Wands are fire, swords are air...or maybe not...!


My first (believe it or not) contact with the Tarot was in a novel by Charles Williams, The Greater Trumps, which has swords as fire and wands (staffs) as air. That made sense to me, because wind does pummel you, and cuts burn.

But then I started actually learning Tarot, and almost all the references at the time were to the RWS or its descendants, which use wands as fire and swords as air. It didn't make sense, but over the years I got used to it. I can see the logic when someone explains it to me, but then, just as Nisaba said, a case could be equally well made for any tool as any element.

When reading, I often do consider the elements, such as counting the relative numbers of each in a reading. But that has less to do with the symbol than with what I know to be the element for that suit. I don't think I have any cards that change the symbols/elements combination, but if I did, I'd go with what the creator decided, or just run with the images regardless of the elements.

Ritual is a bit different; different systems use different attributes, and I'm comfortable with whatever the creator of the ritual has in mind. On my own, I tend to use the usual RWS configuration, though I have on occasion reversed swords and wands. It depends.

But you can indeed cast a circle with a cup, by sprinkling the liquid from it! Same with a pentacle, which in that case would be a plate holding salt! In fact I learned a Norse casting method that uses all 4 elements, but the air & fire are incense and a candle. The blade is for cutting the circle loose from the mundane surroundings.

But this is reminding me, I really need to reread The Greater Trumps.


Perhaps the key is to pick a tradition and stick with it?

I gradually changed through time. In the seventies and eighties I just couldn't come at Wands for Fire: wood gets consumed and destroyed by fire. So I went with Air (for the oxygen generated by photosynthesis), and Fire for Swords, forged in Fire.

Then at some point I gradually changed to the more conventional viewpoint: I don't remember it being a sudden decision at all.

I do have one to two decks, though, where the images show little flames licking along the sharpened edges of the Swords: in those decks Swords are definitely Fire, and Wands Air. I can seamlessly switch between the two systems depending on what deck I'm using - it really isn't an issue for me. :)