Tarot on the Streets of Rome

You never know where you might find tarot inspiration. Imagine my surprise at seeing the Tarot of Marseilles’ Temperance holding court in the tunnel of the overpass of the Ostiense train station:

"Every Angel is Terrifying" by Ozmo, Via Ostiense, 2013
“Every Angel is Terrifying” by Ozmo, Via Ostiense, 2013

How might we interpret this street art tarot reading?

It looks like there’s a possibility for a new beginning in terms of a creative project, and Temperance is the best way to handle the challenges that will come up in the very initial stages and as the project progresses.

Aces in the tarot teach us about the seed energy of the suit, about potential for realization, about energy to actively harness and consciously direct. Here, with the wands, we are at the very first stages of a fiery, powerful creative energy. If you’re astrologically inclined, you can think of it as Mars in Aries (I know because that’s where I have Mars in my chart!) It’s that energy that totally burns with passion at the beginning of a new phase, a new project. Unbridled enthusiasm, and that capacity to plunge head first into a new venture while losing all track of time.

And yet, what of Temperance? The wand is being offered to Temperance and she seems to be saying kindly in response, but wait just one minute there. If you really want to see your project through, you need to take a breath and step back, slow down just a bit. She doesn’t necessarily want to “put out our fire” with the water she’s so carefully mixing between her two cups, but at the same time, she wants to gently remind us that if we let that burning energy consume us, we’ll literally “burn out” — a term that is so often used in the creative professions. Here, Temperance reminds us that we need to “temper” our enthusiasm with the ability to compromise as well, with the ability to see all sides of an issue or a project and then be the source for creatively combining them into producing something of unique and lasting value.

In life, don’t let anyone pour water on the fire of your dreams! But at the same time, remember that you can’t get anything of a long-term nature accomplished by using sheer determination and fire alone. You also have to know how to be a sort of modern alchemist, using all the elements at your disposal to your advantage, mixing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, until you come out with just the right blend to bring something totally new into the world. We use air–our creative breath–to stoke a fire and make it grow even bigger, we use water–our emotional intuition and capacity for empathy, understanding and compromise–to tame its power, we use earth–our practical resources and our ability to manifest ideas into the material realm–to bring it to closure.

See folks, who knew that you could learn a profound life lesson while riding on the 766 in Testaccio? But I’m telling you, tarot is everywhere, just like Enrique Enriquez so eloquently demonstrated in his documentary Tarology, walking the streets of NYC with the eyes of a true storyteller for this ancient art.

And, before you go bemoaning the vandalism of street art, this was a work of art by Ozmo, an internally-known street artist, along with several other artists, sponsored by the neighborhood as a way of beautifying an otherwise awful underpass. Here’s a time-lapse video of the work from start to finish:


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