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Elements and Majors

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 28 Oct 2002, and now archived in the Forum Library.



Diana  28 Oct 2002 
edited 


jmd  28 Oct 2002 
If one makes astrological correlations with the Major arcana, then certainly elemental ones emerge.

A number of 'problems' arise, however: firstly, some correlate Taurus (Earth) to IIII the Emperor, others to V the Pope/Hierophant; secondly, the planets may have more than one element associated (eg, Jupiter with both Fire and Water); and thirdly, though an elemental association may assist in a certain understanding, may it not also constrain?

I personally see that each of the cards of the Major arcana may be understood or investigated (and thus 'seen') through the lense of each of the elements. Certainly in this sense, I the Magician reveals various shades when seen through its Mercurial, Sulphuric, Salt, or its Earth, Water, Air and Fire attributes.

Looking forward to reading differing comments. 


MeeWah  28 Oct 2002 
Diana: Offhand, I do not know that there is an elemental relationship with the Major Arcana. I have made some connections but I do not know that they are "true" associations as I tend to notice them in a certain context, such as with a particular throw. That is: The Fool as Air, The Magician as Air, The High Priestess as Water, The Empress as Earth, The Emperor as Fire, etc.

Depending on the source of reference, such associations differ widely. Some do attribute planetary associations such as: The Fool with Uranus, The Magician with Mercury, The High Priestess with the Moon, The Empress with Venus, The Emperor with Mars but do not offer an elemental correspondence--unless such can be inferred by the planetary association.

This is something that I would need to do more research on & perhaps then get back to ye. 


Kaz  28 Oct 2002 
this is a list that is used quite often for the elements and majors:

Fool Air
Magician Mercury Air
High Priestess Moon Water
Empress Venus Earth
Emperor Aries Fire
Hierophant Taurus Earth
Lovers Gemini Air
Chariot Cancer Water
Strength/Lust Leo Fire
Hermit Virgo Earth
Wheel of Fortune Jupiter Fire
Justice Libra Air
Hanged Man Water
Death Scorpio Water
Temperance/Art Sagittarius Fire
Devil Capricorn Earth
Tower Mars Fire
Star Aquarius Air
Moon Pisces Water
Sun Sun Fire
Judgement Fire
World Saturn Fire

i know you use marseille deck, if you look in the pictures of the cards themselves, you can find the elements in them. just look and see. some cards have all of them in them, some three, some only two. we might see different things looking at the same cards.
interested in sharing what you see and compare?

kaz 


HOLMES  28 Oct 2002 
llooking at this diagram on the tree o life and the four worlds

atziluth, the archtypical world consisting of three spheres and eight paths (five of which goes into the next world,) are associated iwth the spirit world of fire

in the second one the world of briah, the creative world of primal water you have spheres 4 5, and six, and 12 paths, (some that go up into the fire world and some that go down into the air world.)

and in the next world yetzirha the formative world, which has pheres 7, 8 9 , 8 paths , (which agians some go into the world above and below)

and finally the world of assia the active world of manfiestion (earth)
you get the ten sphere and three paths which go into the world of fire.

by looking at these paths and spheres (believe me i am just starting the process of study and dont' much much muaha :O)

you can see that the major arcana is made up of many elemnts excpet the top three paths which are directly fire,
three paths in the world of water,
three paths in the world of air.

also not only that but the paths on the left considered the severe pillers will be the extreme area so the elements, and the middle paths the mild paths, and the piller of the mercy the more gentle paths.

ah i found the diagram with the assigned paths :O)

magican, fool, emperess would be in the realm of fire exclusviely

strenght , jsutice hermit would be in the world of the water exclusviely

tower , sun, star in the world of the air exclusivly

chariot , high priestress, lovers, hirophant and emepror in the world of both water and fire,

hanged man, devil tower, death, wheel of fortuen in both the world of water and air.

and jugment, universed, and moon in the world of air and earth elements.

