The Elemental Way
The use of the four Classical elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire may be familiar to you, the elemental way of reading the numbered cards is both traditional and adopted by occult revisions. For creative association they serve well, and have been passed on as a result. But the fact that there are 14 cards per element stretches even the most obsessive sort of mind. With the numbered cards, we’re going to make limited use of fortune telling tradition because there really isn’t a purely intuitive way of making these cards useful.
It is clear that the first card makers, at least in Northern Italy, were thinking of the elements when they appropriated the suited cards. The elements were still a significant part of science, medicine, and natural magic, being usefully comprehensive for describing physical symptoms, behaviors in organic chemistry, and other places where the adjectives serve. The later printed decks, the ones that reached the common people, are very clear about indicating the element of the suit, usually in the Ace card. So this association of the suits to elements was made well before the game became occult, and may be considered authentic to the deck’s design. The real challenge isn’t learning the character of each element or suit, but memorizing the keyword titles that have been established with essentially arbitrary interpretations.
When the memory won’t kick in and you’re winging it without a book, you can always rely on the element and the rank, high or low, to at least add a little shade more to a reading.
Staves, Wands, Clubs
|2. — Power.||3. — Virtue.||4. — Closure.|
|5. — Anxiety.||6. — Victory.||7. — Honor.|
|8. — Speed.||9. — Force.||10. — Oppression.|
|2. — Love.||3. — Abundance.||4. — Luxury.|
|5. — Dissatisfaction.||6. — Pleasure.||7. — Corruption.|
|8. — Lethargy.||9. — Delight.||10. — Satisfaction.|
|2. — Peace.||3. — Sorrow.||4. — Alliance.|
|5. — Defeat.||6. — Science.||7. — Ignorance.|
|8. — Chaos.||9. — Cruelty.||10. — Ruin.|
Coins, Disks, Pentacles, Diamonds
|2. — Change.||3. — Work.||4. — Security.|
|5. — Fear.||6. — Success.||7. — Failure.|
|8. — Experience.||9. — Gain.||10. — Wealth.|
Here’s a handy little chart you can print and tuck into your deck, click first for full size:
The various decadent era occult organizations can be summed up as presenting the Tarot as the key to unlock an ancient knowledge. While it may be that trans-generation powers of folklore and myth can indeed deliver old knowledge, the Tarot most certainly as whole did not get its design in Ancient Egypt or anywhere that far back.
It is this folk lore that gives the cards their various traditional fortunes. But a drawback has been placed within the essence of reading the Tarot, the largest block of 40 cards is too difficult for many to memorize, let alone intuit or feel their way for an association. This technique of using correspondences is rote memorization, which eventually becomes the possession of the body, and can lead to a recall produced through feeling in response to a visual of the card.
Few decks are illustrative enough with their numbered cards to offer much for a visual storytelling element, so learning the cards is about imagining these relationships creatively, adding sophistication to an otherwise linear, colorless number, but most significantly, though numbered and titled and classified, the numbered cards show the depth, ease and humanity of making irrational, illogical and arbitrary calculations.