Using Reversed Tarot Cards and Elemental Dignities

I’m often asked about using reversed tarot cards and elemental dignities together, and if the process becomes too complicated in doing so. Some see no need to use reversed tarot cards and elemental dignities at the same time, while others relish the challenge. In the end, it’s really up to you.

In my elemental dignities tutorials, I do not use reversed tarot cards purely to keep the lessons clearer. However, if you would like to see how to apply reversed tarot cards and elemental dignities together, read on.

Remember the Basic Rules of Elemental Dignities

Always begin your reading by assessing the interaction of the elements first, that is, apply the rules of elemental dignities, then bring in your tarot card meanings.

To refresh your memory of the rules of elemental dignities:

  1. Fire and air are friendly and active
  2. Water and earth are friendly and passive
  3. Fire and water are enemies, they weaken each other
  4. Air and earth are enemies, they weaken each other
  5. Fire and earth strengthen each other but are neutral
  6. Water and air strengthen each other but are neutral

These ‘rules’ are laid out by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as a way to determine which cards were more relevant to the client’s reading using the Opening of the Key tarot spread – a spread without defined positions. You can see how this works in a linear way in the Elemental Dignities Dictionary post.

Using Reversed Tarot Cards and Elemental Dignities – Example Readings

There is no better way to learn how to read tarot using elemental dignities than to actually apply them to a tarot reading. If we keep this simple and use three tarot cards – called a triad, and transpose them as we reverse them, we can see how the interactions may change.

I used my Thoth Tarot deck and drew the Star, Ace of Cups and 2 of Wands.

The Star - Ace of Cups - 2 of Wands from the Rosetta Tarot
The Star – Ace of Cups – 2 of Wands from the Rosetta Tarot

If we look at these three cards using elemental dignities first, we can see that the Ace of Cups as the middle card, is the principle card and the focus of the reading. The principle card is water – emotional and fluid.

The two cards on either side of the Ace of Cups, the Star and the 2 of Wands, are called the modifiers because they affect the principle card. Elementally speaking, we have the following:

air – water – fire

If we look at the rules of elemental dignities above, we can see that the air is not really having any effect on the water, but the fire is. In a classical sense, it is weakening it. So we have a reading in the realm of emotions, which is being weakened by the dynamism of fire.

Applying Tarot Card Meanings

Now that we know that the Ace of Cups is being supported by the Star but is being weakened by the 2 of Wands, we can bring in their divinatory definitions to enrich the reading.

For simplicity’s sake, I am going to keep to keywords for the tarot cards in question. Feel free to apply further or deeper meanings to these cards as you feel more comfortable in the process. Indeed, apply your own tarot card meanings as you see fit for each card if they differ to mine.

We have a reading about love, new love, or potential love. This expression of emotion is being supported and undermined at the same time. The Star is sitting in the wings waiting for its precious gifts to be imparted upon the maelstrom being created between the Ace of Cups and the 2 of Wands. As the 2 of Wands is modifying the Ace of cups, it is weakening it. To use our keywords, it is dominating and controlling it.

This domination or control can be from another, or from the focus of the reading, assuming the Ace of Cups relates to the seeker. In other words, you are the ace and your lover is the 2 of Wands and they are controlling the whole affair. Or, you are both the ace and the 2 of Wands and you are seeking to control the love affair. The reasons for this are not relevant to this lesson.

Using reversed tarot cards with elemental dignities need not be difficult - always read the elements first. #tarot #learntarot #tarotelements Click To Tweet

Reversing the Cards

You may have arrived at a different interpretation to me, which is absolutely fine. Remain with your initial assessment of the reading and now reverse the 2 of Wands and see how that affects the reading.

The Star - Ace of Cups -2 of Wands reversed from the Rosetta Tarot
The Star – Ace of Cups -2 of Wands reversed from the Rosetta Tarot

As a reversed card, the 2 of Wands can indicate a loss of control. If this relates to another, then they are indicated as being a loose canon and not trustworthy in the matters of the heart. Particularly yours. They will display inconsistent behaviours that will confuse and frustrate you. Again, the Star is waiting in the wings to help out.

If we put the 2 of Wands upright and reverse the Star, we may be able to say that you have given up hope of ever being free of the clutches of your lover.

The Star reversed - Ace of Cups - 2 of Wands from the Rosetta Tarot
The Star reversed – Ace of Cups – 2 of Wands from the Rosetta Tarot

By putting the Star upright and reversing the Ace of Cups, we can see that the love is lost and the control continues but the Star is still waiting to help.

The Star - Ace of Cups reversed - 2 of Wands from the Rosetta Tarot
The Star – Ace of Cups reversed – 2 of Wands from the Rosetta Tarot

Elemental Dignities and Reversed Card Exercise

By transposing the orientation of the tarot cards in our reading, we can see how the reading changed. We only did this one reversed card at a time though. If you read with reversed tarot cards, you may see multiple cards upside down in your readings. It is useful to explore these in an established tarot reading so using the three cards above, see how two or more reversed tarot cards change the reading again.

When you feel ready, deal out three new tarot cards and begin the process again.

  • Begin with assessing the elemental dignities of the three cards using the principle card and modifiers.
  • Bring in the divinatory definitions to establish an interpretation.
  • Play with reversing the cards and note how the reading changes with each different reversal.
  • Repeat
Remember: the elemental dignities of the three cards won’t change unless you actually move the three cards around. In keeping the cards in place and only changing their orientation, all that will change is your interpretation.

If you need any help in remembering the elements associated with each individual tarot card, refer to my Minor Arcana Correspondences post where each suit is colour coded according to its element, as well as my Major Arcana Correspondences post which lists all the major arcana cards and their elements. Also see my elemental dignities tutorials for more in depth lessons.

I hope you enjoy playing with using reversed tarot cards and elemental dignities. Use the comment section to let me know how you’re getting on and if you have any questions.

Tarot deck used: The Rosetta Tarot by M. M. Meleen published by Atu House

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I use tarot to help me navigate life and understand myself better. As well as tarot, I enjoy using aromatherapy & herbalism to improve my health & well being. My spiritual seeking lay with Gaia, the environment & what my senses engage around me.

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