22 Lessons from the Major Arcana Part 2: Strength - Temperance

 22 Lessons from the Major Arcana Part 1: Strength - Temperance and Major Arcana Tarot Cheatsheet!

Now that the Fool has completed the first leg of his journey and explored the material world, it is time to journey through the mental world.

In this part of his journey, the Fool learns lessons that have less to do with the outer environment and functioning in the physical world, and more to do with his own psyche and moral lessons. Here, he starts grappling with larger forces and philosophical questions.

This post is part of a series that dramatises the Fool's Journey through the major arcana. I'm also going to write short stories exploring each of the minor arcana and court cards as well to really help bring the tarot to life for you through fiction!

Posts in this series will include:

If this is your first time here, start with part 1. Otherwise, welcome back and let's continue with our journey!

Keep reading to get your FREE Tarot Cheatsheets!


In the second part of his journey, through the inner, mental world, the Fool starts grappling with larger forces and philosophical questions.

Strength


Strength's Lesson

The Strength card teaches us that strength is not always physical. Your patience, compassion, and gentle spirit is what makes you strong not the size of your weapon or the sharpness of your words. In order to find true strength you need to look inside first and master yourself.

 Strength Tarot Card Meaning

You and your party stayed in the desert city for two weeks. The charioteer himself even came to visit you a few times and the more time you had spent with him the more self-assured you felt.

You felt your doubts and fears melting away and now it was time to move forward with your journey.

You had left the city a week ago and you were now in the highlands once again. You took a deep breath, revelling in the pure clean mountain air. You had always felt at home in the mountains. But then again, that wasn't so surprising considering you were raised in a mountain village.

You were far away from home now, though. To be honest, you still weren't completely sure exactly where you were going but it just felt right to keep moving and see where the road leads you.

Snowball was scouting up ahead and came running back, baking excitedly. "What is it, boy? What have you found?" you said, petting Snowball on the head. Snowball read a few feet ahead, looked back at you, and barked again.

"Looks like he wants us to follow him" said your lover. Every time you looked at her you still felt amazed at your extraordinary good luck. She was still with you even though you had no exact destination in mind. A warm feeling swelled up in your chest. Snowball barked again, breaking you out of your reverie. 

"Alright, alright, we're coming" you said as you followed the little dog up a rocky pathway. He darted up the path quickly and kept barking at you. "Yes, yes, we're coming as fast as we can" you said. Finally, Snowball stopped at the top of the hill near a rocky outcropping. You caught up with him and looked around to see what all the fuss was about.

"Oh my word!" exclaimed your lover. Right there, only a few yards in front of you was a young woman standing peacefully besides a beast of a lion! The hulking beast stood calmly, swishing its tail from side to side, and yawned so wide you could almost count all of its razor sharp teeth.

"Stay back" you said to your lover. You turned to examine the girl in front of you. She didn't seem at all scared to be with a dangerous predator. "Do you need any help, miss?" you asked.

The girl laughed. "Help? With Leo here? Of course not. He's not as dangerous as he looks" she said with a smile. 

Leo? She named him? "This isn't your first encounted with ah...Leo...I take it?" you said carefully.

She shook her head. "No, I've been friends with Leo for a while now. Every week I come here to visit him and spend time with him" she said. "You folk must be weary from your travels. Come, sit by me and I'd be happy to share my bread with you. And I'll tell you all about Leo as well" she said. 

"Thank you for your kindness, miss" you said. You hesitated for a few moments, eyeing Leo suspiciously. 

"Come now, don't be scared. Leo won't hurt you" she said in an encouraging tone. She seemed like a kind and compassionate person. You would normally assume that such a person wouldn't stand a chance against a fearsome creature like this but if she was strong enough to not only approach a lion but befriend it somehow, then you could show some courage too and sit with it. 

Snowball barked happily and ran towards the girl and the lion. She laughed and petted Snowball who sat peacefully next to the lion.

"If Snowball trusts them then we should too" said your lover. 

You nodded in agreement and went to sit with them. The girl broke her bread into equal parts and handed each of you a piece. She even kept some for Snowball and Leo! You smiled at the easy way she interacted with animals both big and small. "How do you do it?" you said.

