy, one organism competing for resources with the next – to the point that there might be so little left for either. When done sharing, neither grows. They begin to die, susceptible to any number of conditions that might make the suffering slow or swift. The assumption and ego expressions cling forcefully by a thread, yet the greater biome requires death. And Death will come, by force or by choice. What is necessary is left standing, yet by the end of this process none will recognize it.
“Honey, I’m borrowing your favorite shirt.” The Rebus, the Lovers on Steroids:
Here we come to revisit three familiar Major Arcana: The Emperor, the Empress, and the Lovers. Initially, the Emperor and Empress were opposites with very different ideas. They found common ground in the Lovers. Here, we would say the team operates as one.
So much, that they are now indistinguishable – and unrecognizable barring a few hints.
In the Lovers, both Emperor and Empress are accompanied by beasts. The Emperor, the Red Lion representing Sulfur and masculine force. The Empress, the White Eagle representing Salt and feminine receptivity. In the Lovers, they have willingly traded modalities. The Lion is now white, the Eagle is now red. Together, they contribute to the new perception in the Cauldron, along with the Emperor and the Empress….
… Who have since become something new entirely, the Rebus. An alchemical personification of the union of opposites, in this case described as masculine and feminine. Their stylizations of hair and build are similar as it was in the Lovers, in and of itself reveals little of their identity. But it is in their unique patterning of the robes we see that the two different robes of the Lovers, a bit haphazardly mirrored and reinterpreted in the Emperor and Empress cards, has become one tunic – now exactly opposite the golden orange hues of the robes in the Lovers Card, a fair shade of green. And if ever there was doubt, they operate as one: Each head of the Rebus pays attention to what the other hand is doing – there is no explanation required, and each compensates for the other without objection. Figuratively, we would say they have learned how to do the impossible and blend fire with water. Yet here, they do so literally – as it is their contribution to the alchemical blend. They’ve only figured out how via the process of Death, and being born anew. Together, they are “left hand, right hand” – so much that we can’t distinguish which is which.
The Cauldron of Death, The Cup of Babalon, The Holy Grail actualized:
In this card, the smallest detail is the most important. The Lovers (The Emperor and The Empress), The Red Eagle and the White Lion all focus their attention upon it – the vessel, for alchemical operation. We have seen hints of this throughout the Thoth deck: The Ace of Cups, The Lovers, the Holy Grail in the lap of the Chariot, and the Cup of Babalon held aloft in Atu XI: Lust (Strength, in Rider Waite), each representing something different: In the Ace, the potential. In the Lovers, the ideal. In the Chariot, the quest. In Lust, the desire. In Art, we have since forsaken these in Death so they might be put to use. The point is illustrated: We have the formula, we have the tools, and we have the ingredients. It is the card of performing the process. In this card, we are simultaneously the gold cauldron in the center (The Ego, forming anew after being stripped down) and the two opposing higher perceptions functioning as one (The Emperor and the Empress, the Lovers – now formed into the Rebus as an inseparable force).
When the Goal isn’t the Goal:
This takes us to the analogs, particularly Sagittarius. Where we might look at Atu XIV as the accomplishment of a previous goal set, we come to realize that our vision was limited. We looked to the horizon and felt compelled to see it, much like Sagittarius. However, upon reaching it, we realized such an apex of achievement wasn’t the end whatsoever. There is much to do with this accomplishment. The Alchemist doesn’t retire upon creating the Philosopher’s Stone, King Arthur doesn’t call it a day after pulling Excalibur out of a rock. In Atu XIV, the achievement leads us to a threshold we would have never imagined. In the Hebrew alphabet, Atu XIV is represented by Samekh, translating to “Prop”. Some have confused the application of the word prop, opting to apply it in terms of it being a “fake item”, as in a “prop for theater”. Where the intention of the word is “to prop up” or elevate. A foundation props up a building or home to protect it from the various afflictions that might befall it if it was built directly upon dirt. In Atu XIV, we rise above these things. But rest assured, your resolve in these arenas will be tested again quite soon – as we transition to Atu XV, the Devil until we reach Atu XIX, The Sun.
The Hexagram of Solomon and Atu V:
The Cross-Sum of Fourteen is Five, taking us to the Hierophant/Pope. Where the Hierophant espouses the divine ideal and doctrine, Atu XIV becomes it. The Hierophant requires symbols and codex to inspire the masses, where Art embodies these naturally. There is no need for Art to hold the symbol aloft, it has become the symbol.
