A good place to begin learning Elemental Dignities is with two card combinations. The collaboration between Douglas Gibb and myself was essentially to show our readers and Tarot students that it’s in this very dynamic that you can begin to see the elements interacting with each other and the effect they have on each other. I like to call this process a ‘rebalancing of the energies’ in a Tarot reading. By examining this interaction and then applying it to your Tarot cards or reading, you are in fact working with the Tarot in such a way that positional spreads quickly loose their positions, and more importantly their importance.
Douglas and I wanted to create a resource that would make that process easier for our readers, and Tarot students everywhere. Beginning with two card combinations, we set about defining what the process meant to us personally, and the many uses of two card combinations. It quickly became apparent that we needed to show how two card combinations can benefit a Tarot reader and so, before we get to the Elemental Dignities Dictionary itself, we’re going to go through those benefits with you and then provide an example Tarot reading so you can see two card combinations in action.
For those of you unfamiliar with Elemental Dignities and the guidelines for their use, we have included them in this post along with some tips for reading with them.
Uses For Two Card Combinations
There are many situations where you can use just two Tarot cards, but we wanted to focus on just a couple of them here. The first one you will all no doubt be familiar with, while the second one is less known but is a very powerful way to enhance your Tarot readings.
Also known as a daily draw, or single draw. This is of course just one card, but if you were seeking some extra clarity you would naturally draw another card from your Tarot deck. You now have a Two Card Combination – perfect for allowing Elemental Dignities to assist you in your divination. Once you have those two cards, you can check the ED Dictionary below for guidance of the Elemental Dignities in your reading.
You can try this now by drawing a single Tarot card and then adding an extra card to see how your interpretation might change. Perhaps you drew an unpleasant fire card and then drew a water card; this would then temper and reduce the effect of the fire card, showing you that this may not have been as unpleasant as you first thought. To explore this further, please see Part Two in my Elemental Dignities Mini Series, Two’s Company.
Card Pairing simply means putting two cards together that were in separate locations in a Tarot spread so you may interpret them for extra clarity and meaning. Any spread with a physically opposite card or counterpart can be paired. For example a V shaped Tarot spread consisting of five cards will show you that four of those cards are sitting opposite each other in the spread and can then be paired together and read using the Tarot card’s divinatory meanings and also by using Elemental Dignities. Begin with the two outermost cards and work your way to the centre, i.e, pair cards one and two; then cards three and four etc. The remaining card would naturally be the main focus of the reading and consequently cannot be paired.
A choice between lovers spread shows perfectly how card pairing can enhance your reading interpretation, and is the reading that Douglas and I chose to illustrate the technique and benefits of using card pairing in your Tarot card readings. It’s important to remember that when you apply card pairing, you’re looking to add to the reading, so it’s perfectly alright if you glean other information or see things from a different angle when pairing. I find that keeping the Elemental Dignities loose, you can allow your intuition to guide you – remember the elements are natural and so is your intuition. Elemental Dignities, like the tarot itself, is a tool or method to help you divine the message from the cards, and while there are guidelines about their use, you shouldn’t be ruled by them.
If you’re unfamiliar with Elemental Dignities, the guidelines you need to be aware of are:
- Fire and Air are friendly and active
- Water and Earth are friendly and passive
- Fire and Water are enemies, they weaken each other
- Air and Earth are enemies, they weaken each other
- Fire and Earth strengthen each other but are neutral
- Water and Air strengthen each other but are neutral
For an understanding of how the elements work in your life, please see my introductory article The Four Elements and the Tarot Aces. For a quick guide, think of the elements as the following:
- Fire – careers, drive and ambition
- Water – love, emotions and psychism
- Air – thoughts, ideas and problems
- Earth – money, possessions, support
Playing Catchphrase With The Elements – Say What You See!
It’s great fun to play with Elemental Dignities – you can treat them just like you would a regular two card combination, by just playing ‘Catchphrase’ with them and ‘saying what you see’! Just two elements, no Tarot card definitions, and just run with what you feel. For example air represents thoughts and ideas; water represents love and emotions. Together you might say:
- thinking of love
- discussing relationship problems
- resolving emotional issues
If you remember to keep it light, use short keywords and not worry about the guidelines too much, you can have a lot of fun just playing ‘Catchphrase’. Douglas and I both agree that having fun is the best way to learn, and is the quickest way to remember too!