"Well, when I first came across Leo he was quite fearsome indeed. But I noticed that he was only acting out because he was scared and hurt. There was a thorn embedded in his foot you see. My companions ran off but I couldn't bear to see a noble creature suffer like that so I approached him slowly. I even sang to him to calm him down and then I got the thorn out. We've been friends ever since" she said, stroking Leo's mane as she told her story. "You see big or small fearsome or meek, all sentient beings have feelings just like we do. What would you do if you were injured and scared? If every person you came across thus far had wanted to kill you?"

"I would of course try to defend myself" you answered. 

"Now do you understand Leo?" she asked. You felt somewhat moved by her words and looked at Leo with new eyes. As you met his big golden eyes with yours you could almost feel the peaceful strength and confidence that he exuded. "I see that you do" she continued. "You see, my friends, strength does not always mean physical force. It means inner strength, strength of character. Why seek to hurt others or use force when a few kind words and compassionate understanding can do the job?"

You felt her words pierce your heart. Seeing peace and strength of character win out in this sometimes brutal world filled you with a sense of warmth and optimism. You decided to stay with her for a while and learn how to be as strong and brave as she.

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The Hermit


The Hermit's Lesson

The Hermit teaches us that sometimes we need to withdraw from the din of the outside world in order to start hearing the small voice within. He urges us to rediscover our own rich inner world through tranquillity, meditation, and reflection.

 The Hermit Tarot Card Meaning

Having left the girl behind, you were now trekking through the mountains with your party. Night had fallen and it was almost pitch black save for the light of the stars. Even the moon did not show its face tonight.

You pulled your cloak tighter around your shoulders and shivered as you felt the biting cold wind slice into your cheeks.

Snowball walked slowly next to you, as if all of his usual energy and spirit had left him. You hated seeing him like this. You looked at your lover and it pained your heart to see her similarly suffer. She was without a cloak.

You beckoned her closer, shared your cloak, and wrapped your arm around her. She was as cold as ice! Were you as cold to the touch as she? You could barely even feel anything any more.

In truth, it was a terrible idea to be out here in the cold but you did not find shelter earlier in the day. You thought that if only you would walk just a little father you would find a pace to rest for the night. Your spirits fell. You didn't want to die like this, out here in the cold.

And then you saw it, a faint light in the distance. Your heart leapt at the sight. "Help! Over here!" you called out. The light stopped moving. 

"Please! We need help!" called out your lover.

The light grew brighter. Praise the gods! A figure approached. It was a grey bearded man, dressed in simple grey robes. He was carrying a lantern in his right hand and a wooden staff in the left. As he approached he shone a light on you and your friends.

"You're the first people I've seen out here in years" he said. Years? You were lucky that he found you. "Come, I'll take you back to my home, before you die of the cold" he said. You thanked him profusely. The hermit brushed it off awkwardly and beckoned you to follow him.

Your group walked behind him in complete silence until you reached his abode. It was a simple cave with not much in it besides for a fire in the centre of the floor space, a few pots, and some blankets. 

"I have much to offer you, I'm afraid, but I'd be happy to share with you my food and shelter" he said. "Come, sit, warm yourselves by the fire"

You didn't need to be told twice and sighed in relief as the warmth of the flames thawed your icy skin. "Than you for your hospitality, kind sir" you said.

The hermit laughed at this. "I am no sir. I left behind the trappings of society long ago. I lead a simple life out here" he began. "Excuse me for my poor manners. This is the most I've spoken in a long while" he said. He handed us each a piece of smoked fish and urged us to eat. It was simple fare but it felt so good to put something in our belies. 

You wiped your mouth. "Forgive my directness, but for what purpose are you living alone here in the mountains?"

"I can see it in your eyes, you assume I'm running away from something" You looked away, embarrassed at having been so easily caught out. 

"Don't you get lonely?" asked your lover. The hermit chuckled. "What need have I of physical company when I have the company of my own higher self and the great beyond?"

"I don't understand" you said.

