In the Oxford Dictionary, the Elements are defined as “any of the four substances (earth, water, air, and fire) regarded as the fundamental constituents of the world in ancient and medieval philosophy.”
For the purpose of this Spread I would like to include a 5th, more elusive, element: that of Spirit.This Spread is made up of 4 mini-spreads and a 1 card-draw, each one providing you with more insight in to the elemental forces at play in your life right now.
I recommend completing the whole Spread to get a balanced overview of how the Elements exert their influence and see how they might interact with each other – but you can also use each mini-spread separately, if you want to focus on just one area that you believe needs some attention.
For those less practised in Tarot: do not be deterred, the exercise is broken down in to bite-sized components so everyone can give it a try, just take it step by step.
The suggested exercises at the end are just that: suggestions. Feel free to discard or incorporate them as you see fit!
Everything you learn during this exercise can be implemented in other spreads you complete, providing more insight and depth to your Readings.The Spread
Start by dividing your deck in to 5 piles: Separate all Major Arcana cards first and put them in one pile. Then divide the Minor Arcana cards in to their respective suits.
1) Earth ~ using Pentacles only!
The element of Earth is represented by the suit of Pentacles. It stands for the Physical World, Material Possessions, Abundance/Poverty, Money, Education, Employment, Craftsmanship, Skills, Homelife, Housing and Health.
Earth can be rich and fertile, allowing for abundant crops; It can be dry, parched and brittle, providing little nutrients for what we plant; Our roots can reach deep down, providing us with stability and strength; or we can find ourselves on shaky ground, giving us little comfort and security.1) Current State: My Field of Dreams.
2) Negative Influences: What is eroding my soil, causing instability and stress?
3) Positive Influences: What is nourishing my soil, making it fertile to sustain my accomplishments?
2) Air ~ using Swords only!
The element of Air is represented by the suit of Swords. It embodies Thoughts, Intellect, Knowledge, Action, Power, Communication, Judgement, Analythical Powers, Excitement, Anger, Anxiety and Defence Mechanisms.
Air is a powerful driving force, it can carry a seed as well as an aeroplane; it can be a forceful wind or a gentle breeze; a typhoon laying waste to everything that surrounds it or an unseen force driving the rainclouds from the sky; it can push a ship firmly towards it’s destination or blow it off-course all together.1) Current State: The Wind in my Sails.
2) Negative Influences: What stormclouds are obscuring my view, preventing me from thinking clearly?
3) Positive Influences: What fresh winds blow away the rainclouds, allowing my truth to shine through?
3) Water ~ using Cups only!
The element of Water is represented by the suit of Cups. It stands for Emotions, Intuition, Relationships, Sensitivity and Receptiveness.
Water can appear as a steady river flowing freely through your life; be reduced to a slow trickle or evaporate in to thin air; it can turn in to a crushing waterfall or a raging torrent, sweeping away everything in it’s path. It can choose the path of least resistence whilst simultaniously wearing down the hardest rocks. It is restorative, adaptable, receptive and cleansing.1) Current State: My River of Life.
2) Negative Influences: What acts like a dam, preventing my river from flowing freely?
3) Positive Influences: What could prevent my river becoming stagnant, helping to keep the water running clear?
4) Fire ~ using Wands only!
The element of Fire is represented in the suit of Wands. It stands for Passion, Inspiration, Ideas, Creative Force, Sexuality, Enthusiasm, Risk-taking Behaviour, Temperament and Energy.
Fire can be imposing or terrifying – it can rage, frighten, consume and destroy; or it can be comforting and warm, inspire and illuminate; it can provide protection or cause chaos in it’s wake.1) Current State: The Fire in my Soul.
2) Negative Influences: What causes my fire to either die down, or burn too bright so it consumes everything it touches?
3) Positive Influences: What sparks my fire and feeds it, keeping a warm, steady glow?
5) Spirit ~ using Major Arcana only!
The 5th element of Spirit is often forgotten about, but it is the one that binds the other elements together and can shape, control, direct, unleash or temper them.