Using The Card Pairing Technique
Douglas and I were keen for you to see the benefits of card pairing, so we asked the Tarot a hypothetical question based on an imaginary scenario to clearly show how Elemental Dignities and card pairing can work together. We have both interpreted the same cards, independently, and published our readings for you to see how we applied these techniques; but most importantly for you to see that it’s really alright for you to arrive at a different conclusion than we did – in fact we hope you did! You have your own Tarot vocabulary, these techniques together or separately, will assist you in expanding it.
An Example Tarot Reading
Imagine your client comes to you with a rather pleasant dilemma – she cannot choose between her two lovers! There are many spreads that could help with this type of problem, but a really good one is a Two Options Spread. Not confined to lovers, it can be adapted by altering the questions to suit your client’s needs. You may of course add extra positions and questions, should you decide to.
Our client today is called Jennifer and she is having a hard time deciding between Vincent and Stuart. So in laying out the cards in the Two Options Spread below, we can have a closer examination of these men in her life and how they see each other. The purpose of this example reading is to show you how card pairing adds an extra layer to the Tarot reading. For the sake of space and simplicity, I will only be employing the use of keywords; what’s more important here is showing you the technique.
Jennifer clearly sees Vincent as a challenge; he no doubt is a driving force behind her, but you can’t help but feel her defiance with him. He on the other hand has stars in his eyes for her; he is happy and contented. The pros of the relationship are obvious; they do make each other happy. The cons, well, perhaps Vincent is a stickler for the rules, perhaps this is connected to her irritation with the Seven of Wands. Perhaps he is also married. Is he so fair and level headed that it annoys her? The outcome of their relationship could be seen unfavourably with the Tower reversed, but I prefer to see that card positively when reversed – Vincent has turned her world upside down and on its head! But the question remains: is it too much for her?
It would seem that Stuart is in touch with his feminine side and Jennifer loves that about him! He can connect with her on a very personal level but while he’s as equally happy with her as Stuart is, the Six of Cups indicates some nostalgia or sentiment on his part. Is there something under the surface he hides? The pros of the relationship lie in his empowerment of her, she’s in control and he gives that to her. Stuart is a sensitive soul and I feel that’s where the problem lies – for Jennifer, he is too sensitive, perhaps she prefers a man with more brawn. They might be better as friends than lovers. The outcome for this relationship shows a continuation of that steady and reliable nature, Stuart would never leaver her; but she will always be searching for more and wondering “what if…”
Pairing The Cards
- The Seven of Wands and the Princess of Disks:
- Being at odds with herself; fighting to find herself.
- Fire and Earth:
- Confirming the push and pull; the fire trying to run wild while the earth grounds it.
- The Ten of Cups and the Six of Cups:
- Contentment and rose coloured glasses! Is she hankering after a lost love?
- Water and Water:
- Is deeply sentimental; it’s emotional and very lost within itself.
- The Nine of Cups and the Two of Wands:
- She has everything and yet it’s not enough.
- Water and Fire:
- Look in danger of destroying each other; but it’s more like a temper tantrum that will subside.
- Justice and the Ace of Cups:
- She’s looking for ‘the one’ and is going to great pains to decide.
- Air and Water:
- Can whip up a storm in a heartbeat suggesting intense thoughts of love.
- The Tower reversed and the Hermit:
- She wants to break free but doesn’t feel she can; while she’s undecided, her life is passing her by and she doesn’t notice.
- Fire and Earth:
- The push and pull continues.
This last elemental pairing is the same as the first suggesting she’s locked in this cycle and doesn’t seem to be able to break it. The past repeating itself, again and again.