"I am not running away from anything. I am running toward something. Towards my true self" said the hermit, patiently. "Out here in the silence of the mountains and under the stars I finally have the silence I need to hear the voice of my own soul" he said, almost in a whisper. You looked upon him in wonder. What truths lie behind those perceptive eyes of his?

The hermit smiled. "I can see that you are intrigued. If you want you can stay with me for a while and I'll guide you. I can teach you how to find your own inner truths through meditation and self reflection. Is that something you want?" he asked.

You looked at your lover and saw a similar hunger for knowledge reflected in her own eyes. She looked at you and nodded her assent. 

"Yes" you said, firmly. It felt like fate to come across this old hermit just when you most needed help. Perhaps the universe wanted you to learn how to hear its voice form this man. 

The Wheel of Fortune


The Wheel of Fortune's Lesson

As the wheel turns, ages come and go, fortunes rise and fall, and people are born and die. The Wheel of Fortune card shows us that nothing is permanent and teaches us to embrace the constant ebb and flow of life.

 The Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card Meaning

You found yourself walking alone through a field of clouds. Where was your lover? Where was Snowball? And more importantly, how it is that you can walk in the sky in this manner without falling?

The last time that happened you had just begun your journey. For the gods to interfere in such a way again, well, it must be important.

You kept walking aimlessly and endlessly through the clouds until you saw something strange, floating in the clouds. It was a great spinning wheel, turning slowly, fatefully.

On the right side of the wheel you saw the god of death. On the left was the great snake, the creator and destroyer. Sitting above the wheel was a sphinx and floating around it were the four guardians of the directions: the lords of the north, south, east and west. 

You took in the whole scene and gasped, finally understanding what it was that you were seeing. This was the wheel of fortune, the great cosmic wheel that marks the flow of time.

Each revolution in the wheel represents the end of a cycle, the end of an age. It represents the endless revolution and expansion of life itself. To be granted sight of it was overwhelming. 

It was then that the great sphinx looked at you, its sharp gaze piercing your very soul. "Destiny" it said and pointed forward. 

You woke with a start and sat bolt upright. "What is it? Was it a bad dream?" said your lover. You looked around. You were back in the hermit's cave again. So it was a dream. 

"A dream, yes, but not a bad one" you said. A dream of the wheel was momentous. 

"A message from the gods? What did you see?" asked the hermit, perceptive as always.

"The wheel" you said. The hermit nodded as if this were the most ordinary thing in the world. By now you had gotten used to his frustratingly cryptic ways. "It pointed forward and said 'destiny'. What am I to make of this?"

"You tell me" said the hermit, urging you to find your own answers, as always.

The dream felt so real and if your time with the high priestess and the hermit taught you anything, it was not to disregard your dreams. This could mean only one thing. There was no other explanation for it.

You looked up at the hermit. "It means that my fate is changing. A cycle in my life is drawing to a close and I can no longer stay here" you said. Would this be a good twist of fate or a foul one?

The hermit nodded. "Well, then, you must go. One does not get a message from the wheel itself every day" he said, simply. 

Although frustrating at times, you would miss the old man but you couldn't stay here indefinitely. You were both but travellers on the road of life and your time together was coming to an end. Whatever twist of fate the wheel heralded for you, you had to find out. You gathered your things, bid the hermit goodbye, and went to meet your destiny.

Justice


Justice's Lesson

The lesson in the Justice card is that we reap what we sow. It reminds us that, ultimately, we are all answerable to the universal law of cause and effect and urges us to take responsibility for our actions. Do the right thing and be balanced, open-minded, and fair in all situations.

 Justice Tarot Card Meaning

You once again found yourself in the lowlands, on the other side of the hermit's mountain range. You had passed by several villages and farms, relying on the hospitality of strangers along the way.

After being in the mountains for so long, it felt good to be in the hustle and bustle of society again. You saw more and more people, travellers, merchants, and all kinds of folk, as you followed the road into the heart of this kingdom. 

The crowd thickened now, as you were nearing one of the biggest towns in this region. There were many vendors peddling their food and wares by the roadside.

They must get travellers along this road fairly consistently for businesses to spring up around it. Many of the people seemed to be heading towards a large columned building in the centre of town.