part two the extreme and the middle and the mercy pillers or black, grey and whitel

the , chariot, hanged man , are striclty severe path

the paths of highpriestrees tempereance, and universe are strictly in the paths of the graey

the paths of hierohphant, wheel of fortune, are paths of white,

the paths of mild to severe are magican , lovers, justice devil sun, judment,

the paths of mild to white are fool, emperor, hermit, death, star, moon,
and the paths that has all three degrees of influence in them are , emperess, strenght, tower,

what this means ? i dont know i just went by two diagrphasm applying them to your question eheh. :O) 


jmd  28 Oct 2002 
Both Kaz and Holmes have given associations made by or arising out of the Golden Dawn's Kabbalistic correlations.

Are these, however, intrinsic to the cards, or imposed and thus re-colouring their essence? 


HOLMES  28 Oct 2002 
1. many variatiosn of the tree of life paths,
2. no much is known about the daath sphere which i feel is the 0 sphere as it is not filled and so the fool would connect to it. but i admit i am new to the kabbalah :O)

given me and kaz associations it is clear our elements themselves are diffent, exm fool fire,, for kaz fool is air,
and even in my own two books the court cards associations are not the same for the spheres themselves let alone the associatons of the paths with the majors arcana.

"Are these, however, intrinsic to the cards, or imposed and thus re-colouring their essence?"(said by jmd)

i feel they are artrinsic to the cards myself as any system like the three times 7 aspects of humanity in the living the tarot book. any system like astrology, elements, that help us to understand the tarot itself is useful.

and i feel that by imposing these on the tarot by itself and closing down the mind to other associations ie. runes associations, numerology, can close down the mind to inutiive assocaitons.

and so they are both intrinsic( i dont' know what the word means eheh) and both recolour their essence and impose meanings on them.

i liken it much to positional card readings which work for some and not all. 


ihcoyc  28 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Diana
Is there a relation between the four elements and the Major Arcana?
The system I am most familiar with is set forth by Gareth Knight, and makes these assignments:

The Papess, the Empress, the Emperor and the Pope all fall under the presidency of the virtue of Strength. Strength rules the Clubs, and as such these cards are Fire cards.

The Hanged Man, Death, the Devil and the House of God all fall under the presidency of the virtue of Justice. She also governs the Swords, and as such these cards are Air cards.

The Lovers, the Chariot, the Hermit and the Wheel of Fortune all fall under the presidency of the virtue of Temperance. Temperance also rules the Cups, and as such these cards are Water cards.

The Star, the Moon, the Sun, and the Last Judgment all fall under the presidency of The World, who here stands in for the virtue of Prudence. Prudence rules the Coins, and as such these cards are Earth cards.

The Fool and the Magician are two sides of the animating spirit of the deck generally, and stand above all of these others and have no elemental attribution themselves. 


Kaz  29 Oct 2002 
jmd, ofcourse these things i listed are imposed on the cards :-) but they can be helpful.
any "system" you find valid is useful.
maybe it even depends on what deck you use what system you use, for me thats the case anyway.
in thoth deck i use the listing as i posted above, but when i use marseille deck i just go on what i see in the pictures, there are many things in them that refer to elements.
the garethknight one i didnt know, somhow this one doesnt click me me when i read it here. might try it to see if it works for me.

kaz 


jmd  29 Oct 2002 
The Gareth Knight correlations are taken, I presume, from his The Magical World of Tarot: fourfold mirror of the universe, Aquarian press, 1991.

It has been over seven years since I read it, and did not recall that he made those elemental associations (which I thought he only correlated to the minor arcana). The allocations to the four cardinal virtues (with XXI the World as Prudence) is taken from the Gringonneur deck, in which only these four cards (VIII, XI, XIIII and XXI) have an 'aureole' surrounding their heads.

Kaz, I agree that any system imposed upon the Tarot may lead to various insights - hence my comment about looking at the cards through various elemental lenses. The question, however, is whether elemental attributions arise from contemplation of the Tarot per se. Unless one uses a deck which has already made such impositions upon the card's depictions, I wonder if such truly does emerge.

