14: Temperance

Half-human and half-animal, our golden mermaid is balanced in the sea. A golden feather floats beside her, discarded but not forgotten. Water and wine pour from two jugs, ignoring gravity to splash on her head – or does her watery hair flow in two directions to fill those vessels?

So. Let’s talk about alchemy here for a moment. The most famous goal of the alchemists was the Philosopher’s Stone – a substance or process that could turn lead into gold.

Draw the veil back: the Philosopher’s Stone was a metaphor for the perfection of the Self. For enlightenment, for the transmutation of the body into some kind of golden body of light. Seeking it was the “Great Work”.

Draw another veil back: You can, like, totally read most alchemical processes with a dirty mind and make it all about having kinky Tantric sex. You’ll certainly have a lot more fun if you do it that way than if you breathe the nasty fumes from some of the stuff the recipes call for you to heat up, and you’ll never find yourself wanking over a lump of horseshit in the hopes of making a homonculus. (Remember to practice safe alchemy – use a condom.) Set yourself up as a Great Magician and you can start looking for sexy young neophytes of whatever sex suits your fancy to “teach alchemy” to. Hey, maybe it *will* help you transcend into some kind of immortal pattern of energy.

Another veil: maybe those kinky Tantric rituals hidden under alchemy are all about expressing a desire to get closer to the great Oneness of the universe. As above, so below. Why *not* use chemical processes as a metaphor for this?

Anyway. This card is about alchemy. Or so the occultists say. In their decks it is[3]. In older decks? It’s one of the three Moral Virtues scattered through the middle of the Trumps, across the break between the lower, worldly half of the Major Arcana and the upper, celestial and spiritual half – Fortitude, Justice, and Temperance. Respectively, they are the strength to not act, the wisdom to act correctly, and the compassion to act kindly. A little bit of foolishness and a little bit of wine can help in the last one, sometimes.

And, you know, the only sex a mermaid can have with a human is oral. Unless you really want to get off over a froth of eggs… It’d probably be more fun to polish her. Ain’t no biological children coming from *this* union, not without the help of a little Mad Science. Which is the popular culture heir of the Alchemist with a brain broken by inhaling all those aformentioned vapors.

[3] Barring the postmodern interpretation that there is no true meaning in a text, only that which the reader finds. What does this card mean to you? These are just suggestions, and hints as to what may have been on my mind when I drew it. Burn this book and write your own.