We covered the basics of the tarot elements in the post “Tarot Elements Q&A”. Today, we’re creating a new tarot spread that is based upon the four elements plus one: spirit. You can use this elemental reading spread to answer a specific question or you can choose to let the cards give you a general outlook for the day, week, or month ahead. I’ve chosen to go for a general reading with no particular time frame in mind. In other words, I’m allowing the tarot to tell me anything I need to know.
Go through your deck and remove all the Major Arcana. Then divide the remaining Minor Arcana into their suits. Don’t put them in order as we’re going to shuffle them. Keep the purpose of the reading or specific question in mind and once shuffled, place the four Minor Arcana piles in front of you and move them around a few times, so that you’re not sure which pile is which. Place the Majors above. The row of Minors will be read from left to right, positions two through five. The deck will look like this:
Elemental Reading Spread
- Card 1 (Major Arcana) – Spirit or soul card. This card reflects the overall lesson or portion of your spiritual path you should currently be aware of.
- Card 2 – Focus. Where I should be placing most of my attention.
- Card 3 – Help. Who or what will support me?
- Card 4 – Obstacle. Who or what will challenge me?
- Card 5 – Outlook. Where am I headed? If asking a specific question, then this will be the ‘outcome’ card.
Example Elemental Reading
As I interpret the cards, I will be paying attention to the elements of each, and how they interact with each other.
Spirit/soul card – Death. Death is associated with the element of water. As water flows, all things must flow. Death is a reminder that we cannot prevent the flow of change. This card tells me that I must accept and surrender to coming change. That there’s nothing I can do about it.
Focus – Five of Cups. Cups are associated with the element of water, therefore my focus will be emotional. The Five of Cups hints at loss and despair. This would fit in with the Death card above. These two cards together may represent a situation with a close relative. On the upside, the Five of Cups offers the challenge of looking for the good, seeing what is left and counting one’s blessings.
Help – King of Swords. Swords are associated with the element of air. Additionally Kings are associated with fire. The King of Swords could represent a real person who will offer guidance through the coming challenges. As an air card, it reminds me to use logic when assessing a situation and to communicate clearly.
Obstacle – Knave (Page) of Wands. Wands are associated with fire. Fire is inspiration, energy and action. Knaves are also associated with the element, earth. The Knave of Wands often represents someone embarking on an adventure or new challenge. As an obstacle, this could mean that I have to undertake a journey or challenge that I’d rather not. As a person involved in the situation, this card may represent a younger member of the family whose needs must be taken into consideration.
Outlook – Seven of Pentacles. Pentacles are the earth cards and represent the material world, things such as health, work and money. The Seven of Pentacles generally indicates that a level of attainment has been reached but it hasn’t delivered the expected satisfaction. This could mean that I will be looking to broaden my horizons in my work or my home environment by undertaking something new.
Analyzing the Elements
In the table below you can see how the elements work together. Being aware of this can add an extra layer to your tarot readings.
|Fire + Air||Supportive and active|
|Fire + Water||Antagonistic and weakening|
|Fire + Earth||Neutral and strengthening|
|Air + Water||Neutral and strengthening|
|Air + Earth||Antagonistic and weakening|
|Water + Earth||Supportive and passive|
Check the dominant element. As there are two water cards, Death and Five of Cups, it is likely that the next few weeks will mean dealing primarily with emotional issues.
Looking at the first pair of Minors, we have water and air next to each other. Referring to the table, we can see that these two are neutral, meaning that the elements don’t interfere but are likely to strengthen each other, giving extra importance to the cards.
The second pair, the middle cards, are air and fire. These elements are supportive and active, making them very strong in the reading. Bearing in mind that they are both court cards, it could lend credence to the idea that they both represent actual people.
The third pair, fire and earth are, like the first pair, neutral and strengthening, meaning that this pair may be important.
Using these associations, I could continue to analyze and interpret the cards according to my situation. I’d also look at the details in the cards – this deck is particularly interesting as it shows the traditional Rider-Waite figures from alternative angles.
The Element of the Question
Deciding which element is associated with the actual question is another helpful way to see how the tarot elements work. For instance, asking a question about a relationship might be water based, as relationships are often about feelings. However, it might also be earth, as some relationship questions are about practical aspects. Here are some examples:
- John and I are having problems communicating: Air/Swords.
- I’ve fallen in love: Water/Cups.
- I’m bored in my job: Earth/Pentacles.
- I have an idea for a new business: Fire/Wands.
So the first situation, “John and I are having problems communicating,” is an air situation. Let’s say the reader draws the Two of Pentacles. So you have an earth card answering an air question. The two elements are antagonistic and weakening. This would make a difference to the interpretation.
The interpretation taken at face value might be that the seeker and her husband, John, are trying to do too many things, juggling their lives, perhaps over stretching the budget, which is causing the communication problems. Adding in the nuances of the elements means that the quality of their communication is weakened, slowed by the heavier earth element. The reader can feel the atmosphere between them is weighed down and adjust her interpretation and subsequent advice accordingly.
The Element of the Seeker
You may also consider the element of the seeker. That would work in one of two ways. You can either ask them to identify themselves with a Court card, i.e. by choosing one as a significator. Or by asking what their birth sign is and going with that.
Working with the seeker’s element is particularly helpful when doing one or two card readings.
Experiment by allowing the elements to take a bigger part in your tarot card reading. They will add depth and extra layers to your interpretations.
The deck used for illustrating this post is the Tarot of the New Vision by Giordano Berti & Tiberio Gonard. Publisher: Lo Scarabeo ISBN#: 073870413X