Holmes, despite what I write in some places, I highly value the Golden Dawn's contributions - it has enriched our world. If one allocates the cards upon the 'paths' claimed, and one also makes the divisions on the Tree which I too have mentioned elsewhere (Cf the General Study section threads on the Qabalah), and one also makes the elemental attributions to the four worlds in one of their tetragrammaton allocated order, then the allocations you give follow. Of course, this is where, again, the super-imposition of two systems, though leading to insights may also, I suspect, hinder other insights (on the Tarot, in this case) occuring - hence my question. 


Kiama  29 Oct 2002 
I was thinking exactly the same thing the other night Diana! (Grea tminds think alike of course...)

But then the thought rode onwards to: Well, there are probably elements you can assign to each Major, but those elements can also be assigned to each Minor... So, woudl teh Majors which have been assigned as Earth, also have some link with the suit of Pentacles? And would the Air Majors have a relationship at all with the Swords?

Just a thought.

Kiama 


Trogon  29 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Diana
And the Chinese have five elements (Fire, Wood, Earth, Metal and Water.) Then I really started getting confused.............


I'm wondering about this statement. If you were using a Tarot deck based on the standard symbolisms which use the old alchemical elements of earth, air, fire, water, I would think you would want to be consistent with that. If, however, you were using a deck whose symbolism was from the Orient, then you might want to use the elemental associations of fire, wood, earth, metal and water. This sort of makes sense to me anyway. ;) 


ihcoyc  29 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by jmd
The Gareth Knight correlations are taken, I presume, from his The Magical World of Tarot: fourfold mirror of the universe , Aquarian press, 1991.

It has been over seven years since I read it, and did not recall that he made those elemental associations (which I thought he only correlated to the minor arcana). The allocations to the four cardinal virtues (with XXI the World as Prudence) is taken from the Gringonneur deck, in which only these four cards (VIII, XI, XIIII and XXI) have an 'aureole' surrounding their heads.
You are correct, in that the system is presented in that book, and also in his The Treasure House of Images book. He does make the elemental attributions, at least, to the four virtues, and those attributions seem intuitively plausible.

I'd tend to agree that assigning Earth to the Star, the Sun, and the Moon may be going a bit far with this. It is probably best to let tarot stand as its own system rather than trying to stretch it across some other framework. There isn't even a universal consensus as to which suit is Air and which is Fire, though Earth and Water seem somewhat less contentious. 


augursWell  30 Oct 2002 
I personally see the traditional four elements of fire, water, earth, and air as incomplete when taken individually. The combination of all of them is thus a fifth element which, for lack of a better term, is aether. To me all of the Majors together make up their own suit or element, the afore mentioned aether. Since the Majors are overarching principles they are more complete than the other four elements and the suits of the Minors.

They would follow in this progression:

Earth (the most stable, least energetic, Pentagrams)
Water (less stable, more fluid, Cups)
Fire (the force which transmutes the previous into the following, Wands)
Air (least stable, most fluid, Swords)
Aether (pure energy, pure light, Majors)

Also, if you go by the IChing there are eight "elements"; Dragon, Earth, Thunder, Water/Chasm, Mountain, Wind/Wood, Fire, Lake.

I agree that every system, IChing, Kabbalah, Tarot, whatever, must be seen in its own light. Still similarities and correspondences will occur. That is the beauty of the human mind. :) 


Kirali  30 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by augursWell
I personally see the traditional four elements of fire, water, earth, and air as incomplete when taken individually. The combination of all of them is thus a fifth element which, for lack of a better term, is aether. To me all of the Majors together make up their own suit or element, the afore mentioned aether. Since the Majors are overarching principles they are more complete than the other four elements and the suits of the Minors.

