About a month ago, I wrote about reading the numbers present in a spread to gain information about the situation or question before beginning to interpret individual cards. You can find that post HERE.

In addition to gathering information from the numbers, I also scan the elements present to help form my initial outline for the message in the cards.

There are different meanings and associations for the suits, depending on who you ask and what system they use. Below, I’ll give mine. Because I associate very naturally and easily with the elements, I rely on those associations quite heavily.

Major Arcana

Elemental Association: Spirit. Many readers assign each card in the Major Arcana an elemental association based on their astrological associations. The astrological associations have never made sense to me, so I do not use them.

Major life lessons or events, a situation that will take a long time to play out, events beyond the querent’s control.



Elemental association: Fire

Passion, will, enthusiasm, career or calling, projects, ideas, lust, attraction, and in timing, things are moving fast.



Elemental association: water

Emotional situation, relationships, healing, and grace; in timing, things are moving at a leisurely pace.



Elemental association: air

How one thinks, philosophy, truths, revelations, and, like with wands, things are moving quickly.



Elemental association: earth

Resources, mundane, everyday things or events, physical things. In timing, things are moving slowly. Not as slowly as the Majors indicate, but still, usually slower than the querent wants!


When scanning a reading, I take note on the presence or absence (sometimes the absence of a suit is more telling than the presence of others) of any particular suits and the ratio. For example, the presence of swords tells me that there may be some problems present. If the question is about income or finances and there are many cups and some swords, I would keep my eyes open for attitudes about abundance and self-worth. If the question is about love and there are no cups, that is a warning sign to me. Also, if there are a lot of wands and nothing else to ground the relationship, it tells me it is probably a physical attraction rather than something with staying power, at least at that moment. The elements can also help me with timing, as I noted in the descriptions.

Written by Barbara Moore
The tarot has been a part of Barbara Moore’s personal and professional lives for over a decade. In college, the tarot intrigued her with its marvelous blending of mythology, psychology, art, and history. Later, she served as the tarot specialist for Llewellyn Publications. Over the years, she has ...