Philosophy • Spiritual Science • Freemasonry • Tarot
Table of Elements and Colours
The four suits used in traditional tarot, apart from the Atouts, are (in alphabetical order) Batons, Cups, Deniers (Coins), and Epees (Swords). These are the ones that have been subject to long association with the four elements.
Personally, I prefer to allow for each element to be reflected in each and every suit, and thus for myself: suit≠element!
This does not mean that interesting insights cannot be gained from considering each element in its own right, and seeing how it can add to further understanding the suits. For example, the fiery aspect of a sword, or its watery aspect, or its aerial, or its earthy aspects, are not overlooked.
Having said that, there are times when one of a suit's characteristics clearly reflects an element more so than at other times. For example, the sword, as an implement of war, combined with the courage (and rage) it can display carries with it a fiery connection... but its judicial and more airy aspect is then diminished, as are its watery ecclesiastical characteristics, and its political establishing earthy ones.
Another example, to show something that has not, to my knowledge, been mentioned or displayed in decks that make strict correlations, are the fiery quality of the Cup as grail: the Chalice is infused with the flames of the Holy Spirit, and the cup is more a vessel (a dish or 'grail') than a watery container. In such a consideration, the Fires of the Cup have the ability to transmute or totally transform the individual. For the sake of completeness, however, it should be mentioned that Ed Buryn does make a correlation of sorts between cups and fire (Cf. M. Greer's 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, p252).
Of the other two associations not previously (to my knowledge) made, Batons and Water can 'easily' be considered as the wood that requires, for its very existence and growth, its roots to draw water up and along its outer layer – precisely the layer seen. Cups and Earth can have, as example, a Christian anthroposophical understanding of the redemptive and transformative power of the blood of Christ onto and within the being of the Earth would be, as an example, one manner of making that connection.
Though change is afoot, most books in print advocate a strick suit=element position.
Some correlations made exemplified by various authors is listed below:
Table of Elements and Suits
(Mention should be made that most of the above was also been re-published for an ATS Newsletter in February 2007)
Please also check the Association for Tarot Studies's site for broader resources.