They would follow in this progression:

Earth (the most stable, least energetic, Pentagrams)
Water (less stable, more fluid, Cups)
Fire (the force which transmutes the previous into the following, Wands)
Air (least stable, most fluid, Swords)
Aether (pure energy, pure light, Majors)


I agree with augursWell. I believe that the Majors have their own element: spirit or aether. I do see how they can correspond with the astrological element, ie: Justice=Libra=air but aether/spirit makes it easier on my mind. hehe :) 


augursWell  30 Oct 2002 
I do think that all of the aforementioned systems of assigning cards to elements have merit and are quite insightful. The problem for me was that I sat down one day and tried assigning the Majors each to one of the four elements or suits. I kept coming up against the idea that any given Major really had multiple aspects that belonged to more than one element, more so than the Minor cards. It seemed any given Major card was made up of multiple elements so they should belong to another suit which was a combination of the other elements.

Kiama mentioned the idea of whether a Major card that is assigned to a particular suit would then have a correspondence with Minor cards in the suit. I agree with this concept. For instance, Justice :TJUST has a lot to do with the element of Air, in my opinion, since it involves the balancing of many opposite, conflicting ideas and opinions and then arriving at a Just decision. Many of the Sword Minors have a lot to do with this and, in a way, lead up to the concept of Justice.

In case anyone is interested, I use the pattern I mentioned earlier because it also corresponds well with the Chakra system of various Yoga systems like this:

Crown (aether, Majors)
Third-eye (aether, Majors)
Neck (air, Swords)
Heart (fire, Wands)
Solar Plexus/Gut (Water, Cups)
Legs (Earth, Pentacles)
Root (Earth, Pentacles)

I should say that I don't yet have a personal way of assigning the 12 houses/signs of the Zodiac to the Tarot, even though there are quite a few that I've seen. 


Ravenswing  31 Oct 2002 
would a "true" oriental tarot deck have five suits? (this sounds like a fun project)

the major arcana from the haindl deck are color coded as to the elements he sees them to be associated with. i don't have it with me at the moment-- i'll post them later.

out in the elements myself
raven 


Zhritza  31 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Ravenswing
would a "true" oriental tarot deck have five suits? (this sounds like a fun project)


Which cultures in Asia traditionally have the five-element system besides Japan? I'm guessing China does, but I don't know... Anyone? 


Major Tom  01 Nov 2002 
This is a fascinating thread with lots of interesting concepts. I wish I had something as well thought out to contribute. I've always thought of it this way:

I've never tried to associate elements with the majors. I've always viewed the majors as beyond elements. The major archtypes are spiritual forces and the elements are physical forces.

If you buy the concept of 'as above, so below'. The majors represent the above and element the below. 


Diana  01 Nov 2002 
edited 


SlyR  01 Nov 2002 
In response to the "five elements" issue:

Hermetic Magickal systems usually address the five elements issue in the tools used by adepts: The fire wand, the earth pentacle, the water chalice, and the fire wand. There is a fifth tool, a "rainbow wand," which is a central part of the Golden Dawn system. You could say that the fifth element is represented by the strong spiritual significance of the Trump cards of the Major Arcana. The fifth element might be a synthesis of the qualities of the basic four elements. I'm a little rusty, but I think that's basically the idea. I do know that in the more elaborate rituals, all five tools are present, but the rainbow wand is the one that is actually wielded a majority of the time. Take a look at the Magus card (i). There they all are. This is all reconcilable with the Eastern system (see Donald Michael Kraig, 'Modern Magick'). I don't think a reordering of the Tarot is necessary. 


augursWell  02 Nov 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Qolus
Which cultures in Asia traditionally have the five-element system besides Japan? I'm guessing China does, but I don't know... Anyone?
I just came across some information on Feng Shui. The five elements figure quite strongly there. Try this link for more information:
Feng Shui Made Simple 


lupo138  06 Nov 2002 
wonderful what you found out - anyway, especially concerning ether, it could be that the writers of the G.D. did not always mean what they wrote, so one can never be 100% sure of that. 


The Elements and Majors thread was originally posted on 28 Oct 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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