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Elemental Dignities

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 22 Sep 2002, and now archived in the Forum Library.



Macavity  22 Sep 2002 
Having referred to "Elemental Dignities": http://www.supertarot.co.uk/index.htm
previously, and in a light-hearted way, this nevertheless (imo) raises some interesting questions:

The Author says: "Memorising the meanings of the cards is a pointless exercise when reading the Tarot. Real Tarot experts can re-create the meanings of the cards from first principles."

Well, certainly a strong viewpoint. ;)

But I note he later describes these how elemental dignities can be used to *AUGMENT* some of the stuff described above. Certainly this does seem interesting from the point of view re-creating the card meanings from first principles? (my emphasis above). :)

Any insights to offer? Anyone working with this technique?

Macavity 


jema  22 Sep 2002 
i use elemental dignities in my readings - when i see it fits in. and only to as you so put it - augument the readings. i know the cards first from many years of studies, secondly i "know" them from just looking at them and connect them with the question and then finally i use the EDs to connect card to card and see the whole picture.

in a way i use EDs only in third hand - after i used my scholary background and my intuition.

i am still not sure what he means by first principle though.
i guess i need to really sit down and read that whole site again.

by the way i used to have bookmarked the most splendid site on EDs and now i lost it. it was not supertarot. it was written in another way - a bit more easy to grasp for one non-english speaker as myself. (i find that supertarot to be a great site but the language makes me tired somehow) 


Kaz  22 Sep 2002 
i use ed's a lot, because i usually dont use spreads with positions. i lay out a line of cards and let that tell the story, then ed's are very good to work with and see how the energies flow. though i use the meaning of the cards as well ofcourse, but that is the second thing i look at.
does this make any sense? hope so......

kaz 


Macavity  22 Sep 2002 
Thank You Jema. Very helpful to point out that this is a known and used method. From my (very) limited perspective, I would indeed imagine that such things should be used to ADD to, rather than negate anything. I see now that a Google search throws up quite a number references to this topic and many take a broad view on this. Some also reference that site as being one instance of interpretation. Anyway, food for thought! :)

Thanks, Macavity

Sometimes having English as a first language doesn't help me *that* much in the interpretation of some of the more obscure stuff on the Web. }) 


Macavity  22 Sep 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Kaz
i use ed's a lot, because i usually dont use spreads with positions. i lay out a line of cards and let that tell the story, then ed's are very good to work with and see how the energies flow. though i use the meaning of the cards as well ofcourse, but that is the second thing i look at.
does this make any sense? hope so......

kaz


Indeed, very GOOD sense. In just starting out, I am finding the idea of linear "spreads" - uhm lines? ;) increasingly attractive! Maybe with an idea of getting a FEEL for cards in relationship to their neighbours, and position in a ABSTRACT sense, rather than to conventional location or meaning definitions within a 2D spread? Well anyway, that's the THEORY of the moment! :D

Thanks Again, Macavity 


Laurel  22 Sep 2002 
I've studied the Elemental Dignity system as its outlined on SuperTarot and walked away with mixed feelings. (Sometimes that author makes my head hurt too, Jema.)

I'm another big fan of the use of Elemental Dignities to supplement, rather than replace, other forms of tarot interpretation.

Laurel 


Thirteen  22 Sep 2002 
"Tarot Masters do not memorise the divinatory meanings of cards. Tarot Masters can change consciousness according to will. When a Tarot Master makes a prediction, it will happen...."

Okaaaaay. And a Jedi "feels" the force! Please. Take a look at this and tell me if you can understand what it means. "Change consciousness according to will." What does this mean? What is "consciousness"? Who's consciousness? Their own? Hey, do that all the time, I will my thoughts in a new direction, they change. Other? So Tarot Master's have mind control. Oh, no wait, you make a prediction, it will happen? Hmmm. I'm sure the person you're reading for would love that--"you WILL win the lottery because I predict it and what I predict happens...."

I'm leary of anything that talks of a "Tarot Master" as if the person writing that line is enough of an authority that they, alone, can define such a thing.

