Margarete Petersen - Temperance


I need to talk about this card because of the title.

When I got the deck, I called my mother (who's German), just to ask her what a few words meant. ("What's a 'kelche'?" "It's a fancy kind of ... cup." "Oh. Oh. Of course. Silly!" said I, writing down 'chalice' in my notebook next to 'kelche', where it sat there looking perfectly obvious.) Anyway. One of the words I wanted to know was Grenzgängerin. I knew the card was Temperance, but the word looked interesting.

"Woman border-walker. No, woman-taking-chances. No. No, what's this card called in English?"

"Temperance," I said.

"Temperance?" I can hear that she doesn't quite understand what this means. My mother doesn't know much about Tarot, though she knows how to play Tarocchi.

"It's - oh, there's something special this word means, Grenzgänger, in German. Grenzgängerin, the '-in', means it's a woman. But this word is a particular thing, people do. Borders. Is there another word for 'border'?"

"Boundary... um, frontier..."

"No... no, let me look it up." I can hear my mother breathing as she takes the mobile phone over to the dictionary shelf, then comes back into the dining-room with the book. Pages turning. "Grenzgänger. Ah. Someone who often illegally crosses the border."

"Like, like a Mexican, what do they call them, wetbacks? Those people who go over illegally to the States?"

"Yes, yes... oh, or something else, here, someone who lives on one side of the border, and works on the other side. Not illegally."

"Oh! Oh, that makes sense."

"It does? What's on this card?"

I describe it to her. "Hm," she says. "You could bring it, these cards, when you come. I'd like to see them."

As for what the book says, I didn't ask my mother to translate the whole thing (it was late, and I had to leave at 7 the next morning to run a 5K race). Instead, just now, I plugged it into three different online translators, and here is my clunky fusion of the result:

You are fire and water.
Cosmic blender.
Agent between the individual and the higher realms.
Rainbow body.
Transform the seven poisons into the seven wisdoms.
Cleansed, you stand between Death and Devil - and represent the knowledge of measurement and time.
Vessel and contents are the constantly changing river of life energy.

The card shows a woman who is clearly the agent of transformation, pouring light from her left hand into a dark place with a river running under a waning moon, water from her right onto the dry earth and stones of a desert under a brilliant sun. The rainbow passes through her body and divides the two countries. Woman-taking-chances, she is the border, both dividing and uniting.

Okay, enough from me. What do you see in this card?


Looking at this card I'm thinking: balance isn't static and right proportion isn't necessarily even proportion, but that which fits the needs of the moment.
She looks like she is conciously aware of the need for what she is doing, and is commited to it, but is not letting her "right hand know what her left hand is doing", ie: is meeting out actual proportions intuitively. She is totally centered in the moment. Death is behind and desire ahead, but Temperance is NOW.
The double bladed axe in the foreground is interesting- though this deck uses feathers/birds for the Swords suit, I wonder if this could represent a balance between concious and unconcious thought. It also seems grounded in the rock; thought put to practical use.


Beautiful story, Compass Rose, and what synchronicity. I spent the day before yesterday on a plane crossing borders.. returning to New York from a year in Berlin. I brought the Petersen deck in my carry-on bag, and spent a bit of time going through it in a rare moment of wakefulness. I came to Die Grenzgängerin, and was stunned, as always by the magic of this card, and wondered if it were time to begin a thread on her. I have many times wanted to begin, but could never find the words. How can we really translate Grenzgängerin...? never could get much further.

The rainbow colored light in her hand ties her, I think to Iris, messenger of the Gods. The Rainbow Goddess navigates between the heavens and earth, as the rainbow itself signals the covenant between God and the Noah, for mankind.

As the messenger between heaven and earth, Petersen's Grenzgängerin also makes me remember that Crowley's Temperence is named Art -- for the job of the Artist is sometimes seen in much the same way as that of the rainbow goddess - as one who transmits the message of God's love to mankind - and vice versa - Artist as medium, as go-between, as one who transports, and one who transgresses...

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I was just reading Rachel Pollack's "Forest of Souls" book, and came across her description of the double headed axe in the "Place of Trees" card (from her "Shining Tribe" deck, and, according to her, roughly equivalent to the Page of Wands): "two women...honor an emblem of transformation, the double axe. The axe, found everywhere in ancient Crete (the picture on the card comes form a Cretan seal, several thousand years old), was not a weapon but a symbol of change, for it recalls both the crescents of the waxing and waning Moon and the wings of the butterfly, which emerges out of a lowly caterpillar (the Greek word "Psyche" meant both "soul" and "butterfly")."


wow. I love this card -- and I LOVE the translation. Thank you CompassRose. It's making me see Temperance in an entirely new way. yay!

I have more to say, of course, but want to study and think on it for a bit.