Three Cards on Element

by Nov 29, 20130 comments

Three Cards on an Element

Three Cards on an Element solve problems associated with the Three Card Exercise: although an action is defined, there is no context, no background, it happens in a vacuum. The tarot is not interacting with the environment, and as you are interpreting Tarot in terms of the Querent, who is part and parcel of the environment, after all, you need something extra.

You need to place the 3 cards in an environment, a backdrop, such as when the curtain rises at the start of a play. Following the theme of the four elements you will put the Triplets in an elemental place, and not naming them as ‘Love’, ‘Past’, ‘Work’ etc.

Reinterpretation of the Tarot

You then use the same rules to reinterpret the cards. As an example,
follow the First Example in Exercise 1, interpreting it beginning with the Fire position, then Water, Air and finally Earth. Note how the ‘pecking order’ and internal dynamics changes dramatically with each change of elemental basis.

Fire – Air – Water on Fire

With these 3 cards in the Fire place, we see immediately that the original interpretation will stand, but we have more detail. Water is now very weak. The emotional content is all but eliminated. The Querent will definitely act on an idea, with little compassion, possibly brutally. There is no financial incentive, nothing to ground the  situation, as there is no balancing, passive Earth.

Possible interpretation

Sudden actions, a situation that does not last.

Fire – Air – Water on Water

Water is now the strongest, excessive in fact. Fire, is very weak. Air is friendly to both and the Water Position, however Water is passive. Since Water is excessive, and Fire is very weak, the conclusion is that Air is the strongest element. The Querent is dreaming about a situation: it may never happen. The lack of Earth indicates little practicality.

Possible interpretation

An effeminate or ineffectual man. A woman who is able to put her ideas into practice, but she may lack confidence in her abilities, depending of course on what the real cards are.

Fire – Air – Water on Air

The Principal is in its own place, very strong, and the Modifiers are both friendly to Air. So far, so good. The problem comes from the Modifiers being enemies to each other, weakening themselves.

Possible interpretation

We may have a situation where the Querent is trying to rise above conflicting emotional experiences that is paralyzing him/her. Of course s/he may just be intellectualizing about the situation, avoiding the conflict around, hoping it will go away. Lack of Earth indicates the impracticability of the situation. This is a good example of how even when an element is in its own place, it may not have a good prognosis.

Fire – Air – Water on Earth

At last we see what Earth can do, even though it does not seem.

The Principal, Air, is very, very weak; in the enemy camp, so to speak. Fire and Water are friends of Earth as well as Air, so they could be seen as brokers. The Querent is within a maelstrom of conflicting actions and emotions, possibly at work. Office politics is rampant. The Modifiers support the environment, rather than the Principal, or at least, they are not in a position to aid Air.

Possible interpretation

There may be a total lack of forethought in any action. Actions may be motivated by power and greed. This may also indicate a situation where someone is not being as practical about their career or work choice.


This is a simple method applied to many situations. The amount of information that can be gleaned just using elemental principles is remarkable. Any omitted elements can give clues to the Reader about what is missing. An ideal situation would be where all four elements are present; actions involving the missing elements may be used to create balance.

The meaning of individual Tarot cards can get in the way, so an inability to remember the established meanings can be a distinct advantage. Note how the combinations of the elements suggest the situation the Reader is looking at – there is no need for labels such as ‘Work’, ‘Health’, ‘Love’ etc. The problems of time – Past, Present and Future, are also resolved since time is measured by change, a flexible commodity as anyone who has waited for a kettle to boil or sat through an interminable committee meeting.

Things to do

Try working through two element combinations.

Use actual Tarot cards in Three Card combinations. Start with the Minor arcana, then introduce Major arcana, and finally add one Court card. For the brave, have a go at three Court cards at once.

The Next Stage

We now have the basic building blocks to develop more advanced methods of reading Tarot: detailed memory of the individual cards is not necessary: we know how to interpret combinations, and we have used our imagination to read those combinations in an elemental position.

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