Goddess Symbols of Temperantia and the Meaning of This Roman Goddess
Goddess Symbols of Temperantia
Temperantia is an ancient Roman goddess who embodies the concept of temperance and moderation.
Moreover, she is the female manifestation of one among four of the cardinal virtues established by none other than Plato: Temperance.
Do all the cardinal virtues have deities impersonating them?
Yes, and interestingly, they’re all female. I hope to write about them all in terms of their god or goddess symbols as time allows.
Both Greeks and Romans had their own quartet of cardinal virtues. The Greek version of temperance, was sophrosune, which means to come into utter balancethrough inner (self) knowing.
The idea Temperantia, the goddess who fleshes out the ideal of temperance deals with themes of:
“Temperance is essential, if the services of men and women are to be employed to the best and most useful effect,
nothing but temperance will assure a total success.”
Symbolism of Goddess Temperantia
None of these sound like any fun to me. I mean, ideally, I know I’m supposed to fawn all over these virtuous ideals – but me & moderation have a torrid history. I am an “all or nothing” kind of personality, so when I started exploring the personality of Temperantia (I discovered her through the Tarot), I welcomed her presence as an opportunity to incorporate more flex in my moderation-muscles.
How? Well, it’s easier to incorporate virtues into our lives when they come to us as a friend and confidante. Temperantia is much more approachable as a goddess with a personality. The virtue of temperance, however, is a real turn off because it implies a rule. The concept of moderation tends to clip our wings and smack of reform. And when it comes to reformation of personality dysfunctions – most of us suck at it.
So, Temperantia is a goddess I like to think about and meditate upon because in doing so, I find myself coming more into balance. Is it her goddess powers that balance me? Or, is it my attention to her attributes of balance, moderation and equilibrium that cause the shift? Who knows. Who cares. The point is, by exploring her flavors, my own life experience is spiced with a good dose of virtue.
And, as you may have guessed, one of the best ways to know a goddess is by learning about her goddess symbols (also known as “attributes”).
Goddess Symbols of Temperantia
In ancient art, we see Temperantia holding one pitcher in her left hand, and another in her right. Other art shows her with just one pitcher. Always there is fluid running out. What’s this all about? The fluid is symbolic of the life force – the flow of energy – chi, prana – whatever you want to call it. It’s the stream of consciousness – sentient energy.
The pitcher is the containment system of this energy. The pitcher is a parable. We are the pitchers – humans are the vessels – made of clay, and from each of us is poured the elixirs of life. Consider yourself a jar of clay, and your thoughts and emotions pour out from you. What’s coming out of you? Venom? Nectar? Vinegar? Honey? Temperantia’s jug-o-life reminds me of the direction in which my life force is flowing. This goddess symbol reminds us of the circulation of our energy, and
This is an instant-visual symbol of equilibrium. Indeed, the symbol of the triangle cannot be created unless all sides are fitted together equally. The left and right sides of the triangle are symbolic of duality. The base is symbolic of a strong foundation. Together, all three energies
form to create an ascension (the peak). This peak of the triangle represents the accomplishment of harmonic stasis. Kind of like climbing a mountain – it takes determination, preparation, will – and of course – the watchword here – balance. Once all the human elements (virtues) are combined in just the right mix, then true progress ignites and uplifts. That is, if the triangle is erect. The tip of the triangle is usually pointing north in goddess symbol renditions for Temperantia. However, it’s interesting to note inverted triangle symbolism too. This reverts back to pitcher symbolism. Inverted, the triangle is symbolic of a vessel – it even looks a bit like a chalice. More symbolism of pouring out the right mix of life-energy. More on triangle symbolism here.
Temperantia is either depicted with wings in ancient art, or the dove is accompanying her. Either way, this is symbolic of the realms of mentality. Angles, wings, birds – all of these are symbols of intangible energy in the form of thought. Moreover, they convey messages from the higher mind.
Birds and winged creatures have been symbols of divine messages (and holy messengers) for eons. So how is this relevant in our search for meaningful goddess symbols? Would it imply the business of temperance (and maintaining it) depends upon more than self-control? Yes, I think it does. I think the wings of Temperantia are a symbol reminding us that dependence upon divine forces is not only vital to maintain equilibrium, it is essential. I’ll go one step further and say the path to self-knowledge (which is essential to achieving temperance) cannot be embarked unless we invite the Divine to accompany us on our journey of self-knowing. Why? I’m not entirely sure we can know ourselves unless we enter a question-and-answer with the divine. That is, the gods/goddesses of our own design. There is us, and then there is the greater forces in which we are born from (and thus descendents of). How can we know ourselves fully without exploring our divine lineage? We are born from the cosmos, so we’ve got to hold hands (or wing) in order to connect with that knowing. Doing so is a step closer to finding serenity in balance. More on symbolism of wings here.
In Greek the term iris means “rainbow.” What a perfect symbol of balance. It takes just the right about of atmospheric moisture and light to create that magnificent visual effect. All the colors of the rainbow together are symbolic of cosmic harmony. But what about the flower? The iris flower is symbolic of the same kind of harmony.
It is honored as one of the most delicate beauties in the ancient world. It is a symbol of the reconciliation between humankind and the divine. The flower is also a symbol of the goddess, Iris, who served as a psychopomp (a guide for souls) to humans – a liaison between godkind and mankind. To Temperantia, the iris is a symbol of bittersweet awareness. The sword-like leaves are reminiscent of the wounds of battle, our internal scars endured through lessons learned at the tip of a sword (through living life in unconscious action rather than conscious awareness). With time and a willingness to endure the temporary discomfort of restraint, the human soul blossoms into a the delicate splendor that is illustrated in the iris blossom. Good things can grow from the battlegrounds of life, and Temperantia describes this paradox in gentle and deft ways. More on symbolic flower meanings here.
There are other (not as common) goddess symbols associated with Temperantia, but I think these often get confused with the goddesses posing as the other virtues (prudence, fortitude, justice). Each virtue has its own goddess, and their symbols get mixed up through the evolution of ages. At any rate, here are some other symbols that can be seen with Temperantia, but may not be exclusive to her realm of temperance.
More Goddess Symbols Associated with Temperantia
That’s a wrap for this look at the goddess Temperantia through her symbols. I admit, I’ve waxed on philosophically about the goddess symbols of Temperantia. Maybe I’ve colored this page too much with my own personal creative-crayons. Well, it’s all in good faith – perhaps my own experiences with this virtuous deity might inspire your own mythic magic.
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