Elemental Energies in Tarot Reading

Within the world of Alchemy, the four classical elements make up the existence of everything in our world...

Because of Tarot's long history, it has collected many features of different esoteric subjects, one of them being Alchemy. Tarot has incorporated parts of Alchemy into its meanings, including the concept of the four classical elements, earth, wind, fire and air and their role in the makeup of the universe.

WORDS: Cat Crawford

IMAGE: Joanna Kosinska


Working with the four classical elements – air, water, fire and earth – within the Tarot, allows us to create a deeper context and direct our focus into specific areas of life. For example, if there’s an abundance of air energy in a reading, we can make a fair assumption that the issues and obstacles being referred to are of a more mental or communicative nature. 

When I first came across the idea of seeing the elements in the Tarot cards, I was working with the Elemental Power Tarot Deck by Melinda Lee Holm. The guidebook from this deck is one that I use regulalry now, just to double check interpretations and gain some extra insight. 


The elemental energies can be found throughout the Tarot cards, both in the imagery, colour psychology and most importantly – and what we’ll be focusing on in this article – the four Tarot suits. 

This isn’t a new concept by any means, it’s been present in some form since the 16th century, maybe even earlier depending on who you ask. But, when it comes to learning Tarot, it can be a key to unlocking your ability to read faster than ever. It was for me. That’s why I wanted to share how you too can benefit from understanding how the four classical elements work within the Tarot cards.  


Why is it so helpful to understand the use of the four elements?

When you first learn to read Tarot, finding context can be a little tricky. You’ve spent so long learning the meanings of the cards, but threading those meanings together to create a narrative is a lot more difficult. How do you know what a card is talking about if it has similar meanings to another? How do you know what the whole theme of the reading is? 

Using frameworks like the elemental energies can help you pinpoint the theme and focus of your readings faster and with more accuracy. It also supports your intuitive interpretations, helping you feel more in the flow of a reading. 


The easiest way to start with this framework is by understanding which of the four elements is linked with which of the four Tarot suits. Once you’ve got this down it makes it so much easier to read with confidence. 

Alchemists assigned properties to each of the four elements, properties we also now attribute to the four Tarot suits. This is how we know that the Tarot swords corresponds with the element of air and the Tarot wands corresponds with the element of fire. They share their properties with those classical element properties. 


Elemental Air = The Tarot Swords

Element of Air and Tarot Swords

The element of air is often associated with our mental space. It is the element that manages our thoughts, the way we communicate, our ideas and our ability to think and speak clearly. We take those elemental correspondences and we apply them to the cards within the suit of the Tarot swords. 

This means, when we get a sword card, we instantly know that we need to be looking at our mental processes. We know that it’s this area of the self and a situation that is pulling our focus. 

Where the magic really happens is when we integrate other frameworks of reading such as numerology. If you know that the number two refers to duality, then understanding that swords refer to this mental space gives us the interpretation of a duality within the mental space. 

You can even simply add this new knowledge to the keyword meanings you’ve learned from a course or a guidebook. 

For example, if you know that the Ace of Swords marks a new cycle, then by applying the properties of air to this meaning, you get = a new cycle within the mental space. 

Another good way of remembering that swords correspond with the element of air is by remembering that swords cut through the air in order to hit their mark. Swords are often said to cut to the truth of a situation, so if you visualise someone swinging a swords, you can see it cutting through the air between the blade and its target. 

You could even try thinking a bit more literally, such as remembering that when we are struggling to think clearly, it can help to take deep breaths (air) so that we start to calm down and allow our brains space to work things out. 


Elemental Fire = The Tarot Wands

The element of fire corresponds with our Tarot wands. Alchemically, fire holds the properties of creation, destruction, power and creativity. These are all things we can easily identify in the energy of the wands. Just think about what wands are used for. In fiction they are used to create things from thin air, change the structure of something or make something disappear completely. In reality, Pagans and Witches will use wands to direct energy and focus such as when casting circles. 

There is a power that comes with wielding fire. If someone is careless with it, it can be a huge source of destruction. If it is properly managed it can help us to create amazing things. Think about how glass is made, precious jewellery or even something as simple as keys to your home. All of these things require the element of fire to be brought into existence. 

