Upright, Temperance is all about synthesis, about creating a third, unique element out of two other, usually opposing, elements. This is not the balance of Justice which trims and re-distributes to even things out, but a merging of just enough of each to form something new. Reversed, however....
1) Opposite: Temperance in the upright position is a scientist in his lab mixing chemicals until he finds the right formula, a cure for some disease/problem. The opposite of this, humorously enough, is right out of an old-time monster movie: the scientist is looking for a secret formula to save his loved one. He mixes up the chemicals in his lab, sure he's got the right formula. But when his loved one drinks this strange, new brew, she transforms into a hideous monster! This isn't just a formula that fails to work, it's one that goes horribly wrong.
Putting it another way, Temperance's solution to the problem, trying to mix together these two liquids, makes things worse rather than better. This is that sort of situation where two people or two groups, if brought together, will bring out the worse in each other; rather than getting peace, you'll get war.
2) Blocked: As the energy of Temperance is to temper, to mix and merge; blocking this energy creates "intemperance." In this case, the elements refuse to mix. Like oil and water, the querent cannot get them to blend. This might be because the person trying to temper wine by mixing it with water doesn't use enough of one or the other. Or it might well be because the impulse to blend the two is being blocked; there is a lack of effort or ability on the part of querent or someone else to get the mixture just right.
Thus, an attempt to merge two families doesn't work. An attempt to create a new company out of two smaller businesses fails. On a more personal level, the man trying to "temper" his aggressive tendencies doesn't try hard enough or the person trying to negotiate hot-tempered folk doesn't say or do the right thing to get them to agree and unify.
For one reason or another, the energy of Temperance, knowing just how to mix those two opposing elements, is blocked. Unblock it, and how to do the merging, the creating of that third element from the other two, will come clear.
3) Upside-down: The Temperance card contains a lot of fascinating symbolism. The Angel has one foot in the water - emblematic of being in touch with intuition, emotions and the unconscious. Thus, the Angel is sympathetic and psychic, yet not overly so. The other foot is planted on the Earth, emblematic of being grounded in reality, of understanding the practical side of the problem.
The wings of Temperance indicate the airy mind while the sun rising in the background emphasizes the element of fire (passion). Hence, the higher mind avoids the problem of being merely theoretical by being backed by the energy of fire, and by having that one foot in the water, the other on earth. This intelligence understands the reality and the feeling involved, and has the drive to achieve great things: it mixes the two ingredients, never giving up till it gets the proportions just right and achieves that magic synthesis.
Reverse the card, however, and the angel's feet leave both earth and water. The higher mind drifts in the air upside-down, while the rising sun sets. Trying to mix the ingredients under these circumstances is impossible. The querent might well be informed that what he's attempting to do (or what someone else is attempting) is not going to work. The elements needed to pull off this synthesis aren't there, and no one has the coordination or talent to mix the ingredients.
All the angel can do is think about mixing the elements - even the drive/desire to do so is vanishing (like the setting sun). It's a nice dream to synthesize these opposites into a unified and unique whole, but no one involved with that dream can, currently, make it a reality.
Curious about this card when upright? Go to our Tarot Card Meanings.