Frankly, the wonder of Tarot, to me, is that you never "master it." That this subject, like a language, is so rich that it cannot be "mastered." I'd trust what this person had to say a lot more if they weren't so all fire sure of what a "tarot master" was--and if what they were saying wasn't so very vague. 


jmd  23 Sep 2002 
I am in complete agreement with the caution advocated by Thirteen, and the problems with such appelation as 'Tarot Master'... or even that the Tarot is something to gain mastery over!

Yet I also wish to be fair to the site and its context.

To use the same language analogy used above, I think that, without wishing to use the 'master' title, we would say that many wonderful authors are masters of a (specific) language. A list of such 'masters' would be incomplete, and so refrain from even attempting it.

I suspect that the meaning of 'Tarot Master', as used on that site - and again re-iterate that I personally find the term both unfortunate and quite misleading - has much to do with the ability to incorporate many of its uses with ease - within a Golden Dawn context. It may be a very useful term to use amongst GD members and in that limited context.

With the site, I tend to agree that those with experience tend to work not with 'memorised meanings of cards' - but rather with understanding which, agreeing with Thirteen, can only forever deepen and unfold.

With regards the changing of consciousness according to Will, it should be remembered that very much part of the Golden Dawn tasks includes working on developing what may be termed altered states of consciousness - at will! Communion with various levels of spiritual beings is sought, and claimed to be achieved. It is in that context that the claim has some level of veracity.

As to 'When a Tarot Master makes a prediction, it will happen', the question could be asked as to what kind of prediction a 'Tarot Master' will make. I suppose that the answer provided would claim nothing more than the equivalent of being able to report what has been seen - some of which pertains to the future. This doesn't imply that what is predicted will happen because of the prediction, but rather that it is predicted because it will happen. The two are entirely different.

With Thirteen, I agree that 'frankly, the wonder of Tarot, to me, is that you never "master it"'. As such, many of the introductory remarks on the site may be extremely misleading, and do many of us Tarot enthusiasts injustice...

But to return to the thread:

Elemental attributions, if used, can certainly either add to though for some possibly even, unfortunately, replace!) one's understanding of the cards, and thus may be extremely useful. 


Thirteen  23 Sep 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by jmd

To use the same language analogy used above, I think that, without wishing to use the 'master' title, we would say that many wonderful authors are masters of a (specific) language.


Actually, I was borrowing from just such a "language master" when I made that observation. Anthony Burgess, who I, at least, consider a truely brilliant author, once said that he could never understand it when he heard other authors say, "I feel I have mastered the English Language" because he felt that he would never, ever be master over such a thing--only, forever, a student. The same seems to true to me of tarot--and it seems you're in agreement on that.

As you point out, at the best, these guys are revealing their inability to properly express themselves. Anyone attempting to teach others about the tarot should, IMHO, not be a poor, or imprecise communicator. That, at least, is my arrogant maxim.

Quote:
As to 'When a Tarot Master makes a prediction, it will happen', the question could be asked as to what kind of prediction a 'Tarot Master' will make. I suppose that the answer provided would claim nothing more than the equivalent of being able to report what has been seen - some of which pertains to the future. This doesn't imply that what is predicted will happen because of the prediction, but rather that it is predicted because it will happen. The two are entirely different.


Very true--they are different. And if this is about our "tarot master" predicting a stock market crash or a metor smashing into Australia 25 years from now--or even, perhaps, a surprise encounter with a tall, dark handsome stranger, then you and the site are correct. It should happen, else the reader is just one of those faux fortune tellers out to make a quick buck.

And it would seem that the site is trying to make just that distinction, between those truely invested in studying the tarot as magic and mystery, and those who use the tarot to make money or just memorize the meanings in their LWB. In which case, I'm in complete agreement with the site; the latter two are not going to "master" the tarot.

But I think the folk at this site seriously need to work on language mastery before they begin espousing Tarot mastery ;) They really put me off and I am, potentially, on their side. 


bec  23 Sep 2002 
my thoughts

do you have to be an exspert before re-creating the cards meaning from principle one ????

does it not just mean that what you saw first time will differ in the second glanse ?

me feels both offended and amused over this author's comment, sounds to me like he tries more to look a master of jibberish himself than actually write something comprehensible.

but hey that's just me :D no native here and difinetly not a master of anything *lol* 


Laurel  23 Sep 2002 
In Paul Hughes-Barlow's defense (he being the author of the website in question), I think his use of the word "master" is based in the Hermetic idea of an "adept". He's looking at tarot as a tool of the magician, and considers himself a clairovoyant to boot. So when he talks about "will" and "consciousness", its completely in the context of Crowley and the Golden Dawn philosophies.

