Analysing the Elemental Base in Tarot
Now that you are familiar with how three cards interact with each other using the elements, we can extend the idea to include an elemental base, which will be Fire, Water, Air or Earth. The primary relationship continues to be between the cards, but the base element will change the dynamics significantly. We start with all three cards having the same elemental base. Note how the centre card is ‘protected’ by the outer cards, particularly when the base element is inimical to the card element.
One Element on an Elemental base
The model we shall use is the new variant which minimises A1 and A2, but introduces an aspect of time or transformation, which could be useful in any alchemical work. Of course, T is not a card, but a place. Make no mistake, we have powerful techniques for Tarot readings if we wish to understand how a situation can change in a particular time frame, simply by using a combination of the astrological dates associated with the Tarot.
Three Fires on Fire
We will start by considering one element – Fire. The next four examples can be considered to represent the Egyptian God Horus.
Extremely violent activity. An explosion. Supernova!. The lack of the other elements prevent any kind of moderation. They feed off each other in a frenzy of action that has no direction (Air), feeling or compassion (Water), or any basis. The qualities of Aries could also apply.”
This is total overkill! Violent action in the extreme. Note, though, that the result will not be much different from the starting point. This could be a catalyst.
Three Fires on Water
Water and Fire are enemies, but Wands are excessive. A recipe
for the total transformation or annihilation of whatever we started with.
Water transformed into Fire through the action of Fire. Volatile liquid
ignited by an external agent. The central card is strongest because it
is protected by the outer.
Three Fires on Air
Air and Fire are friendly and active. An idea or concept is launched
enthusiastically without resistance or interference. There would be no trace of compassion or feeling for others, but it is quite possible that the deed is short lived since there is no Earth for a basis. An air explosion. The centre is strongest, it is ‘insulated’ from Air, so even though thought is the basis, the actions will not be based upon thought. The thinking stops, and action takes over.
Three Fires on Earth
A volcano that has exploded. A fire or conflagration burning away on
the ground, lighting up the sky. Sunrise. Earth is a good strong basis
for continued action. An action that has stamina and endurance. The Earth is warmed up. The central card shows action going away from a solid basis.
I will leave you to create your own interpretations for the three other single element cards on an elemental base, but to help you, here are suggested interpretations without the bases.
Total passivity. Reflective. Inert, wallowing in emotions. There is no thought (Air), there is no objectivity or nothing to contain it (Earth), and no activity (Fire). There may be some characteristics of Pisces. With the Fire base, all are very weak, but the centre will be strongest since it is protected
Obsessive mental activity that has no direction (Fire), feeling (Water), or basis (Earth). Aquarius
Extreme dullness, solidity, no change. No intellectual processes (Air), no feeling or emotion (Water), or any kind of activity (Fire). A leaden situation, very depressing. An obsession with money or security.
Where’s the Balance?
In all the above cases, Thesis and Antithesis totally support the Principal since the qualities are exactly the same, but there is no change or movement in any direction, except for Fire where there is total destruction. None of the combinations are particularly desirable. In a Tarot reading we would find the Principal card qualities carried to excess.
Thus far, we have ignored the Tarot cards as far as meaning is concerned. Rather, we have concentrated on the messages the elements themselves are transmitting using very simple rules that seemed rather limiting, but showed great potentiality and flexibility.
For real balance you need to read all four elements in a situation. Assigning positions on the basis of Past, Future, or Work, such as, without giving them an elemental attribution is flawed. The simplest method is to reinterpret the combinations of Three Cards contained within Lessons 1-3 but with an elemental basis that the cards ‘rest on’. Since the number of permutations increase geometrically, we shall do an example of each type.
Before we start, we can formulate some ideas about how things progress.
Using just three cards we have an inherently unstable situation since we do not have a basis. Adding an elemental backcloth we have a context. Now we have a Beginning, Middle and End:
- Source – Course – Goal
- Thesis – Antithesis – Synthesis
- Beginning – Middle – End
We can remodel the attributions thus:
This arrangement is reminiscent of the Golden Dawn analysis of the Enochian Watchtower squares using the four Elements, where:
- S = Watchtower
- T = Subquadrant
- A1 = Column
- A2 = Rank
A1 and A2 are understood in terms of ‘Fire of Water’ etc, which give them an astrological basis, and thence to a Major card attribution (Cancer and Chariot in this example).
This structure can be used in all the spreads discussed on this website:
The 3 Card Exercise
With the 3 Card Exercise, the Background or Thesis position does not have a Tarot card associated with it, but there will be an interaction between the base Element and the elements of the Cards. The fourth position is imagined. Clearly there is going to be change in the Elemental strengths and weaknesses from the examples we previously worked out, and it is fascinating to see these subtle shifts of power at work.
The 4 Card Spread
With four cards, it is easy to relate them to the sides of the Watchtower squares. The YHVH system used in the 4 Card Spread is analogous here.
The Counting Technique analyses each card in terms of the cards either side of it before going to the next. The movement to the next is the fourth position on the Heh final or Daughter.
Opening of the Key Spread
Once the Tarot deck has been cut into four and turned over, the top cards can be analysed in the same manner.
Now that there can be a temporal aspect to the calculations, we could see A1 and A2 as catalysts for the transformation of T into S. A1 and A2 still act after the elemental rules, of course. There are also alchemical overtones in this kind of analysis.