This is most obvious to compare the visuals of each card side by side. The Hierophant shows his symbols in very blatant ways: The Hexagram, The Pentagram, and the Pentacle – continuously weaving inward, each symbol rendered a bit more obviously as they continue inward. In the Hexagram of Solomon, that we’ve come to call the Star of David, two opposing triangles interlock to represent the union of the duality – where the realm of matter touches that which exists outside of matter: The corporeal meets the incorporeal, the mundane meets the divine.
On Spiritual, Religious, and Occult applications:
Across quite a few traditions, this goes by many names. It is the Holy Guardian Angel in Crowley’s Liber Samekh and the Operation of Abramelin the Mage. To the Orthodox, it is Theosis (“Oneness with the Divine”) to know Telos, or purpose. To the Alchemist, it’s the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone. To the various denominations of the pagan faiths, it’s the commune with the “Head Spirit”. To the Gnostic, it is to see past the veil of the Archons and know Pleroma.
Here, the Divine meets the material. High meets low. Near meets far. Most amazing of all, is to understand they were right next to each other this entire time. The bow of Artemis that crowns each face of the Rebus details this: To launch an arrow from the bow and hitting the target “closes distance” between the operator and the objective. The supposed “inability” to reach out and touch what is so far away is proven incorrect.
On the Golden Disk in the background of the card, we see the inscription of a famous phrase:
Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem
Rather, in English: Visit the interior of the earth and through rectification you will find the hidden stone.
At face value, it’s an often-invoked alchemical slogan and left at that. However, if any of the iterations of the Great Work are important to you then I encourage studying, praying, or meditating on this message routinely. You won’t be disappointed with what you learn – and bear in mind the themes of this card: The goal isn’t the goal.
When I pull this card: It’s time to pay some attention to the entire spread, and we’re looking for oppositions. These can be opposing elements. Opposing astrological placements/signs. Opposing Court Cards.
In the Court Cards, King (Knight) and Queen are opposite. Prince and Princess are opposite.
In the Minor Arcana, we have two axis’ of opposites and explaining it in detail might go beyond the scope of this writing.
- On Axis of Objective to Subjective, Fire/Wands/Subjective is in opposition to Air/Swords/Objective. Water/Cups/Subjective is in opposition to Earth/Disks/Objective.
- On Axis of Masculine and Feminine, Fire/Wands/Masculine is opposed to Water/Cups/Feminine. Air/Swords/Masculine is opposed to Earth/Disks/Feminine
To split the hair of the Minor Arcana, they represent the planets in the signs. Major Arcana represent either Planets, Signs, or Elements. If it is one of the cards that represents both a planet and an element (The Fool, the Hanged Man, The Aeon/Judgement, The Universe/The World), default to the element, with the exception of the World/Universe, which represents Saturn.
- Opposing planets. Sun to Moon, Venus to Mars, Jupiter to Saturn, Mercury has no opposition – but we might consider it similar to the alchemical Mercury, it bridges these oppositions.
- Opposing signs. Aries to Libra, Taurus to Scorpio, Gemini to Sagittarius, Cancer to Capricorn, Leo to Aquarius, Virgo to Pisces.
In the Major Arcana, I would pay attention to the opposites similarly as I would in opposing signs, planets, or elements in the minor arcana.
Numerically, I would also pay attention to repeating sums of Fourteen: In the Minor Arcana, 10/4, 9/5, 8/6, 7/7.
If we might find a theme of oppositions in the spread, good news. We’ve been handed a list of seemingly irreconcilable ingredients that are going to take us to a unique solution involving the theme of the question. So run along Charlie Bucket, take that Golden Ticket and get to the Chocolate Factory.
It’s my experience that with this Card, the obvious answer isn’t always the answer. Some are accustomed to treating this card as bad news based on observing what happens to the individual in question – despite the very optimistic themes. I agree only to a point, it’s “bad news” because the work involved to make this “Good news” is quite challenging, shatters comfort zones, and is ultimately easier to walk away from. However, I’d stress: The “Good News” that comes from the hard work of this card is worth every effort.
Regardless of the theme of the question, Atu XIV brings gravity and weightlessness to the reading simultaneously – this is no small thing to be reading on. But to merge two into one is a challenging act with it’s own reward.
*Note: Image Credit goes to current publisher of the Thoth Tarot Deck. Imagery is cited as source and there is no implication of credit being owed to the author of this writing.