Not only do we find the elements in Tarot Reading but we also find an amalgamation of hundreds of different concepts, ideas, philosophies, religions and esotericism. As it was developed by those with more pagan origins and interests, we started to see concepts such as the four elements, seep into how people would interpret the cards.

Elemental energies in Tarot have become one of the best and most grounding ways to glean meaning and understanding, not just from the cards themselves, but from the imagery used by the authors of some of your favourite decks.

To help expand on the theory of the elements in Tarot reading, I have put together this handy ebook that takes a look at each of the four elements, what their properties are, how we can use them when reading the Tarot and I’ve pointed out some of the key areas to look for these elemental symbols when reading.

What are the elemental energies?

The elemental energies are the four key elements that make up our entire existence.

  1. Earth

  2. Air

  3. Fire

  4. Water

Each of these four elements has its own unique properties and we use them a lot when practising more esoteric forms of wellness. Witches will use the four elements in their spellwork or focus on one or two key elements to create their desired results. You’ll also see the elements at work in other practices such as:

  • Forest Bathing – Using the element of Earth

  • Breathwork – Using the element of Air

  • Hot Stone Massages or Sauna – Using the element of Fire

  • Cold Water Therapy – Using the element of Water

You can find these four elements pop up in all manner of ways, but none more so than in modern Tarot readings.

How do we use the elements in Tarot reading?

We can use these four elements to help offer more context for our readings. Within the Tarot we find these elements in a multitude of places including:

  • Symbology

  • Colour

  • Astrology

  • Suits

  • Court Cards

When we use these elements in Tarot, we assign an element to one of the four Tarot suits. These are as follows:

  • Air = Swords

  • Fire = Wands

  • Water = Cups

  • Earth = Pentacles/Coins

In some decks you may find the wands and swords switched around, so wands may correspond with air and swords may correspond with fire, but generally speaking it’s more often the above.

When we apply these elements to these suits, we give the card an area to focus on, making it much easier to read the card and interpret a more accurate meaning. Without it, it can be tricky to really hone in on what each card could be referring to.

For example, if I was doing a card pull for the day and I get the Ace of Swords, I instantly know that the card is telling me to focus on the elemental energy of air, which refers to my mental processes and communication.

What do the elemental energies mean when applied to Tarot?

Just then you saw how I applied topics to the element of air; the topics of mental process and communication. Each element has its own unique properties and we use these in our readings.

  • Air – Mental & Communication

  • Fire – Action & Creativity

  • Water – Emotion & Intuition

  • Earth – Physical & Grounding

These are just generalised versions of the properties for each of the elements, I go into a bit more detail in the ebook. Essentially though, these are the first keywords that pop up when I see the elements in the Tarot cards.

When we’ve become familiar with the element’s properties, we can then simply switch out the names of the elements for the names of the four Tarot suits. This means we get:

  • Swords – Mental & Communication

  • Wands – Action & Creativity

  • Cups – Emotion & Intuition

  • Pentacles/Coins – Physical & Grounding

Now we have a clear context that we can use to hone in on exactly what the Tarot cards are trying to tell us. This can also make doing general readings for yourself or others easier. Instead of having a question, we can simply use the elemental energies as the context for our reading.

It can also be helpful, when doing a general reading, to ask your deck what area of life you should be looking at and then pull a card to act as your anchor card. If the card is a wand card then you know you’re looking at your creativity or your actions. If you pull a pentacle or coin card, then you may need to look at your physical world or look at how you ground yourself and take some ‘me time’.

How to identify these energies when Tarot reading

In the ebook, I break down all the different places you can see the elemental energies take shape. ere’s a brief summary though:

  • Within the imagery on the cards – especially on the Rider Waite-Smith Tarot deck or other decks with pagan roots

  • Within the symbology of the cards – usually around astrological symbols such as planetary symbols or sun sign creatures and symbols

  • Within the concept of the imagery – specific subjects used such as trees, suns, rivers, mountains etc.

  • The Tarot suits – like we’ve just discussed

Another place we see the elements take centre stage is in the court cards. The court cards are famous within the Tarot reader community as being a beginner reader’s nightmare. These cards are read differently to the rest of the minor arcana cards and can be tricky to interpret when you first start out.

However, using elemental energies we are gifted a sort of cheat code to better understand them.

With the four Tarot suits, we can link them to one of the four elements. With the court cards within those suits, we can also apply secondary elemental energy. The prominent energy is that of the court card’s suit and the second is dictated by their status.

  • Kings = Air

  • Queens = Water

  • Knights = Fire

  • Pages = Earth

When we get one of these cards we have to first look at what suit that card belongs to, as that will be our main point of focus. Then we look at the elemental energy of the status. For example, the Queen of Pentacles is firstly an earth card, so she will focus on your physical self or your grounding. Then, within that, she will adopt the element of water, which encourages us to nurture and take care of this area of focus.

Another example: you pull a Page of Wands. The Pages are elementally earth energies, earth means grounding, taking root, and being at one with the natural world around us. The Page of Wands primary energy though is fire, so he is working within the realm of action and creativity. This then tells us that we need to first focus on our creative world or our actions and we need to see where we could be more grounded, where we could really work on those foundations and how we can make them as strong as possible.

A reading for someone who has pulled this card could look something like this:

Right now is a time for stepping back and potentially building on or learning a new creative skill. You’re not in a position where you can throw caution to the wind and power through, you need to work on taking action to build this foundational skill so you can work your way to a more advanced position.

How can implementing the elements improve your Tarot reading?

Back when I first started to learn to read Tarot I felt overwhelmed by how many cards I had to memorise. How is one human with a terrible short-term memory supposed to file the meanings of 78 individual cards away in their brain?

Learning the elements in Tarot reading was a game-changer. It was like applying filing tabs to all the information. All I had to do was associate the card’s general meanings with its corresponding element and my brain would pull up all the information I needed about that card.

It really became groundbreaking for me when I learned how to apply it to the court cards. Before learning about the dual energies of the court cards I was at a loss for how to remember how to read these cards, now I have a clear mental strategy that I use every single time a court card comes up in my client’s readings. Within a split second of seeing the card I’ve already identified which two elements are at play and what part they’re playing in the reading.

Elemental energies are something I use heavily in my Tarot For Beginners course and I’ve found it a lifesaver for teaching beginner readers. It’s such a simple concept but it makes such a huge difference when it comes to deepening the meanings of not only the cards themselves but also the reading as a whole.