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Studying non-scenic pips-The Elements

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 11 Jan 2004, and now archived in the Forum Library.

~X~  11 Jan 2004 
The Four Elements

Fire: active, masculine, adventurous, creative, aggressive, intuition, movement, energy, enthusiasm, impulsive, direct, outgoing, swiftness

Fire is the life giving energy needed to start everything. Nothing can exist without the initial spark of an idea; that feeling of inspiration, the ability to create something out of a random thought. Fire's energy is also needed to see a project through to completion. As powerful as it is, fire needs the other elements to help control and organize its energy or it will burn out of control and eventually fizzle out.

Water: passive, feminine, emotional, receptive, fluid, reflective, love, friendship, nourishing, fertile, spiritual, feeling, receiving, fantasy, nurturing, intense

Water is the emotion and feelings that give depth and meaning to the initial energy provided by fire. It's pure, comforting, fertile nourishment. However, as with fire, there is no control associated with water, and it can overwhelm and drown if unchecked by the other elements.

Air: active, masculine, intellect, mental activity, wisdom, understanding, communication, truth, logic, knowledge gathering, experience, analyzation, reasoning

Air brings some organization and reason to the unbridled energy and emotions of fire and water. It wants to know everything and is always looking for the truth, no matter how painful. It tests energies and emotions and organizes them. It develops a plan. Air needs the emotions of water to keep it from being "cold" and unfeeling and the energy of fire to keep moving forward.

Earth: passive, feminine, our physical bodies, physical needs, money, stability, solid, responsible, practical, patience, persistence, work, sensuality, all things material, the business world, nature

The Earth provides the stability and firm base that energy, emotions and organization need in order to grow and ultimately bring to their conclusion. It is solid, practical and always there. It is the stabilizing force in our lives. It is the everyday obligations and responsibilities that provide balance to our ideas, fantasies and emotions. Earth needs the energy of fire and the feelings of water to prevent stagnation and the knowledge of air to keep moving forward to an ultimate conclusion. 

Diana  12 Jan 2004 
Wonderful post to start this study of the Elements.

I could add (although sometimes there are similar observations in ~X~'s post):

Fire: The most active element of the four. But fire often burns out quickly – it needs some kind of fuel to keep it alight. And beware to not throw too much Water or Earth on it – it will put out the fire. However, oxygen (Air) is needed – a lack of oxygen and the flame will go out. Nevertheless, it needs the Earth element quite a bit, because without a support it will not be able to survive. (A flame can’t hover without having some kind of grounding). Fire is considered sacred in many traditions and in antique times, if the Sacred Fire went out, this would bring bad tidings. In many traditions, Fire is also important in burial ceremonies – the burning of the body aids the soul to rise up to wherever it’s supposed to go. Fire purifies.

Fire can be dangerous. And terribly powerful. It deserves our greatest respect. A fire becomes quickly out of control and at times almost impossible to put out – unless we have sufficient water or some earth element, or if we remove the Air. (Too much Air can fan the flames (wind). Fire and Air are tricky sometimes when they are put side by side.)

Water: Passive indeed. But along with Air, one of the most vital elements for the existence of man. One cannot survive long without Water (even less with Air.) Passive, but solid (Air is not solid, in comparison). Water is not as dangerous as Fire. One can learn to swim in water. It is at times calming. The baby lives in the amniotic fluid which is similar to water – it is where we all long to return to – that comfort of the womb. In water, we become so light and float. Water is also a purifying agent ( Church baptisms, for instance.) Water cleanses. The noise of the waves can lull us to sleep – it can be hypnotic and therefore also dangerous at times for we can lose track of time and of our own bodies and we end up drowning.

Air: Air is the most vital element for man in order to survive. Air rises higher than all the elements – it reaches up to the sky. It could therefore be seen as the Element that links Man to the Divine – to his soul, and his spirit, to his origins. (We will probably discuss this further when we link the fives to the Elements). It can be viewed as the King of the Elements. It is found everywhere where there is life. Without oxygen, our brain cells die within a few minutes, even seconds. Therefore it is vital for thought and logic.

Earth: Earth is materiality. It represents grounding. The Mother Earth (feminine) on whom we are privileged to be allowed to evolve. But it is thick and dense. Not always the most comfortable when it becomes muddy (i.e. mixed with too much Water). It represents stability (masculine). We will see that it is the most comfortable with the minor arcanum number four (I am anticipating here, I know) because the Four represents stability.

There, I am done for the moment. :) 

firemaiden  15 Jan 2004 
Firemaiden, wearing her skeptic hat, feels compelled to add, that while the ancients held fire, earth, air, and water to be elements; we know there are no such elements on the periodic table... I got to wondering therefore, why did the Ancients pick out these four things? What I realized, is that while they are not properly "elements" in the modern sense, they do correspond perfectly to four physical "states" of matter :

Water : liquid
Earth : Solid
Air: Gas
Fire: combustion 

jmd  16 Jan 2004 

More than that, early Greek thinkers also questioned which was the primary element - the ONE from which the others came. Here, various came up with various answers...