However, some of his claims do strike me as well.... either grossly self-glorified or unsubstanciated. For example, he claims to be the ~foremost~ authority on the Crowley tarot. Most of his "research" is based off his personal meditations on the cards and some letters between Crowley and Lady Frieda. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't strike me as really enough of a foundation to justify titles as "foremost authority of the Crowley tarot" and "the the United Kingdom's foremost investigative historian on the secret occult knowledge of Great Britain" (both of which PH-B has used and spreads along the Internet)....

I really hate dissing any other readers reputation. I'm sure he's a very talented, very charming, very likeable person. I'm just not personally comfortable about his approach and to be honest, some of the most talented tarot readers (and magicians) I've ever met or heard of are also pretty humble and take it all with a dash of salt coupled with a sense of humor.

Laurel 


Macavity  24 Sep 2002 
Wow. I believe a general concensus may have been reached - In part the solution might be an editorial one? ;) Anyway, I think PHB will have provided me with a novel approach to the subject and notably in using the colored tables to represent EDs, perhaps rather reminiscent of some scientific methods? Fwiw, I do sometimes speculate that the seeming randomness of Tarot may be analogous to a kind of (to borrow a term from physics) "spontaneous symmetry breaking" :) It may lend itself to some kind or ordering as used with particles and/or forces. And perhaps THAT is indeed where some notion of "Grand Unification" comes in? Heheh. But we digress! :D

In the investigation, I have come across some interesting and (imo) even-handed essays e.g. at http://www.tarotmoon.com. Fwiw, I will be trying EDs with my Alasia "Egyptian Deck" - Might help with *plain* minor arcana? Tomorrow should see the arrival and first sight of a "Crowley Thoth" deck (woohoo) and (my first love?) K.K's "Tarot of the Cat People" :) Doubtless more questions soon!

Macavity. 


Jenny-Li  27 Sep 2002 
Hi!

I am very much interested in using Elemental Dignities, the general principles of this system appeals to me a lot more than reversals (although I have only just this week seen ED as an alternative to reversals...!). "General principles" is also all I know about this, so my question is:

Any tips on good starting points for learning about ED? The supertarot-site is very...hm... vast, but as mentioned before, it is not very easily digested - whether that has to do with being native English speaker or not. What other sources would you recommend to an ED-newbie...?

Thanks a lot!
Ever-curious Jenny :) 


Macavity  27 Sep 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Jenny-Li
Any tips on good starting points for learning about ED?

From my point of view (again) I have found:
http://www.tarotmoon.com/articles/Elemental_Dignities/elemental_dignities.html
to be a very readable paper on the subject.

Having ploughed through quite a lot on the subject online, I think she seems to cover all(?) the main bits I have picked up on. I printed this and some of her other pages (see links at end of the page) off... to read slowly and in more comfort :) 


Thirteen  27 Sep 2002 
Well, now, that's a nice little website. And it didn't push all sorts of buttons and send me careening off to my soapbox ;)

Soooo. Actually getting to your question....I think Elemental Dignities are fine things to use, the only caution I'd have is that I don't think beginners should be burdened by them. Also, it perturbs me that the explainations of these relationships are sometimes more complicated than they needed to be. Take all the Friendly/unfriendly or passive/active stuff--this comes much more clear if you just get down to the element. Air is friendly to fire--blow on a fire and it will burn. Water or Earth will put out a fire. They are not friendly. Water poured on Earth makes plants grow. So water and Earth are friendly. As for air/water, as that website puts it--air bubbles in water don't mix.

I guess what I'm saying is that I think the elements of the cards should be seen as actual elements. If so, then a certain amount of common sense will make the "dignities," their relationships and interactions clear. No need to get bogged down with too many relationships--espcically as the main purpose of E.D.'s is to clarify.

