You can gain so much more from your readings by using the tarot elemental correspondences than by just using intuition alone. The 4 tarot suits plus some of the major arcana are associated with the 4 elements of Earth, Water, Wind and Fire. In this post I discuss which suits are associated with which element; what this elemental correspondence means for each suits’ area of influence; and which of the major arcana are associated with the elements. Finally, I discuss and demonstrate how to use these tarot elemental correspondences in a reading.
I have described how to easily do an intuitive reading using the Awake Dream method in the post ‘How To Do An Intuitive Tarot Reading‘ which you can find here. Even if you never go on to learn the meanings of the cards you can add greater depth to your tarot readings by learning how the elemental energies affect each other.
This post is intended as a next step to using the Awake Dream approach with greater depth by using the tarot elemental correspondences.
What Are the Tarot Suit Elemental Correspondences?
Elemental correspondence just means that each tarot suit corresponds with one elemental energy which gives that suit its particular characteristics. This really only applies to tarot decks based either on the Rider Waite Smith or Thoth tarot systems.
You can read more on the various tarot systems in the post ‘Choosing and Buying A Beginner Tarot Deck‘ which can be found here.
So, what are the correspondences?
Wands and Fire (Or Air)
The element of fire commonly corresponds with the suit of Wands. Fire is energetic and provides heat to move you forwards. Wands therefore represents enterprise; drive; ambition; inspiration; spirit; and career. In fact wands covers anything that could be associated with the spark that drives us forward in life to achieve goals.
I put Air in brackets above because in some decks Wands are associated with Air. Likewise, the suit normally associated with Air, Swords, is then associated with fire. These decks are less common but there are a few currently in publication.
If you have a deck where Wands = Air then know that the qualities of the suit remain the same. Simply think of Wands as needing Air to grow rather than creating fire. Associating Wands with Air does mean that in those decks the imagery will be different from the more common Wands = Fire. This can put some people off.
If you are looking to buy a new tarot deck, make sure you know which suit is associated with which element so you don’t confuse yourself when reading.
Cups and Water
The suit of Cups corresponds with water. Water flows slowly or quickly and can be calm and still or stormy and tempestuous. Therefore, Cups is associated with moods and feelings as well as with intuition and psychic ability. Cups represents both the positive moods – such as love and happiness – but also the negative ones as well such as loss and laziness.
Coins/Pentacles and Earth
The Earth element usually corresponds with the suit of Coins/Pentacles. Earth is stability and enables growth and productivity. This means that Coins/Pentacles is associated with abundance; consistency; reliability; wealth; production; work; the material world; money; health. In negative terms this also means that Coins/Pentacles also represents worry; lack of resources; failure in the material realm; focus on the material to the detriment of the spiritual.
Swords and Air (Or Fire)
Swords is normally associated with Air although, as I mentioned earlier, it sometimes corresponds with Fire depending on the deck creator’s design. Air is rationality, ideas, thinking and can be calm but also turbulent and clouded. Air represents the intellect, rational thought, ideas, communication. It also represents peace, sorrow, conflict, aggression, defeat, anxiety and catastrophic thinking. The suit of Swords has a reputation as the painful suit.
Elemental Correspondences in the Major Arcana
Only 3 of the 22 Major Arcana, or Trumps, are associated with the elements. These are:
- The Fool
Associated with Air.
- The Hanged Man
Associated with Water
- Judgement/The Aeon (Thoth Tarot)
Associated with Fire
What about Earth? Well, you, the reader, represents the earth element so the element does not appear in the Trumps.
If you are wondering why the elements have been distributed like this here is a brief explanation.
The Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a late 19th century magical order, open to both men and women, whose aim was to help man become more. Notable members included W.B Yeats, Bram Stoker, and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Tarot formed an important element of the occult practices within the order. Amongst other esoteric knowledge attributed to the major arcana, the 12 signs of the zodiac; the 7 planets of horary astrology; and the 3 elements mentioned above were associated with the cards. There are only 22 Trumps which means one element, Earth, was left out.
The creator of the RWS Tarot, A.E. Waite, and Aleister Crowley, intellectual mind behind the Thoth Tarot, were both members of the Golden Dawn. These two tarot decks are responsible for the mass popular appeal of tarot to this day and so many of the decks available today incorporate the elemental, zodiac and planetary associations of the Golden Dawn.
Yep, tarot today is hugely popular because of 19th century occultists. It is worth briefly pointing out that A.E. Waite was a practicing Christian so any idea that the most popular tarot deck in the world is a work of evil and attracts demons is complete nonsense.
Using Elemental Correspondences in Tarot Readings
We can use the elemental correspondences for more than just giving the suits their characteristics.
