Suits and elements?what happened?

Geenius at Wrok

Ages and ages ago, when I made my first juvenile inquiries into tarot, it was (or I recall that it was) the conventional wisdom that the minor arcana suits mapped onto ordinary playing card suits and basic elements as follows: rods/clubs/earth, coins/diamonds/air, cups/hearts/water, swords/spades/fire. But now, as I've come back to it, it seems to be the universal consensus that rods are fire, coins are earth, and swords are air. Is my memory simply faulty, or has there been a "redefinition" of the suit-element correspondences which has swept the tarot world?
 

Jewel

I have always known Coins (pentacles) to be earth. As for rods (wands) fire and swords as air that depends on the deck. The elements of these two suits are often interchanged and it is up to the practitioner to select which works best for them. Hope this helps.
 

tarotbear

Geenius- it's usually dependent on the 'path' of the artist. Some paths use different elemental correspondeces and the deck reflects those differences. Lear to be flexible when it comes to tarot.
 

Geenius at Wrok

Quote:tarotbear (22 Jan, 2002 11:17):
Geenius- it's usually dependent on the 'path' of the artist. Some paths use different elemental correspondeces and the deck reflects those differences.

Can you elaborate on this? Are "swords?=?air" and "swords?=?fire" two different established paths? How else do they differ?
 

jmd

We've had a couple of threads related to this. The thread on El Gran Tarot Esoterica has a link to another discussion thread precisely on the various attributions.

Though there has been general agreement on the corrolations between the suits of Spade = Sword (clear etymological connection here), Clubs = Staffs/Wands (another etymological connection), Hearts = Cups (a reasonably clear symbolic connection), and Diamonds = Coins, there has never been absolutely clear elemental attributions.

Given that there are four suits and four elements, various people have made various attributions, each of which is very 'clear', even if different, to its adherents.

An 'old' association links the four 'ancient' classes to the suits: merchants to coins; peasants to staffs; swords to the nobility; and cups to those called to learning.

With those associations, the elemental correlations you make do 'stand'... even if one has to think as to why.

I think we have a tendency to want to wed various systems of thought into an harmonious unity... hence various elemental, astrological, Qabalistic, &c associations and correlations. These have been, as far as I am concerned, at times to the detriment of each disparate 'system'.

Though I too make elemental correlations, I do not think that they are intrinsic to the deck's suits.
 

tarotbear

In some peoples' thinking, a sword is swung through the air and thus has an air association; others say that iron is from the earth and the swords represent earth, while another group says that iron ore is smelted in an oven and fire makes the ore melt. All of these have their basis in some degree of truth. {Hot iron is cooled in water- so we have all of them correleated to Swords!}

There are also those that argue that if wands are wood, they would be burned by fire, yet Wands are considered a fire correlation.

{On a tangent, why is a salamander traditionally considered a symbol of fire? Salamanders live in damp, dark places.}
 

jmd

tarotbear, you ask 'why is a salamander traditionally considered a symbol of fire? Salamanders live in damp, dark places.'

You're here equivocating the Fire-elemental Salamander with the later discovery of the zoological kind, which, for better or worse, has acquired the same name (partly due, of course, to similarities in 'looks').
 

tarotbear

Yes, jmd, but most people new to Tarot or occult may not know that. Ask anyone in food service what they cook things quickly in...and they'll tell you is a 'salamander' oven! (I'm not making this up). Once again, we see how a symbol changes as time goes on The magickal salamander of fire and the real salamander of woodland fame are two different things - but they look alike so how is one to know?
 

Thirteen

Quote:Geenius at Wrok (22 Jan, 2002 03:52):
Is my memory simply faulty, or has there been a "redefinition" of the suit-element correspondences which has swept the tarot world?

It really is a matter of preference. There is no "right" or "wrong" about it.

The sword as "Air" relates to air representing words, which can be cutting, sharp. Also the idea of a physical fight being a mental fight. This includes, as Tarotbear so rightly pointed out, the swinging of swords through the air and the clanging of swords.

Wands as fire relates to them as phallic symbols, containing magic that errupts out. Like fire, there is the idea of passion, of spirit, of energy. It is the fuel for the fire if you will. This is also included in the wand if you think of it as a growing thing, tree-like, the energy/fire of life.

On the opposing side--sword/fire and wand/air--there's the argument that a wand can't be fire because it can't be an element that would consume it. A sword would be tempered by fire, so it must contain fire.

I'll say frankly that while that makes sense to me, I've never understood how that works for the wand/air connection, unless, I guess, you assume that the wand is a tree that produces air?

Point is, use whatever you're comfortable with, whatever association works for you. You're the reader.