Don't get me wrong. I use E.D.'s. and I think they're VERY useful. I've found it invaluable to know card elements, planets and zodiac. It certainly takes things a step deeper and gets you into the minds of those who designed the cards and all--that at the very least. But maybe out of laziness, I just don't bother with E.D.'s unless they start to stand out--lots of wands and cups, that sort of thing, or unless the reading isn't really clear and I'm having some trouble.

Or, put it another way, if you lay out the cards and get a crystal clear reading, then there's no need to gild the lily. If, on the other hand, some parts of the reading are obscure, then E.D.'s are a godsend. 


Macavity  28 Sep 2002 
Hi Thirteen et al.,

I suspect one should perhaps resist beating this one to death and see some of the original more contentious material has changed. :) I am interested in the "math(s)" aspects. I guess from that point of view, one could e.g. weight all the cards via EDs, use card counting techniques, and with astrological input, one might imagine almost having (horrors!) an automatic process. For my amusement, I am writing (yawn, yet another?) web page to throw up random cards for some spread and may even get it to "do" EDs and card counting! (But heck, if anyone is *that* interested?) Fwiw, I suspect such things could be useful as practice tools, BUT also imo (doubtless?) negate the *spirit* of Tarot.

But to continue on regardless!

From a factual perspective, I agree e.g. ED's throw up a LOT of combinations and I suspect that a great many may indeed not be very useful. I note several traditions, e.g. Golden Dawn, actively seek to reduce the number of these. Fwiw, Friendly and Unfriendly interaction might indeed be clear, but when one adds "neutral" and then weights with active-passive (and again) neutral contributions. - Aargh! I do like physical analogies WATER + EARTH = MUD (fairly passive/inertial stuff?!) I do think it might be useful to ponder *these*, BUT one begins to see just how it can rapidly (even as mud?) slide away from mere mortals. In short, I'll go with most of what you say! :)

Interesting stuff nonetheless. To quote from the book of Thoth: "There is no need to enter into any discussion of these disputed points" [here] (sic!) Heheh. Ah, but quite *fun* maybe? })

Thanks, Mac.

P.S. I haven't yet got to card "pairs" that e.g. Bunning discusses - You have been warned :) 


phb  29 Sep 2002 
Hi,

Just stumbled on comments on Elemental Dignities. I am the creator of Supertarot, the site of Elemental Dignities, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask! 


Laurel  29 Sep 2002 
Welcome to Aeclectic, PHB! I personally hope you stick around and discuss not only elemental dignities but all things tarot with us. I do have some initial questions but don't want to derail this thread because they don't directly relate to the elemental dignities and will ask them privately if that's alright.

Laurel 


phb  29 Sep 2002 
Hi Laurel,

You are welcome to email me privately - as are anyone else!


Paul 


Aerin  06 May 2003 
OK, I'm thinking of giving these a whirl so I resurrected this thread in the hopes that some people have some useful insights/ resources to add...

And I should say, that I prefer an intuitive type explanation rather than lots of complicated stuff. Definitely not one for the Magician sleight of hand show-offy stuff.

Aerin 


phb  06 May 2003 
If someone wants to post a series of cards, along with an ED type analysis, I would be happy to comment or provide any other insights. It is better if someone else posts the cards, then i cannot be accused of cheating!

BTW, I am working on a book on Tarot and EDs which will be published in November, all going well.

Paul

www.supertarot.co.uk 


jmd  10 May 2003 
Good to hear your book will be published in November - shows it must be either ready or nearing completion!

Looking forward to it... please let us know when you have further details. 


phb  10 May 2003 
I am still working on the book - there is so much to do, and much depends on the publisher.

I will be talking about the book at the Toronto Tarot Conference on July 19th 2003, so introduce yourselves if you get there!

At one point the plan was for the book to be published in July, but so many new ideas cropped up that it was better to wait and do a better job.

The book is about the techniques of reading the Opening of the Key Spread, but it goes much much further in ways that were not expected when I started writing. Very little of www.supertarot.co.uk appears in it.

Can't say much more than that at the moment! Sorry to be vague. 


Rusty Neon  10 May 2003 
Hi Paul ... I'm looking forward to your book.