Over the centuries, a number of ramifications, within the occidental esoteric tradition, settled not only on this four, but also on how they relate to each other.

Two 'principles' were thus later postulated: that of heat, and that of moisture. From these two arises the four elements:
  • Heat without Moisture -> Fire;
  • Moisture without Heat -> Water;
  • Heat & Moisture -> Air;
  • Neither Heat nor Moisture -> Earth.
This also reconciles the 'three' elements arising from considerations of the Hebrew letters: only the three 'mother' letters are allocated an element. Alef with Air; Mem with Water; and Shin with Fire.

To reflect of the two principles of Heat and Moisture and their interactions in not only life processes, but also alchemical operations, yields, in my view, further reflections along the lines already well mentioned by ~X~ and Diana... 

Diana  18 Jan 2004 
Firemaiden: I have also seen Fire referred to as "plasma". I had to check up what plasma really means, and here is the Webster definition to assist other ignorant people such as myself.

Plasma: a collection of charged particles (as in the atmospheres of stars or in a metal) containing about equal numbers of positive ions and electrons and exhibiting some properties of a gas but differing from a gas in being a good conductor of electricity and in being affected by a magnetic field.

On a side-note - but which is personally interesting to me, there are also Hippocrates' Four Humours.

Blood: Energy. A love for life.
Phlegm: Lethargy. Passivity.
Black bile: Depression and sadness.
Yellow bile: Causes anger and a Yellow bile influenced a person's temperament. It caused anger and makes one ill-tempered. 

firemaiden  18 Jan 2004 
I am more used to seeing these four humours called by the names of temperaments: sanguine, choleric, flegmatic, melancholic

A website The Four Humours shows how the four theoretical humours theoretically corresponded to the four theoretical elements, (quite an absurd stretch I think...) :

    Blood (sanguine -- amourous, happy generous) ==> Air

    Yellow bile (choleric -- angry, vengeful) ==> Fire

    Phlegm (phlegmatic -- dull, pale, cowardly) ==> Water

    Black bile (melancholy -- lazy, gluttonous, sentimental) ==> Earth

The first thought, is why would blood be associated with air??/ and why is blood happy? It shows the instability of the fire/air distinction which continues into the tarot with sword/wand fire-air instability. 

Phoenyx*  18 Jan 2004 
The body is comprised, basically, of the four elements.

Water: The blood is made of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, along with numerous other factors that we won't get into here. Plasma (bodily plasma) is the fluid part of the blood, it is the water element of the body.

Air: Oxygen, as well as carbon dioxide, enter and exit the body through the nostril passage, enter the lungs, where it is picked up (and deposited in carbon dioxide's case) by the red blood cells (specifically the hemoglobin) for transport throughout the body. (Hence, perhaps the reason for the connection to air with the blood firemaiden.)

Earth: could be seen in every basic cell in the body, everything that could not be considered liquid.

Fire (or heat): The only things I can think of that would correspond with fire are the electrical synapses within the muscles and brain, as well as the osmotic pressure (and friction) that would increase our temperature to the normal 37C (98.6F). Electrical synapses occur within the heart muscle to keep the heart beating, and the blood flowing.

Phlegm builds up in the lungs especially when a person lays down alot, or is bedridden.

Bile is produced by the liver, concentrated in the gall bladder and expressed into the small intestine where it helps in digestion and absorption of food. The normal color of bile can range from green to yellow (caused by the amount of bilirubin in the body) and if an obstruction occurs in the liver, and the bile (and thusly bilirubin) backs up into the body, the resulting jaundice (yellow color) occurs.

So anyways...*takes off her lab coat and steps down off the podium* there's your anatomy lesson of the day. 

Diana  18 Jan 2004 
Thanks for all this! I was obviously talking about the wrong kind of plasma in my above post - :laugh: . Lucky there are people around this place who actually know what they're talking about.

This thread is taking interesting detours. I think your above post could be most useful when one is using the Tarot for doing health readings. 

Phoenyx*  18 Jan 2004 
Thank you Diana, I've been thinking about going more into depth and studying each elemental correspondence to each system, or even each organ. That's being put on hold until after my clinicals are over though. 

Rusty Neon  24 Jan 2004 
A possibly interesting "elemental" approach to the non-scenic pips is from the The Elemental Tarot deck by Caroline Smith and John Astrop.

Within each suit, the basic meaning of each card is a different phenomen corresponding to the elemental quality of the suit.

For example, for the Water element/suit, based on the deck's system of One to Ten numerology, the deck gives these keywords for the 10 pips of the Water suit:

1 Fountain
2 Spring
3 Spa
4 Moat
5 Sudden Rain
6 Oasis
7 Ocean
8 Well
9 Lake
10 Coastal Water

The elemental keywords for any given non-scenic pips deck would depend on factors such as the system of numerology, the arrangement of the pip symbols on the card, the other non-scenic details of the card, etc. 

The Studying non-scenic pips-The Elements thread was originally posted on 11 Jan 2004 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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