You stopped one of the passers by. A young man with his wife and family "Excuse me, can you tell me where everyone is headed?"

"Why, the Temple of Justice, of course. We have all come to have our cases heard and judged by Lady Justice" he said.

You thanked him and decided to have a look at this famous Temple of Justice. Where you were from justice was often arbitrary and not necessarily always fair. So many people trusted this 'Lady Justice' enough to travel far and wide for her judgement. She must be genuine. 

You followed the crowd into the temple, patiently waiting your turn. After an hour of waiting, you finally got to see her. She was a regally dressed woman of middling years, standing in between two columns and in front of a veil. She held a set of scales in her left hand and a sword in her right. She had wavy dark hair upon which rested a golden crown. 

You watched her judge the cases of the people in front of you with fascination. Not a single person protested or disagreed with her judgement. She handled each case logically, with fairness, and balance. You only wished the legal system in your own land was as fair and even handed as it was in this one.

"Who is next?" asked Lady Justice and you stepped forward. "State your case" she said, dispassionately. Her voice held no trace of emotion and her face was the very picture of reason and impartiality.

You cleared your throat. "We have no case to bring before you. I have travelled far and wide and all I ask for is a moment of your time. The legal system in my land often favours the rich and powerful even in cases when the poor person is entirely justified. I just want to understand how it all works here and what you do"

"I have many cases to hear today, traveller, and I do not want to send these people home without getting their justice. But, your words intrigue me and I will afford you but five minutes of my time" she said. 

"Thank you" you replied. 

"It is true that the scales are unfairly balanced in many lands and the have lost sight of what justice is. I dedicated this temple to justice many years ago in order to change that" she began. "There is a higher law, a universal law, that sits above kings and priests. I represent that law"

"Can you elaborate, my lady?" you asked. 

"I act as a living reminder that you always reap what it is that you have sown. I judge all cases with an open mind and strive to be fair to all, no matter their caste or creed. Right actions shall be rewarded and those who do wrong shall be punished. I have never failed in this duty and that is why the people trust me" she said. 

"Do you have anything else to ask me?" she asked. If she was growing tired of our discussion, it certainly didn't show on her face.

After giving it some thought, you asked your final question. "Do you have any advice for me?"

"Just remember one thing, traveller. Consider others when you make your decisions and always act fairly and with integrity. As long as you do this, your efforts shall always be rewarded" she said. You nodded to yourself as her words resonated with you on a deep level. Not wanting to hold up those seeking to have their cases heard you thanked Lady Justice for her time and left the temple. 

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The Hanged Man


The Hanged Man's Lesson

The Hanged Man teaches us that sometimes it is necessary to make a sacrifice and surrender our need for control. When it feels like there’s nothing you can do, let go of your resistance, embrace that state of pause, and try to see things from a new perspective.

 The Hanged Man Tarot Card Meaning

You and your party walked along the road leading away from Lady Justice's town. That town was so perfectly maintained and it seemed like one of the safest settlements you had ever been to.

What other wonders would you encounter on this long road of yours?

The noonday sun shone brightly above and you felt a warm breeze graze your cheek. You took a deep breath, filling your lungs with the fresh, clean, country air. 

You took your lover's hand in yours and walked in peaceful silence for a while. Snowball was scouting the way ahead as usual. Suddenly, he ran all the way back to you and started barking.

"He's probably found something" said your lover. 

You nodded. You've been on this journey long enough to tell when Snowball was trying to direct you to something interesting.

"Well, let's go see what it is" Snowball barked once and looked at you expectantly. You smiled at him. "Coming" you said and started walking. 

You followed Snowball down the road for a few minutes. Then, he veered off path into the nearby woods. Every few yards he would stop, and look back at you, waiting. Finally, he came to a halt under a tall tree and started barking. You looked at the base of the tree, puzzled. Maybe there was something behind it? You walked around the tree. Still nothing. 

Snowball barked and jumped up. "There's nothing here" you sighed in frustration.

"Uh, you might want to look up" said your lover. 

You looked up and to your surprise, there was a man hanging upside down from the tree! "You, up there! Who has done this to you? Sit tight for a while and we'll try to get you down!" 

