The Four Elements of Tarot
Understanding tarot means understanding its basic spiritual concepts. One of the most important is the knowledge of the Four Elements of Tarot: earth, water, air, and fire.
Let me make a detour and express some of my frustrations in respect to using Tarot Cards in general. It is a most unfortunate thing that Tarot is being used so much in readings and prognostic, and so little in self-discovery and self-development. This is one of the reasons why Tarot has attracted such a negative response in many spiritual communities. This negative picture is being supported by those people who expect quick and easy answers to their problems and who turn to the multitude tarot readers, fortune tellers and psychic for advice. But, there are no quick and easy solutions. There are no shortcuts, and it is better to investigate time to learn the principles of tarot and apply its capabilities for personal self growth and discovery.
There is no reason why we should not start searching for deeper understanding of ourselves,… start searching for enlightenment, and self growth. If used properly, tarot can be a powerful tool that can help us discover our own being.
The concept of four elements of our world is an ancient one. It has been used in many spiritual traditions (astrology, feng shui, numerology, magic, esoteric, yoga, tantra), and tarot’s 4 elements are no different than what you would find elsewhere.
The characteristics of the Earth Element are growth, healing, material gain, money, ownership, and economy. In concord with its name, earth represents every thing material. In astrology under the earth influence we find Taurus the Bull, Virgo the Virgin and Capricorn the Goat signs. In Tarot earth is represented through the pentacles, or disks. There are exactly 10 cards within the minor arcana sub set that bear the mark of pentacle. If we exclude the aces, the remaining 9 cards can be divided into 3 groups times 3 cards. Each group of three cards represents a person born in the horoscope signs of Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo, respectively. Here, while discussing the four elements, is the most obvious place where we see the tarot-astrology correspondence.
The characteristics of the Air Element are related to the area of intellect, reasoning, and to a certain limit to the will. In astrology we encounter the signs of Gemini the Twins, Libra the Scales and Aquarius the Water Bearer. In Tarot air is represented in the swords suit of tarot cards, belonging to the minor arcana. As before, starting from 2 of Swords and up to the 10 of Swords, we walk through the 9 decades of the three air signs of the horoscope.
The characteristics of the Water Element are expressed through the tarot cards of the minor arcana marked with Cups. Water means feelings, emotions, love, and everything related to the human astral body. Here we speak also of psychic abilities and intuition. In horoscope, we find Cancer the Crab, Scorpio the Scorpion, and Pisces the Fishes.
The properties of the Fire Element are expressed through the minor arcana cards tagged with Wands. Fire means expansion, creativity, energy and will. The horoscope signs related to fire are Aries the Ram, Leo the Lion, and Sagittarius the Archer. Just as before, here we also get a clear correspondence, for example, the tarot cards 2 of Wands, 3 of Wands and 4 of Wands correspond to the first three decades of Aries, and so on.
As for the major arcana cards, we have the following ordering:
Earth element cards are
- Major Arcana (MA) nr. 3. The Empress,
- MA nr. 5. The Hierophant
- MA nr. 9. The Hermit
- MA nr. 15. The Devil, and
- MA nr. 20I. The World
Air element cards are
- Major Arcana nr. 0. The Fool
- MA nr. 1. The Magician
- MA nr. 6. The Lovers
- MA nr. 11. Justice
- MA nr. 17. The Star
Water element cards are
- Major Arcana nr. 2. The High Priestess
- MA nr. 7. The Chariot
- MA nr. 10. Wheel of Fortune
- MA nr. 12. The Hanged Man
- MA nr. 13. Death
- MA nr. 18. The Moon
Fire element cards are
- Major Arcana nr. 4. The Emperor
- MA nr. 8. Strength
- MA nr. 14. Temperance
- MA nr. 16. The Tower
- MA nr. 19. The Sun and finally
- Major Arcana nr. 20. Judgment
Lastly, we have the court cards. For each symbol: Pentacles, Cups, Swords, and Wands, we have 4 court cards: Knight, Queen, King and Page. Although it might be confusing at first sight, each of the four elements contains within itself a fiery part, airy part, watery part and solid part. The four Knights are always the fire part of each element. The four Queens are the watery part, the four Kings are the air part and the four Pages are the earth part.
The intimate link that exist between the four elements on one side and the complete set of 78 tarot cards on the other side should be pretty obvious now. When one sees a card, one should be able to see beyond the mere sign of Cups or Wands, for example, and look into the significance of the given mystical element on the individual body, soul and spirit.