Elemental interactions in Tarot

The Weekly Tarot Zodiac is a feature of the Order of the White Moon, the Goddess-centric order that ordained me. The Weekly Tarot Zodiac entry that I wrote for this week is an example of how to use interactions between the Elements to give more depth to a reading.

I have been known to describe my Tarot style by saying that I read people as much as I read cards. Fundamentally, I use Tarot as a tool that gives me a beginning point for starting a kind of spiritual counseling session with an individual. In the Weekly Tarot Zodiac, I don’t have an individual to dialogue with as the reading develops; in fact, I don’t have a single individual in mind, but instead am trying to write something that will be helpful for as many different people as possible.

The readings consist of a single Tarot card for each sign of the zodiac, plus a wild card. This simplicity is challenging: there are a lot of individual Tarot cards that are very ambiguous in their meaning. Even the ones that seem fairly clear-cut, such as the ten of Swords, have to be interpreted, as they provide only a snapshot or allusion to a particular situation. Is this something to seek out? Something to avoid? Something you’re currently experiencing? A course of action to take in order to avert an unwanted outcome? The inherent ambiguity is a significant strength of Tarot as a divination system; it allows it to be flexible and diverse enough to help almost any querent find a meaningful reflection of hir situation in the cards. Where the querent and reader interpret and apply the potential meanings is the magic of Tarot.

Without a personal interaction to engage that kind of meaning-making, I try to harness the combination of two different systems, specifically using the interactions between the Element of each particular sign and the Element of a Tarot card. The Element of a zodiac sign gives me clues about the qualities a person is likely to have: for example, the Water signs of Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are likely to be deeply emotional (although each is different depending on the quality of the sign – cardinal, fixed, or mutable – which I hope to discuss more in the future).

When I compare the Element of the sign with the Element of the Tarot card, it gives me clues about whether the card is suggesting that a person should capitalize on hir natural tendencies or try to work in a different direction.


When the Element of a card matches the Element of the sign, that often means that a person should engage hir predisposition to work with that Element. In some cases, though, especially if the card seems to depict a negative situation or is reversed, it can mean an excess of that energy.

When the Elements fall into the pairings of Earth with Water or Air with Fire, they are closely aligned and will usually be easy to work with. I think of these as suggesting a gentle redirection of energy; a Water person might take hir natural emotional energy and ground more fully, while a Fire person might be getting a suggestion to direct hir intrinsic drive and action into some reflection or brainstorming. For example, when Gemini got the Two of Wands this week, I suggested moving from imagination (Air, Gemini) into action (Fire, Wands).

When the Elements fall in pairs of Earth with Fire or Water with Air, they are neutral towards each other. The tendencies of these Elements neither reinforce nor cancel out. They can indicate something that the person simply doesn’t think about or work with very much; it’s not a difficult or impossible way of viewing the world, just a less-used one. For example, when Libra got the Three of Cups this week, I suggested turning Libra’s tendency for thinking (Air) towards enjoyment and celebration (Water, Cups).

When the pairings of Earth with Air or Water with Fire occur, there can be real friction. The natures of these Elements are inimical to each other; it can be really difficult for a deeply emotional person to get up and actually take action, or for someone who spends all hir time in hir head to get down and ground. I think of these cards as direction to stop and reconsider: really challenge yourself to develop the qualities that are hardest for you to use. For example, when Aries got The Moon (which is associated with Water for me), I asked those individuals to engage with the deeper, less conscious feelings that they tend to leave behind in their drive for action.

Another challenge that arises with this method of interpretation is that the Major Arcana don’t have simple Element associations the way the cards of the four suits do. We can construct Elemental attributions – it’s easy to see the Sun as Fire and the Moon as Water – but these depend heavily on each person’s view of the cards and any other factors being considered. (In a Qabala-based system of understanding the cards, for example, the Sun and Moon might both be attributed to Air.) For these cards, I typically try to compare the overarching theme of the card with the sign’s Element and consider the same kinds of alliances and frictions that might occur: Taurus can run the risk of being too stable and grounded, so when the Lovers came up, I interpreted that in the context of flexibility and growth.

I hope this gives you some ideas of how to use Elemental interactions to build greater relationships between different Tarot cards or between the cards and any other Elemental system. In future posts, I hope to give more specific examples of working with the system of Elemental dignities between cards, so stay tuned.

NB: I capitalize Element when I am referring to the symbolic, metaphysical Elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit, to avoid confusion with the chemical elements (hydrogen, helium, etc.).


About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
This entry was posted in divination, Tarot and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.