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21 August 2016

Elemental Correspondences - some thoughts

Carla of Rowan Tarot has posted an excellent (as always) article about her recent paradigm shift regarding elemental correspondences in tarot, i.e. which of the four classical Western elements, earth air fire and water, relates to which tarot suit and why.

This subject particularly caught my attention at this time because of my recent acquisition of a Thoth Tarot. I intend to learn the classic 15-Card Spread associated with it, which incorporates Elemental Dignities.

Here would be a good point at which to publicly declare my intention to use only the Thoth for the next 28 days at least. I did this with the Tarot Balbi a while back and it really helped in forging a strong connection with the deck. Maybe a bit too strong.

On to my perspective on the elements. I'm comfortable with the common suit/element combos as assigned by A. E. Waite to his tarot, the Rider-Waite Tarot (or Rider-Waite-Smith as I prefer to call it; there would be no deck without the art of Pamela Colman Smith), and all its subsequent offspring, eg.:
Wands - Fire
Coins (Pentacles) - Earth
Cups - Water
Swords - Air

This is certainly because my first deck was a RWS. This is how I learned it and it stuck. But there are other schools of thought on this. Luckily for me, Aleister Crowley, who roughly 30 years later designed his Thoth Tarot (images painted by Lady Frieda Harris), also stuck with these correspondences.

Carla's post generated a fair bit of discussion in the Tarot de Marseille in English group on Facebook, which brought up other types of correspondences, such as humours, seasons, compass directions, etc. Many differing alignments are proffered by various sources and I've spent quite a bit of time agonising over what my take is on the relationships. For the moment (and let's be honest, I may well discover yet another model which will make me reappraise my choices) I've settled on:

Wands - Fire - Spring - East - Sun
Coins - Earth - Summer - South - Earth
Cups - Water - Autumn - West - Moon
Swords - Air - Winter - North - Sky

As I come across additional quartets I expect I'll endeavour to slot them into this list as well.

But to what end? Do any of these extra correspondences really matter? Do we need to "know" which card mean winter, which card means east?

Well, if we want to know when something is likely to happen or where something is hiding, then yes, they can add practical details. But if you’re not into the “fortune-telling” aspects of tarot then it probably isn’t going to enhance your readings.

But perhaps you practice the type of magickal spell working that makes precise use of elemental correspondences. Then you would need to be able to identify your "ingredients". Personally, I tend to work with the cards' "energies" rather than the classical elements. But then I suppose my understanding of their energies is derived in great part from what I've internalised regarding their commonly designated correspondences.

At the end of the day, though, whether you make use of these correspondences or not, it's still interesting, and fun, to consider your own personal interrelationships. It just makes ya think! And that's always a good thing.

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