Example Tarot Reading Summary
Poor Jennifer! Blinded by love and driven by an unconscious and apparently unfulfilled need to find happiness even though on the surface at least, she has it. The repeating of the Elemental Dignities in the first and last pairing was very telling in this Tarot reading; what may have been interpreted as no clear winner in the fight for her affections, actually showed up a deeper issue at hand: her own inner psychology that is never seemingly satisfied, and probably very willing to sabotage her efforts of happiness when she finds it.
Card pairing in this Tarot reading added an extra layer of meaning and allowed me to reinterpret the cards while keeping within the flavour of the original interpretation. The benefits of card pairing, we feel, are clearly shown in this Tarot reading. But don’t take our word for it – get out your Tarot deck and using our example of the Two Options Spread as your guide, have a go at card pairing, right now! Don’t forget to let us know how you get on.
The Elemental Dignities Dictionary – Two Card Combinations
Listed below are the 16 permutations of two card combinations. You will find that there is a slight repetition with them; for example: fire/water – water/fire. Douglas and I agreed that there were indeed slight differences to their meanings when transposed. Wanting the Dictionary to be totally complete, we agreed to include all possible options, even where they would apparently seem the same.
- Totally active and supporting each other. Immense energy that can be good or bad. Can be the impetus to push through difficulties and yet could also be so destructive if not directed. Think of a wild fire.
- The inspiration to act; intense and ruthless; rapidly moving forward; a good chance that things will move towards there end – for good or bad. A lack of consideration is given to feelings. There’s also a possibility that this energy dies down as quickly as it started.
- Traditionally cancelling each other out, a passive and active element at odds; the fire wants control and sees the water as emotional. Think taking control of the emotions; the Temperance Effect; even ‘quit being a drama queen’.
- There’s a slight weight and foundation to this combination, implying the possibility that things can continue forward. In representing a person’s psychology – emotional confusion; a lack of certainty and commitment; manic depression.
- An active and supportive combination. Air feeding that fire will only make it stronger. A brilliant idea that will take off immediately; quick thinking or quick succession of ideas; moving forward quickly.
- The initial inspiration to act is quickly met with problems. Luckily, these problems seem solvable. This combination suggests a brilliant plan will work. It also suggests an intense, but easily distracted person; mental tension; lack of sleep; tiredness and exhaustion.
- A neutral combination not normally seen as affecting each other, but where the earth feeds the fire, the fire can warm the earth. Think of seed germination; moving up a gear and moving forward.
- An active and passive Element will have a neutralizing effect. This means that this combination doesn’t necessarily imply things changing. However, I get the sense from this combination that a lot of effort has been used in creating a good start, but now the same energy is required to keep things going – and things are going nowhere. A running with the red queen effect.
- Traditionally seen as opposing elements, cancelling each other out, but they have their uses – they can level unpleasant cards. The water tries to temper the fire, reminding it to ‘chill out.’ I feel like there’s a strange attraction between these two elements. Can also be seen as passive/aggressive.
- This is a very uncomfortable combination. It’s almost as if someone is being asked to do something against their will. Apart from the reluctance to act – to ‘change’ a very comfortable lifestyle – it does hint at a moral strength of character; a type of integrity.
- Totally in support of each other, but far too passive to be of any active use. Think ‘still waters run deep’; totally and utterly in love to the point of being useless! Deep psychic connections, awakening intuition.
- This combination, although pleasant, often indicates that people are living in the past. There’s an unhealthiness to this amount of feeling. I’ve seen this indicate a profound state of depression and lethargy. On a more positive note, this combination indicates psychic abilities.
- Traditionally neutral to each other, but water can evaporate and penetrate the air. Fog consists of moisture, think of mental confusion, being over emotional. Thinking with your heart and not your head.
- There is a real sense of “talking about one’s feelings” with this combination. It’s almost as if the person is in a position to finally talk about ‘past troubles’; think of this situation as similar to someone seeking out a ‘talking therapy’. On another level, there is a need to conceal one’s feelings from others – trying to put a brave face on things when inside there is emotional turbulence.
- A passive but supporting combination. The earth is providing ground for the water to move on, but it also contains it. Gaining control over your emotions; support from a friend. Think ‘lean on me.’