To clarify what I mean when I speak of “Spirit” here, I will provide you with some suitable synonyms:
Words like Psyche; Ego; Life Force; Soul; Essential Being; Inner Self; Anima; Ethos; Essence; Temperament; Disposition; … any or all or a combination of these terms can be used to describe this Elemental Force we all feel within us but can find so hard to define.Draw one Major Arcana card to identify your driving force, that what helps you create and maintain balance between the elemental forces influencing your life, your well-being, actions, thoughts and personality.
This card is neither Upright nor Reversed, as you should take both sides in to account – it represents both your Strength and what you need to be Mindful of.
I have included a picture of my own spread to give you an idea of what the whole may look like:
Suggested exercises to get even more out of this spread:
A• Write down your findings after each spread completed, so you have a clear overview of all 5 elements and can compare them, see how they might interact, counteract or reinforce one another. This will tell you where your Strengths lie, as well as which areas can use more focus and developement.
B• Put your Spirit card next to each individual spread and interpret how this driving force might influence each element.
C• For each separate spread, add up the number value of the cards and simplify until you have a number between 1 and 10, this gives you the numerological value for that spread and shows you where you are in the development of that particular area of your life. Court cards have no numerological value so should be counted as “0”.
Ace + Page + 10 = (1) + (0) + (1 + 0) = 2
8 + 9 + 6 = 23, then 2 + 3 = 5
0 = Infinite Potential – embodies all that is and all that will be – wholeness – everything is possible
1 = Beginnings – Potential – Inspiration – Gifts
2 = Duality – Choices – Balance/imbalance – Reflection
3 = Chaos – Birth – Synergy – Growth – Creativity
4 = Stability – Power – Rest – Organisation
5 = Conflict – Competition – Adaptability – Forced Growth
6 = Success – Harmony – Transition – Compassion
7 = Strategy – Planning – Victory – Discipline
8 = Strength – Control – Evolution – Release
9 = Contentment – Contemplation – Evaluation – Luck
10 = Completion – Satisfaction – Fulfilment – Germination – Karma
D• Add the Numerological Value of your Spirit card to that of each separate element and compare the outcome to the exercise above to see wether the energy of your Spirit adds value to that element in your life or diminishes it. This will show you wether you need to work on your Spiritual Energy or if you are on the right track.
The numerological value of your Fire Element is 2 and your Spirit card is the Hierophant with a value of 5. The overal outcome is 7 so your Spirit Element has a positive influence over your Fire Element.
If the numerological value of your Water Element is 9 and you add the value of your Hierophant Spirit card (5), this would make 9 + 5 = 14 and 1+ 4 = 5. So your Spirit Element has a significant diminishing effect on your Water Element.
In practical terms this might mean that you need to watch out you are not repressing your emotions by focussing too much on the objective, rational side of things – it might be healthier to allow yourself to have an emotional reaction to an issue, just let yourself feel it and let your emotions flow through you.
E• The number of cards used in the collective Spread is 13, with a numerological value of 4 (1 + 3 = 4), denoting stability and power.
Add up the numbers of all 13 cards in the Spread to get an overall idea of your current position in your Life Cycle.
A lot of sources will also attribute male or female qualities to each of the Elements, describing Earth and Water as being Feminine (passive, receptive) and Air and Fire as Masculine (active and imposing). You can do so if you wish, but I have chosen not to. My personal feeling is that these notions might be outdated and we lose nothing by taking away these supposed gender specifications – in fact what we could gain is a deeper understanding of the fundamental “sameness” of each individual Soul.
Spirit knows no gender, we all carry each element inside us, inextricably blended, albeit in different proportions. We are all just people in the end, and that is what I choose to focus on!
Please be aware that some Tarot Decks work with a modified system, where they attach the suit of Wands to the Element of Air and Swords to Fire. So should you be using decks like The Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot, The Art Nouveau Tarot, The Shapeshifter Tarot, The Dreampower Tarot or The Celtic Dragon Tarot amongst others, please make the required adaptations!