Crowley’s Thoth tarot was not designed to be used with tarot reversals. Instead, the Thoth uses the idea of elemental dignities to determine the strength or weakness of certain cards. However, you don’t need to use the Thoth to make use of elemental dignities. If you don’t like using tarot reversals, elemental dignities could be a good alternative to add depth to your reading.
What Are Elemental Dignities?
The basic idea is that when two cards are close together, their elements may either oppose, strengthen or simply support the other card. Cards of the same suit will strengthen each other, cards of the opposing suits weaken each other and cards, neither of opposing suits nor of the same suit, will support the meaning of the other.
This is more easily explained like this:
So, for example, if the 6 of Wands and the Page of Wands were close to each other, the meanings of both cards would be strengthened. If the 6 of Cups and the Page of Wands were together, the meanings of both would be weakened. If the 6 of Pentacles or 6 of Swords were close to the Page of Wands then each card would simply support the other.
All you have to do is remember the opposing elements: Fire and Water are opposites; Air and Earth are opposites.
Cards of the same suit strengthen each other, cards neither of the same or opposing suits support each other
Examples of Elemental Dignities in Readings
To demonstrate how to add depth to an intuitive reading I am going to use tarot elemental dignities in an intuitive reading using the Awake Dream method. Elemental dignities work best in spreads or readings where the cards are close together, such as the 3 card approach used in the Awake Dream way of reading.
The question I am asking is: What do I need to know about protecting my health during the current coronavirus pandemic?
Intuitively, reading left to right, suggests that moving from close contact with others to social distancing will allow me to continue to work and be productive in safety.
Adding in tarot elemental dignities can allow more nuance to this reading. Here we have Cups and Wands next to each other. These are opposing suits thus weakening each other. This could be interpreted as the need to work closely together (6 of Cups) makes working in isolation challenging (3 of Wands). Similarly, the need to work in isolation (3 of Wands) means it will be difficult to provide the service needed to other people (6 of Cups).
However, Wands and Pentacles neither strengthen nor weaken each other; the cards support each other. So, even though working alone will make the work more challenging (3 of Wands), it will still support my productivity and keep me safe (King of Pentacles). Also, being safe and productive (King of Pentacles) means I can continue to be successful (figure on 3 of Wands well dressed and standing proud). Therefore, I may need to find a way to alter my work practice to enable remote working.
Here, the High Priestess is notably larger than the figures in the other two cards suggesting this card is of the most importance. The High Priestess it telling me to listen to my gut instinct in this case.
Pentacles and Wands are next to each other and are supportive suits. The 8 of Pentacles is letting me know that working and being productive in isolation (note the town is in the far distance) will support me in remaining safe (figure standing proud in 3 of Wands). Likewise, the 3 of Wands is saying to me that remaining remote from other people (figure is standing high on a cliff) will allow me to continue my work (figure hard at work in 8 of Pentacles). Thus, the messages of the 8 of Pentacles and of the 3 of Wands support each other.
Note that the figures seem to get progressively larger moving from left to right. This is telling me that working alone is the wisest thing I can do.
See how intuition works? It’s amazing!
This is an interesting reading. Here we have 2 Wands cards next to each other which strengthen each other. We also have the 3 of Wands and 2 of Cups next to each other; opposing suits so both these cards weaken each other.
Noting that the figures in the 2 of Cups are larger than the others I take that as meaning being able to work face to face is really important However, this weakens my ability to be able to work remotely (3 of Wands). On the other hand working remotely will make it very difficult to fully dedicate myself to my work as this requires face to face working (weakened 2 of Cups).
Intuitively, in the context of the question, the 5 of Wands appears to show a group of figures struggling to keep away from each other and expending energy to do it. This reinforces the need to work remotely (3 of Wands). However, being successful in my work (3 of Wands splendidly dressed standing proud) means I may need to work with others face to face. This reinforces the need to make sure precautions are taken to maintain social distancing at work (5 of Wands). Overall, the message of the reading is that I need to work face to face with people but with appropriate safety precautions in place.
Elemental Dignities Deepen Intuitive Tarot Reading
I hope in these example readings I have shown you how you can add depth to your intuitive readings by using elemental dignities. I have barely used the actual card meanings in these readings yet the readings, using tarot elemental dignities, have more nuance and provide a richer message than with intuition alone.
If you want to use larger spreads, I provide an example of how to use the Awake Dream method with larger card spreads in the post ‘Tarot for Self-Reflection and Action‘ which is here.
Try elemental dignities out and see if they work for you – you may be surprised how much of an impact using the tarot elemental correspondences have on your readings.