"I can't see you down there, whoever you are, and thanks for the offer but I'm perfectly content where I am" said the hanged man. He stretched and casually rested his hands behind his back. That has got to be uncomfortable. Perhaps all the blood had rushed to his brain and he wasn't thinking straight.

"Forgive me, but what are you doing? You need not remain like that. We can help you!" you said, not giving up. 

"I appreciate your efforts but I have intentionally strung myself up here" he said. His voice held no trace of fear and he seemed oddly comfortable up there. 

You furrowed your brows. "I don't understand. Why would you do such a thing?"

"I felt I needed a change of perspective" he said. 

"He seems like he's a bit soft in the head" whispered your lover. You weren't ready to write him off as such just yet. You had, after all, come across plenty of odd people in your journey so far. There has to be more to this. 

"What do you mean?" you asked.

"Travellers can be so oblivious sometimes" The hanged man sighed. "This is a rite I'm participating in, dear traveller. I have chosen to undertake a necessary moment of pause to obtain enlightenment. This discomfort is a necessary sacrifice"

"Why is it necessary? Can't you just sit and meditate?" you asked, genuinely confused. This isn't at all like the methods the hermit had taught you.

"It's not necessary but it's a choice. I choose to push myself to the limit and remain in stasis for as long as it takes for me to gain the enlightenment I seek. Then, and only then, shall I consider the rite complete" he began. "Though being in uncomfortable limbo like this is not always pleasant, it's a necessary part of my growth. I cannot return to my teacher until I have completed the rite"

You nodded, beginning to understand. "We all seek enlightenment through pause and contemplation. The difference is that you have chosen the path of sacrifice and seek to gain knowledge through a shift in perspective" you said. 

"Yes, that's exactly right. Would you like to join me up here, traveller? Unless there's something urgent you need to get to?" said the hanged man.

You wondered what it would be like seeing the world from that point of view. You looked at your lover. She raised her hands up. "Don't look at me, I'm not going to string myself up from a tree. But if you want to I'll wait with you and take care of Snowball. I wouldn't mind pausing for a while" she said. 

"Thank you" you said. You smiled and gave her a hug before looking up at the hanged man. "Yes, I would!"

Death


Death's Lesson

The Death card teaches us to embrace change and let go of what no longer serves us. Death is not the end, it is simply a transformation that brings about a new beginning.

 Death Tarot Card Meaning

The sky shone with the burnt orange hues of the rising sun. You had woken your party up before dawn and left camp shortly thereafter.

You had lost most of your initial enthusiasm. After you left the hanged man it felt like you had seen it all. You hungered for more but it seemed like there was nothing left here in these lands. 

You couldn't explain it but you had an immense sense of foreboding. You could almost taste it in the air. Perhaps this would be the change you needed.

Following your intuition, instead of heading west towards the road you headed east, into the wilderness. The land here was rocky, barren, and almost devoid of life.

The sun had barely begun to illuminate the landscape making the area seem darker and more foreboding than it actually was. You heard a noise in the distance, a woman crying.

"I know what you're thinking. We shouldn't go there, it could be a spirit!" said your lover, worriedly. Even Snowball looked reluctant to move.

"I don't think it is." you said, looking in the direction of the sound. "Maybe there's someone there that needs help or perhaps this is the reason why I felt compelled to travel in this direction"

"I don't like this but I trust you, so let's have a look. But make it quick!" said your lover, scepticism written all over her face. 

You nodded and headed out in the direction of the sound with your group. You had to virtually drag Snowball but he came eventually. 

You saw a group of figures gathered around a large rock. You could make out four standing figures and one lying down. Curious, you got closer to get a better look at what was going on. As soon as you saw it your heart nearly stopped. It was Death himself!

There was no flesh on his body. He was a walking skeleton dressed in ominous dark robes and had pitch black hollows for eyes! He stood over the body of a king. The crying woman must be the queen. She was with a priest who held his hands open as if asking Death to spare the life of the king. There was also a young girl with them who held out a bunch of flowers to Death with no trace of fear in her innocent face.

