Introduction to the Concepts of Four Elements
The concept of four elements – air, water, earth & fire has historical connection with the Tarot.
Goes back to the myth-forming bull era that began 5000 years ago. The four elements, which the ancients considered to be the building blocks of everything, can be seen and felt everywhere.
The wind (Air), rain (Water), heat from the Sun (Fire), and the ground that supports you (Earth) all have a direct physical effect outside, but the elements are also matched to interior processes and behaviours. How you feel (Water) to how you think (Air); you could be angry (Fire) or just plain stubborn (Earth).
You will see symbols of these four elements popping up all over the place in many tarot cards & learning to spot these visual clues can really help you to understand the nuances of a card’s meaning, & develop your own interpretations too.
Earth, air, fire, & water represent four different aspects – physical, intellectual, energetic & emotional respectively.
There is no secret that what we see today is that images- and concepts – were previously created with these four elements that describe & relate the characteristics of the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom which depicts relationships & connections between things through associative thinking. The four elements fire, water, air & earth were chosen as pictures, because in their perspective underlying nature they can be found everywhere, both in pure form & mixed.
Stay tuned to this guide to know how four elements are interrelated with tarot cards.
The Minor Arcana
The four suits of the Minor Arcana are the greatest location to start learning about the elements in tarot. The Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles cards correlate to their respective elements.
These 56 cards are about our day-to-day lives; the things we make, experience, and do as living, breathing, interacting humans.
You will find that each of the four suits of Minor Arcana is associated with one of the four elements like this:
Wands == Fire
Cups == Water
Swords == Air
Pentacles == Earth
“Do you know the Minors that your body contains – represents the four elements itself?” How? The air that you breathe fills your lungs, your digestive system relates to fire, your bones represent the earth & the major part of your body (80%) is water. Without a doubt, we can’t imagine our & animals life without these four elements.
While researching on these elements, I found the easiest source to find information on each of the element – Natural Catastrophes. As per that it is bound to bring happiness into our life, often enough unexpected & terrifying. We can’t win over elements but all we can do is try to live with them peacefully & take precautions. Once they break free we are at the mercy of our fate. Surprisingly, our whole life is interwoven with the elements whether we notice it or not.
Now, let’s come to tarot. The tarot mirrors this relationship, not only in the Minor Arcana that are closely related to the elements but also in the Major Arcana as we will see during the workshop.
In my understanding & experience, the minors show very well the everyday life happenings that everybody has to deal with. Their close connection to the elements shows our inner and outer living space. This does not make the minors less spiritual than the majors, it is just that most people develop spiritually by those “little” things. Not everybody has the time and money to work on.
Element fire is so important that can’t, other than air, water or earth, live by itself.
The Greek Sage about Prometheus tell us how fire was brought to mankind. As per this myth, Prometheus, the son of Titan, stole the fire from gods. He used the fire to breathe life into human figure which were made out of clay.
Zeus noticed this & wanted to take revenge for this crime. Then he invented the box of the Pandora which was aimed to bring evil over all human beings. To protect himself from punishment, Prometheus himself was forged to a rock & an eagle was sent to eat his liver each day. Finally, Hercules came & recused him from this curse.
This myth narrates that the element fire is so important for us & humankind that even the gods were trying to keep it to themselves. Reason being, they’re in fear that mankind would use it for wrong purpose or too much.
Most importantly, fire transforms water & earth into energy that is why it is one of the major themes of the suit representing fire in a tarot deck is transformation.
Element fire is the most primal of all elements. Where the Suit of Wands represent it. It is all about ideas & projects, risk-taking & strong personalities. You will find the element fire correspondingly to Suit of Wands depicts sunshine, flames, sunflowers, lightening & flounces of red, orange & yellow – anything bright, bold & possibly dangerous.
Element water is dedicated to symbolise to the world of subconscious, our emotions & feelings. Moon is the ruler of this element as it is responsible for the tides of the seas as well as for our emotional crisis. You have heard old tales about the full moon showing the rise of committed crimes & children delivered at this time. In tarot, the suit of the cups represent this element as the cup giving form to water which has itself no form unless it is frozen. Feel enter the realms of its element with the touch of this suit. Water is the element that represents your soulful or emotional self, as well as your feelings and intuition. Similarly to how water runs, your emotions can be an unmanageable torrent at times, a dried-up trickle at others, rushing water at others, or a dam at others. The Suit of Cups represents your emotions. So, attempt to connect this to your emotional period.
According to tantric philosophers, the four elements as represented by the four suits of the tarot are connected to the four stage of life. You would be surprised to know that the 4rth stage is “Moksha” is related to the suit of the swords, the element air. After the death of the mortal body, the soul is said to be protected by Kali or the Master of Death; their power is represented by the swords. The legends say that Kali is the threefold goddess & fire. Her energy is life-giving as well as life taking. A myth tells that once there was a demon threatening the gods who was so powerful even Shiva was powerless against him. Then Kali was born, killed all demons & then fell into a dancing ecstasy. While dancing, her stamping feet endangered the whole universe. Finally, Shiva begged her to stop where she almost killed him in her ecstasy until she realised who was talking to her. At last, only Shiva was able to stop her from total destruction. Overall, you will find this myth full of power & energy which is usually related to fire.
Your intellectual self, your thoughts, your sense of right and wrong, the thoughts that run through your head, and your ability to strategize are all represented by air. As a result, the air element represents the Suit of Swords, also known as the ‘suit of sadness,’ because we are often victims of our own ideas and insecurities.
Now, try to find out what you can sense from this element, try to see the connection to the suit of the swords. You might come up with surprising answers.
The power of earth is a fairly strong element out of the five. Although we live on the planet earth, walk on it every day, retrieve our nourishment from it. But we don’t notice earth’s contribution as it is almost the same with our body, acts up, functions, & demands attention. Earth mesmerizes its importance in the form of earth quakes or famines.
Now, focusing our attention on this last element of the Minor Arcana. Let’s me tell you a legendary story related to this element. The sage is about the Greek goddess Demeter; also known as Roman Ceres & goddess of corn. Being mistress of rich harvesting she was closely related to the element earth, was the fourth wife of Zeus who was also her brother. They had only one child, Persephone.
When Hades robed her from her mother. In her pain or memory, Demeter refused to let anything grow on the earth & also threatened a famine to destroy the human race. At last, Zeus noticed these things & sent out Hermes (the messenger of God) to Hades, ordering him to set Persephone free. This way, Demeter became happy & normalized the things.
The earth element is associated with the body, health, physical surroundings, relationships with nature and the constructed environment, crafts, work, and money in tarot. It has a strong connection to the suit of pentacles, as there are many seeds, fruits, and trees in these cards, as well as mountains, houses, marketplaces, and gardens.
I hope you find this information beneficial.
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