(1) Is it going to be a physical book or an electronic book? Is it going to be distributed in North American bookstores?

(2) It sounds like it's going to be an advanced book for people who have read, studied and learned the material on the supertarot website. Is that right?

(3) It's a shame that the supertarot website's tarot lessons aren't going to be in the book. It would be nice to have them included for those of us who don't have colour printers to print the tarot lessons off your website. Also, those lessons would make the book more interesting for people who may know tarot reading but who haven't previously studied elemental dignities.

(4) I won't be at the Toronto conference, so it would be nice if you could, at an appropriate future time, post some advance details about the book. 


phb  11 May 2003 
hi Rusty,

It will be a proper book, not electronic.

I am taking a slightly different approach to the supertarot lessons. So the book will complement the website. If you are familiar with EDs, counting and pairing, you will find those parts of the book a breeze, but I have been able to develop the techniques to a level that has stunning implications for tarot.

I took the view that if I included a lot of the supertarot site in the book I would be short changing the reader. The first version of the book did have the tarot lessons, but there is a big difference in style and format between books and htm, and to be honest, it made a terrible book. I had to go away and think, and it took a month before I came up with ideas that inspired me to write. The other advantage is that I can keep what is on supertarot. What I might do is produce another pdf file of the supertarot lessons, but that will have to be after the writing is finished.

Once the publisher produces a press notice, I will post it.

Do you use ED's, counting, pairing etc in your readings? 


firemaiden  13 May 2003 
Honored to meet you, phb; have just discovered your site. I have never yet used elemental dignities, and am enjoying the lessons. Thank you Macavity for starting this thread. It is exciting to meet the writer of a book. I look forward very much to reading this book, and also really hope you will stick around to share with all of us. 


Macavity  14 May 2003 
Hi PHB. I would like to echo Firemaiden's comments and thank Paul (and others) for reviving this thread. We look forward indeed to the BOOK! :D On a personal note, I wince slightly that some of my comments here, but hope these were equalled in their naivity by genuine enthusiasm? I don't feel competent enough as a reader to offer any spreads, but encourage SOMEONE to do so... somewhere? It would be great to see how elemental dignities and counting/pairing add to the richness of a readings?

(Perhaps to invite comment!) I would suggest that these techniques provide a method of extracting significant and holistic information from the arrangement of cards but more significantly allow the reader to ADD personal and deck-specific "interpretation" as the final layer. For me anyway, that would appear to be the greatest merit? It must also have appeal for those (including myself) who are blessed with a predominantly left-brain approach to much of this? }) The structural basis for a reading could be invariant and allow for the surface layer to "improve" with experience and intuitition?

Whereas my soapbox is rickety, I suggest that this seems to be indeed the way to go for those interested in using the Crowley-Thoth deck to it's "design limit"? I sense there is a lot also to be said for real authenticity in the recreation of these historical techniques? Perhaps "Cryptic Crowley" (we love you anyway) is one obstacle to their wider use? :D

Macavity

P.S. For those that didn't notice (either?) this is ALL (mostly!) described by Mr. Crowley in the Book of Thoth, under the heading "The behaviour of the Tarot"? etc. However, it is really ONLY on PHB's site etc., that many of the somewhat terse and/or cryptic allusions are rendered transparent enough for mortals to use in practice AND some definite unknowns rendered knowable? Indeed, well worth a look! :) 


phb  10 Jul 2003 
Quote:
Originally posted by firemaiden
Honored to meet you, phb; have just discovered your site. I have never yet used elemental dignities, and am enjoying the lessons. Thank you Macavity for starting this thread. It is exciting to meet the writer of a book. I look forward very much to reading this book, and also really hope you will stick around to share with all of us.


It has taken nearly 6 months longer than expected, but details of my book "Tarot and the Magus" are at www.supertarot.co.uk/resource/tarotbk.htm

This is not because the book is huge! Far from it. During the writing process I discovered new magical techniques in the Counting and Pairing methods used in the Opening of the Key Spread. Very little of the website is in the book.

I am going to be talking about the book at the Toronto Tarot Symposium on July 19th 2003. 


The Elemental Dignities thread was originally posted on 22 Sep 2002 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the active threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

 


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