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Melanchollic 
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The Temperament Experiment


Often the four classical elements are associated with the four suits of the Tarot's 'minor arcana'. These same four elements are also considered the source and cause of the four traditional humours, or temperaments.

An interesting experiment might be to describe the basic 'personality' of these temperaments without revealing their name or given element, and seeing which suit we think best 'fits' the description. This might give us some insights into the often debated correlation between suit and element.

The poll for temperament #1 is here:

http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=83953

Temperament #2 is here:

http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=83955

Temperament #3 is here:

http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=83956

And temperament #4 is here:

http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=83957



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Last edited by Melanchollic; 10-08-2007 at 03:45.
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Melanchollic 
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Comments, Critiques, Analysis


Hi Everybody,

General comments and stuff can be posted here about this poll.

A couple of people have commented that some of the temperaments didn't fit exactly with the suits and had trouble voting. This of course is a total subjective view, as there is no definitive set of suit meanings, and the whole point of exercises like this is to objectively look at aspects of historical systems and how they can possibly bring meaning to the tarot suits.

The descriptions of the temperaments come primarily from the book The Four Temperaments: A Rediscovery of the Ancient Way of Understanding Health and Character by Randy Rolfe (Publisher: Marlowe & Company, 2002).

My given descriptions of the temperaments are pretty much the same as they would have been back when they were part of orthodox medical science.

We've already had between 10 to 20 votes for each temperament, and the results have had a few interesting surprises.

After the voting slows in a week or so, we'll see which elements dominate which suits and see what insights we can take from it all.

Thanks everyone for joining in. It should be illuminating.


M

Last edited by Melanchollic; 12-08-2008 at 14:43.
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I made a reply in post 8 of The Temperament Experiment #4 that tries to address in a nutshell why temperaments and suits may not really reflect one the other.

Suits may be more likened to symbolic classes of people, or activities, in which each of the temperaments occurs, rather than reflect temperaments themselves.

I realise that many books tend to treat the suits 'as though' they were symbolic representations of temperamental traits, but frankly personally think this is one of those derivations from the GD that has lead us somewhat astray in looking at what tarot presents as symbolic implements or tools.
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Melanchollic: This an interesting experiment, & appreciate your taking the time to post the individual threads for each temperament category.

I am curious: are these temperaments related to the ancient theory known as the four humours?

[Edited for typo.]



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Last edited by MeeWah; 11-08-2007 at 12:08.
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Results


I think the voting has slowed enough to be able to take a look at what we've found.

I'd like to thank everyone who voted. I think the results of this poll show some interesting and controversial things.

So here are the names and elements of the different temperaments revealed, and the poll results as they stand now:

Temperament #1 - Sanguine/Air

Swords....16.67%
Cups.......52.78%
Coins........5.56%
Batons.....25.00%


Temperament #2 - Phlegmatic/Water

Swords....13.51%
Cups........2.70%
Coins.......83.78%
Batons...........0%


Temperament #3 - Melancholic/Earth

Swords....66.67%
Cups.......33.33%
Coins............0%
Batons..........0%


Temperament #4 - Choleric/Fire

Swords.....8.82%
Cups............0%
Coins...........0%
Batons....91.18%



Quote:
Originally Posted by jmd
Anyone that already presumes the most written correlations derived from the GD of fire and batons will very likely vote accordingly, as commonly described 'fire' like characteristics are used as descriptors.

Let's look at those descriptions first, however:
"Positives: Ambitious, Dynamic, Decisive, Independent.

Negatives: Impulsive, Short-Tempered, Proud, Dictatorial"
All of those positives could equally apply, in my view, to the four suits, simply in different fields of life. For example, an ambitious, dynamic, decisive and independent person focussed on the financial world is likely to reflect a Coin card. Conversely and equally for the negative traits, and as an example those traits applied within the context of a church or religious retreat setting may very well reflect a Cup card.

The poll, then, shows very much how the current dominant views of authors is reflected amongst us, and not whether or not the suits themselves reflect those characteristic traits.
Jmd quite correctly noted that this poll will inevitably show how the current views of 'popular' tarot authors is reflected amongst us, and will not show whether or not the suits themselves reflect those characteristics. I think this is what we see happening with Baton and Swords. Historically, swords were emblematic of the Choleric (Fire) and Batons emblematic of the Melanchollic (Earth), as shown in this 15th century woodcut. (The Choleric man [far left] stands in Fire and wields a sword, the Melancholic man [far right] stands on Earth and carries a staff.)



However, if we look at the most voted for suit for each temperament and its traditional elemental correspondence, we get something quite different from the popular correlations derived from the Golden Dawn and Waite.

Swords = Earth
Cups = Air
Coins = Water
Batons = Fire


A serious incongruence has reared its curious head. It is showing us something far more interesting than that our elemental association to the four suit emblems are 'conditioned'. It's showing us that we don't actually know what the meaning of the four elements are!



M

Last edited by Melanchollic; 12-08-2008 at 18:35.
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Melanchollic 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MeeWah
Melanchollic: This an interesting experiment, & appreciate your taking the time to post the individual threads for each temperament category.

I am curious: are these temperatments related to the ancient theory known as the four humours?
Yes. The Four Humours and the Four Temperaments are the same things.


M



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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melanchollic

Swords = Earth
Cups = Air
Coins = Water
Batons = Fire


A serious incongruence has reared its curious head.

M
Nah, just shows your too serious, it really doesn't matter.

Kwaw
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kwaw
Nah, just shows your too serious, it really doesn't matter.

Kwaw

Quote:
Temperament #3

Positives: Introspective, Sensitive, Serious, Analytical.

Negatives: Critical, Depressed, Moody, Withdrawn.

From: The Four Temperaments: A Rediscovery of the Ancient Way of Understanding Health and Character by Randy Rolfe (Publisher: Marlowe & Company, 2002).

Yes. That would be the melancholic temperament, hence my name.

Well spotted.


M



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I think it just shows the temperaments of the Four Evangalists not the suits. ~Rosanne



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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melanchollic
Yes. The Four Humours and the Four Temperaments are the same things.
The way I understand it is that the humours are the fluids in our bodies that result in health or illness depending on their clarity and state of balance. Temperaments are the personality and emotional characteristics that result from any imbalance. Everyone has some imbalance and thus will fall naturally into one of the temperamental types, but stress or illness can cause another humour to dominate and cause a temporary change in temperament.

A reading on temperaments through history will show that descriptions of them change over time. "Melancholy," for instance, used to have a very different meaning then it has today.

I really enjoyed the experiment. Thanks.

Mary
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