- This is a good combination in certain circumstances. Essentially, it indicates that emotional dreams have a chance of becoming reality. The Water (Emotional dreams, wishes) eventually finds support. This combination would also indicate that the client’s emotional assessment is accurate.
- A very active combination with air feulling the fire. With nothing to contain it though it can run wild. Think acting on your ideas; having the self-belief to continue; being inspired and motivated.
- This combination suggests that that a plan can indeed work. It shows the forming of the plan, then its execution. It also suggests that a problem has been solved, allowing for matters to continue forward. This is a good combination if ‘impulse control’ is what’s required.
- A neutral combination traditionally not affecting each other. Too much air on water though and you have a storm! Think of love letters; expressing your love; psychic channelling or communication.
- This combination suggests that the initial control has been lost to sentimentality, and possibly past regret. There is a need to express feelings, rather than discuss them.
- A highly active combination in total support of each other but potentially detrimental. This is all about thinking, thoughts, mental processes – but in excess. Think ‘running away with your thoughts.’
- A highly unstable combination. This suggests illness, mental instability, and possibly a total lack of direction; the result is mental cruelty. This is an example of the mind attacking itself – having gone through all possible solutions; the cycle repeats itself with increasing intensity. This can also indicate a good time for the creative process.
- These two elements don’t sit well together, there’s always a separation occurring. They’re simply at odds with each other and don’t connect; the earth cannot contain the air. Think of someone losing touch with reality.
- This combination suggests the need to change the surrounding environment. I can imagine long impassioned speeches, designed to motivate and inspire change. This can sometimes be seen in Tarot readings that involve the search for personal identity. It also suggests the possibility of challenging people, events and institutions. However, there’s simply not enough energy in these cards to make a difference – yet.
- A neutral combination, traditionally neither affecting the other. The earth contains the fire, perhaps feeding it, but remaining in control through its strength. Think of a runner on the starting block of a race.
- Firm foundations in which to expand the business. A supportive environment that actively encourages adventure, exploration, and in some cases, creativity. A good combination that promises slow steady growth.
- A supportive but passive combination; water softens the earth and makes it fluid and flexible. Think of a mother soothing a child; or a lover serenading his lady. There’s enjoyment here and potential hedonism; though feeling safety is providing more satiety and so it continues.
- This combination suggests someone allowing themselves to enjoy what they have created. I get the impression of a controlled and strict life that is only now beginning to feel stable enough to express more vulnerable aspects of self. It also hints at someone who has succeeded financially in life and is now beginning to enjoy what was worked so hard to achieve. At the end of the day, nothing changes, but the person finally sees the enjoyment and finds joy in what they have.
- These two elements traditionally repel each other. The air wants to be free of the constraints of the earth. What you think and what you feel being two different things. Think ‘come here, go away.’
- A need to break free from perceived imprisonment; there’s a certain amount of resentment and contempt for what this person owns – the responsibility has become too much. Perhaps this again shows a need to create something new but at the moment the ‘energy’ is too angry to formulate a constructive plan – they hate where they are in life; but they’re frustratingly dependent on it. A need to accept responsibility.
- The most stable of the combinations, but if you’re hoping for movement, forget it! Solid and reliable but very grounded, like a ship’s anchor; if you need a dose of reality, this is it.
- A profound stability is indicated in this combination. This could indicate years of effort in attaining a goal – finally it all comes together; complete stability. However, if change is wanted or desired, then it’s certainly not going to happen in the short to medium term.
Fire / Fire
Fire / Water
Fire / Air
Fire / Earth
Water / Fire
Water / Water
Water / Air
Water / Earth
Air / Fire
Air / Water
Air / Air
Air / Earth
Earth / Fire
Earth / Water
Earth / Air
Earth / Earth
Please feel free to share your own thoughts and observations about the two card combinations presented here. We actively encourage you to define your own Elemental Dignities and would love to hear about them; how you’re getting on with them and of course if you have any questions
The Elemental Dignities Dictionary Index
- Introducing the Elemental Dignities Dictionary – A Visual Guide to Elemental Dignities
- The Elemental Dignities Dictionary – Two Card Combinations
- The Elemental Dignities Dictionary – Three Card Combinations