Even metaphorically, humans are brought into this world through passion (a fiery feeling) they are literally created through the channeling of this energy. 

The wands are also known as the ‘action’ suit. They encourage taking action through their powerful creative push, through their passionate motivation and desire to get s**t done. Nobody wields a wand and does nothing with it. The act of creation is an act, which is why when we get  a wand card it is either asking us to take action, think about taking action or consider the action we’ve already taken. It’s an indication that there is power to be had, whether that power is ours to take or if this power is lording over us is determined by the number of that wand card. 

Just like the element of fire, wands can be impulsive and unpredictable, which is why too many wands in a reading can spell disaster if left to get out of control. 


Elemental Fire and Tarot Wands

Elemental Water = The Tarot Cups

Elemental Water Tarot Cups

To me, the relationship between Tarot cups and the element of water is one of the easiest to remember, so here’s how I do it. First of all, what do you put into cups? Liquids, doesn’t have to be water but I best it will have a base of water even if it’s an ice cold beer. Secondly, I like to imagine being in water and how it feels, drawing parallels with the meanings of the cups, which are based in emotion and intuition. 

Just like being in water, you can feel calm, cleansed, supported and fulfilled by your emotions. However like all elements there is a darker side. Again, just like being in water, your emotions can feel overwhelming, overpowering and leave you gasping for air. Grief is an emotion that sometimes comes up in the cups cards, such as the Five of Cups. Grief is like being in a raging storm in a vast ocean. Sometimes you’ll get moments of levity, but then a wave will come crashing down threatening to pull you under. 

On the lighter side of things (let’s not get too heavy, it’s just a blog post after all!) when your emotions are balanced and you feel happy and calm, you can feel like your cup is filled. You may have even heard of the phrase ‘fill your cup’ in the well-being community. This essentially means ‘take care of yourself, show yourself some love and recharge your batteries’. 

Similarly to the element of air and subsequently the Tarot swords, the cups and their element of water are very passive energies. It’s hard to grab hold of air and water, to control it and bend it to your will. Just like it’s hard to fully grapple with difficult emotions or thoughts or make them disappear when you want them to.  

It can help to think about cups and their element of water in a literal sense. Image the cups being filled and thinking about whether a cup might be emptied by the card it is in. Again the Five of Cups in the Rider-Waite deck is the perfect visual example of this, with three cups visibly empty behind the figure and the other two full and upright behind the figure.   

Elemental Earth = The Tarot Pentacles

Finally we have the element of earth and the last of our Tarot suits, the Pentacles. With this, I like to think of the Pentacles as seeds. We plant them and nurture them to build our physical world, just like how a farmer would plant seeds to grow crops to sell, which then provides financial support and security. 

The element of earth refers to our physical world, it is everything that make up the building blocks of our lives. This can include our physical bodies, our careers, finances, homes and even our relationships with family and friends. All of these things have to be worked on, they have to be planted and taken care of so they can thrive. Just like a seed planted in the earth. 

We tend to see a lot of imagery of plants and fields on the Rider Waite Tarot Pentacles, which directly refers to this connection with elemental earth. 

Like the wands, the pentacles are more of an active energy. They require us to work, to put effort in. When you think about your career for example, you have to work on it over time in order to reap the rewards. It’s not an impulsive or passionate energy like that of the wands though, earth doesn’t burn bright and hot like elemental fire, it takes its time to work. 

Thinking about the four elements in a real world context can also give us a much better idea of the speed of the energies being portrayed in the Tarot. Like I said above, earth is a very slow energy. It takes time to form and grow stronger. Fire on the other hand burns fast, it can destroy in a blink of an eye and needs constant fuel to keep it going for long periods of time. This is just another way understanding elemental energies in Tarot can add depth and meaning to our readings! 


Elemental Earth Tarot Pentacles

Master using elements in your own Tarot readings

Elemental Energies in Tarot

Elemental Energies in Tarot Workbook and Guide

If you feel like you’d like to know a little more about using the elemental energies in Tarot, then don’t miss out on the elemental energies workbook and guide. 

This workbook gives you all the information you need to put this theory into practice, plus learn other ways you can identify the four elements in the Tarot cards.