The Extras

The Extras: Elements
By Tabitha Chamberlain

Another easy extra to add into any reading is the elements. This generally doesn’t work well with oracles as most don’t have assigned elements. In a tarot deck this is simple to do. 

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There are some decks that flip Wands and Swords elements. My own logic on this one: Swords>swing>sing>vocal>air. Wands>staff>wizards>fire. My logic may be questionable, but it makes sense to me. Usually Cups and Pentacles rarely change element assignments. Use what you feel most comfortable with.

This one is going to be less intuitive and more about positive or negative. This isn’t about good or bad, it’s more like the positive/negative charge of a battery. With that firmly in mind you’re going to use the assignment to tell you something about your reading. In terms of using elements in your readings you need to know:

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Wands/Swords are aggressive or active

Cups/Pentacles are passive or inactive

How is any of this going to be of any help towards a reading? You’re going to get an idea of how things are moving or what you need to do move it.

I should mention that asking questions of tarot is always important, but specifically for this particular aspect. For some simple examples I'm going to make up some readings to illustrate. Obviously, the question you ask is going to clarify this better:

5 of Wands/8 of Swords/3 of Cups

This is going to be a very active reading, so things are going to be moving quickly. Or you're going to feel as if you can't get a hold of the situation quick enough. Even a bit out of control. 

2 of Pentacles/10 of Wands/7 of Cups 

This reading is showing slow progress. It seems as if things are at a standstill or so slow, it may not be the case but from your view it truly seems that way!

Now for the difficult one: 

6 Lovers/10 of Pentacles/4 of Swords

What the....Right? Not exactly. This you can consider as a tarot "I don't know" or "I don't care" we all have that one sarcastic, snide deck. IF you know the astrology element of the Majors you can still use it in the same format. Skipping the Major entirely is also an option.

An interesting aspect to using the element is it can also be a quick way to do quasi yes/no questions. I wouldn't suggestion this for something very serious like changing jobs or moving to a different residence. Using the same examples about: 

5 of Wands/8 of Swords/3 of Cups

Your answer is "yes', but read the cards to see how to apply this “yes".

2 of Pentacles/10 of Wands/7 of Cups

This one is "no", this isn't as important to read. May want to do a new throw to clarify why it was no. 

6 Lovers/10 of Pentacles/4 of Swords

This is literally "I don't know" or as the Magic 8 Ball says: "Answer Unclear”.

While both of these are simple ways to use elements in your readings. There are ways to deepen the elemental aspect in your readings. This is where these "Extras" are going to start defining whether or not it is enough of an area of interest to start doing your own research.

The way to start to expand the Element Extra is by elemental combinations otherwise known as Elemental Dignities, it sounds way fancier and more complicated than it actually is. You'll see this particular aspect mostly in decks like the Thoth or with a strong astrological base. The important notes to Elemental Dignities to remember.

Fire and Water weaken each other

Air and Earth weaken each other

Everything else strengthens each other 

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You may want to pull out your own tarot deck to line this out in front of you. Just remember to use the suit that aligns to the element for you (ie: If Swords are Fire, use that instead of Wands). In the above example: 5 of Wands/8 of Swords/3 of Cups. We have three elements: Fire/Air/Water.

What does this combination mean? Does it create it's own thing or does something come to mind for you? Fire and Air together would be a force, like wildfires or brush fires. While this may seem like a bad thing, if they are controlled in the right manner they can have a positive effect on the land and in the future. You have to stop and look at the cards and how they interact with each other.  In this case of the 5 of Wands and 8 of Swords, I would say it isn't going to be too positive depending upon your question. 

Now Air and Water, which reminds me of tornadoes or thunderstorms (I use natural anomalies to help me grasp the concept better. You'll find your own method that makes sense to you if you choose to study this. Both seem to be extremes, but they give you a solid idea of their behavior and also their importance to keep our planet's natural cycle). This combination brings to mind a better harmony than that of the Fire/Air one. Given that it's the 8 of Swords and 3 of Cups, this is suggesting things are being released to help you move forward to celebrate.

Yet Fire and Water don't get along as it were, meaning that the Air is weakened by sitting between these two elements.  It may be null and void, or it may keep one side from overpowering the other. IE: The celebration of the 3 maybe tampered by the struggle from the 5. 

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The Lovers is ruled by Cancer, which is a water sign, so the other two examples shown above display the same problem of one element being in conflicted with another one. Elements need to be kept in balance, if you have two Waters paired with one Earth you may have flooding issues, like a flood of emotions or literally again depending upon the question. Two Fires paired with the same Earth could mean volcano-like behavior.

While you may need to learn a little astrology to figure out the elements of some of the Major cards most of this you can do without much in the way of study or research. However if you truly want to use the Elemental Dignities extra in your readings, you'll want to take the time to study in depth the different aspects of each element and how they interact with one another. 

I was reading Tarot and Astrology: Enhance Your Readings with the Wisdom of the Zodiac by Corrine Kenner, I came across an awesome spread to help you learn the dignities and how they interact with each other. She first published this spread in the handbook that goes with the Wizard Tarot, if you're interested in seeing more of study guides attached to the Wizard deck or the deck itself you can check out her website. 

Elemental Dignities Spread 

1. Start by laying out the four central cards: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth 

2. Lay out for more corner that represent the characteristics of the elements: Dry, Hot, Cold, and Wet.  

3. Use the diagram to determine how well the cards relate to each other on an elemental level 


  • 3 cards along one side, like Fire, Hot, and Dry, will work well together. The 2 cards on either side will reinforce the card in the middle 
  • Any 2 element cards that share a corner- Fire and Air, Air and Water, Water and Earth, or Earth and Fire, can also work together.  
  • Cards in Fire and Water positions-as well as Earth and Air-will diametrically oppose to each other, but can meet in the middle.
  • Cards in opposite corners, Dry and Wet or Hot and Cold will not impossible to reconciles. 

My examples are just to give you an idea, a place to jump off of to see if it's something that is of use to you or goes into the pile of "well that's kinda cool, but nope". Or if you just want to use the simpler versions to get a sense of movement in a reading or yes/no questions. I just hope to give you something to think about and to play around with when you're throwing tarot. 

Happy Reading!

Photo Images ©Terri Clement - 2015
Diagram Image ©T
arot and Astrology: Enhance Your Readings with the Wisdom of the Zodiac by Corrine Kenner

All submissions remain the property of their respective authors. All images are used with permission. Firework Banner from Tarot Refletions is published by the American Tarot Association - 2015  Questions? Comments? Contact us at