"Death waits for no man, whether he be a king or a pauper" said Death in a loud, booming, voice. When he spoke the air went cold and the chill seemed to sink into your very bones.

You saw a glowing, white, energy rise from the dead man's body and coalesce into the form of the king. He looked at his family sadly but they could not see him. Death waved his hand and opened a portal. After a few moments, when the king's soul saw that there was nothing left for him here, he passed through.

Your lover tugged at your sleeve and looked at you with a panicked expression. "We have to leave! Now!"

Death turned his head slowly towards you. Too late. "I see you, traveller. I've been expecting you." he said, in that voice that seemed to pierce your soul. His jaw didn't move when he said that. It was almost as if he were speaking directly into your mind. 

"Your time in this realm is at an end. Come, and see what the next one holds for you" he said, extending his body hand toward you. A thousand thoughts raced through your mind. Should you accept? Did you have a choice? You were scared but you also knew that change was necessary.

"I don't want to go anywhere without my lover and my dog" you said. 

"Worry not, traveller, their fates are tied to yours. The gods have taken an interest in you and you have been granted passage into the next realm. The choice is yours but know that you can never return here" said Death.

You looked at your lover and held her hands in yours. "I have no right to ask this but..."

She put a finger to your lips. "Don't. Wherever we go, we go together and we face it together, alright?" she said. You could see that she was scared. You were too, but you were going to do this together. 

You picked up Snowball in one arm, held your lovers hand, and stepped into the portal.

Temperance


Temperance's Lesson

The Temperance card teaches us to cultivate balance, harmony, and peace in ourselves and our environment. It urges us to seek moderation in all things and reminds us to find our calm centre within.

 Temperance Tarot Card Meaning

You emerged from the portal into a peaceful, lush, green landscape. Your lover and Snowball had made it through safely but Death was no where to be seen.

Having done his job he must have disappeared into whatever realm he came from. You shivered. You had no desire to remain around him longer than necessary.

"Is this the afterlife? It's so peaceful here" said your lover, taking in the surroundings. You felt a warm breeze caress your cheek and heard birds chirping. 

"I'm not so sure, I don't feel much different. Maybe this is another dimension? Let's explore" you said. You heard the gentle bubbling of what must be a river and decided to head in that direction.

This place was wonderful. There were tall grasses with beautiful yellow flowers and the energy of this place was so soothing and harmonious. 

You reached the river bank and saw an angel standing with one foot in the water and one foot on land.

He wore a golden crown with a disk in the centre, the symbol for the sun, and there was a holy light that shone from within him. His eyes were closed and he held two cups in his hands. It looked like he was pouring water from one cup to another. You watched him quietly, not wanting to interrupt his task.

After a few moments, the angel opened his eyes and gazed at you with such love that it moved you almost to tears. You had no words. He gave you the time you needed to recover yourself and waited patiently.

"Welcome, dear one, to the higher realms. I am Temperance and I am here to help you find your balance in this new world" he said. His voice filled you with peace and harmony. 

"May I ask, what you were doing with the cups?" you said.

"I create harmony and synergy of all things. With these two cups I am balancing the energies of this realm" he said, patiently. "In the human world, I help people find moderation in all things and create harmony in their lives. I help them balance opposing forces within themselves and in their environment"

You nodded. "What is this place and what am I to do here?" you asked.

"For now, just be. Enjoy the Garden of Harmony and remain here as long as your spirit needs. When you have found your balance and equilibrium again you can move on" said the angel. Seeing that you had no further questions, Temperance returned to his task.

You smiled to yourself. A pause in this wonderful space is exactly what you needed right now.

 

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If you're having trouble remembering the card meanings and want a quick reference to look them up when you need to, download my free printable cheatsheets for the majors, all four suits, and the court cards to help you learn!

Did you enjoy the story so far?

Now that the fool has mastered the material and mental worlds, he will embark on the next leg of his journey to master the spiritual world and seek enlightenment. 

In the next instalment we continue the Fool's Journey from The Devil through to The World. 

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Tarot Card Images: Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot by Barbara Moore, Eugene Smith © 2014 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved, used by permission.