Monday 1 August 2016

Lammas Blog Hop 2016: The Union of Opposites

Welcome to Alison’s Alembic!   You may have arrived here as a stop on the Tarot Blog Hop from either Morgan Drake Eckstein's Gleamings from the Golden Dawn or Joanne's Cosmic Whispers' blog.  Or you may have found this through TABI’s Facebook page, or though one of the many wonderful tarot bloggers in the ether... It doesn’t matter – what does matter is that you’re here! 

For those of you unfamiliar with Lammas, it’s the festival of the harvest.  Also known as Lughnasahd, the cross-quarter fire festival, it’s celebrated on the evening of the 31 July and on the first three days of August. More specifically, Lammas is the first harvest (usually of grain and fruit – the basic food that sustains us through the winter), when farmers begin to reap the rewards of their hard work.  It’s associated with baking bread from that first harvest of grain, but has also been called ‘the festival of gratitude and first seeds’ because the grain is also the seed that becomes next year’s harvest – a reminder of the cycle of life. 

Lammas celebrates the alchemy of Water and Fire - we’ve just left the water sign of Cancer and are now in the fire sign of Leo.   The sun still carries enough energy to help the crops to ripen, but we need rain as well.   Lugh, the Celtic god and Sun King, gives up his power at Lammas, just as the sun starts to wane and lose its power.  At this time then, we honour  both the bounty of the land, which yields the harvest, and Lugh, who ‘dies’ in the process of making the harvest possible – two ‘opposites’, if you like. 

Temperance (trimmed): ©Sharman-Caselli Tarot
Our wrangler for this Lammas Blog Hop, Aisling has asked us to write about the “union of opposites”, by finding either a card that represents, to us, more than one of the four elemental energies (specifically two which might be thought of as "opposites") or a pair of cards which work as a unit but represent two opposite views of the same situation.

As we’re celebrating the alchemy of Water and Fire in terms of moving into different signs of the zodiac, I decided to write about a card that brings together those two elements – Temperance.   

In the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot we see an angel pouring liquid from one cup to the other.  An angel also appears in the Sharman-Caselli version; here the alchemy is emphasized by the colours of the cups: gold (often associated with the Sun) and silver (the Moon).  There’s a need for flow between the conscious and unconscious, indicated by the flow between left and right hands, as well as one foot being on land and one in water. The rainbow symbolizes promise, as does the sun.  

Fire plays an essential part in alchemy – some of the main alchemical processes take place in a furnace.  

The Crowley Thoth tarot’s version of Temperance, entitled ‘Art’, depicts the alchemical union of Fire and Water.  We see here the lion and eagle, representing the Fixed signs of Leo (Fire) and Scorpio (Water), on either side of the cauldron, opposites balancing each other.  While water can extinguish fire, it can also join together with fire to form steam – which we see rising through the centre of the card, forming two rainbows enveloping the woman’s shoulders. Again, that symbol of hope and promise...
Art (trimmed): ©Thoth Tarot
... which also appears in the Druidcraft Tarot’s Fferyllt, the Druid alchemist. 
The Fferyllt (trimmed): ©DruidCraft Tarot

Red and white serpents wrap themselves, in a shape resembling the caduceus, around a tree in the Wild Wood. Red symbolizes Fire, blood, and iron. In the accompanying book, the creators of the deck  have chosen white to symbolise Air, although for me it’s Water.  A face set into the roots of the tree is half in shade, half in light – two sides to everything. The blending, or union, of opposites here fuels creativity, much as the Fferyllt does in the DruidCraft, or the angel in other versions of the card. Alchemy at work. 

Balance (trimmed): ©Wildwood Tarot
Margarete Petersen's Mediatrix also brings together opposites - light and dark, warm and cold, conscious and unconscious ... or as my friend Margo says "receiving stardust and giving water". I can see all four elements at work in this image - the 'angel' stands on the Earth, one arm reaching out to the Fire of the sun, the other to the Air of the universe, while a 'stream' of Water flows nearby.  The known/conscious of the Sun/Fire is separated from the unknown/unconscious of the Moon/Water by the ubiquitous rainbow. 

Mediatrix (trimmed): ©Margarete Petersen Tarot
Thank you for stopping off here on your journey through this Lammas Tarot Blog Hop!  Please do come back and read some of my other posts.    

The next stops on the Tarot Blog Hop are - depending on whether you’re moving backwards or forwards through the list – Morgan’s or Joanne's blog . The Master List can be found here.

Druidcraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections 2004

Margarete PetersenTarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004.

Sharman-Caselli Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections


  1. What a great selection of cards! I don't think I'm familiar with the Mediatrix--I will definitely check it out!

  2. I always like looking at decks that I do not own.

  3. Beautiful and thoughtful philosophical musings...I am going to be thinking about this most of the evening. Thank you!

  4. I love telling my clients that Temperance is, to me, the card of the Alchemist and asks them what energy they are willing to change. :D

  5. I liked this, I always enjoy comparative posts :)

  6. What a great and enlightening choice of cards, awesome comparisons, congratulations! :)