Trump Card Elemental Assignments

Among writers on the Golden Dawn’s version of the esoteric tarot, there is general agreement that each of the twelve so-called “zodiacal” trump cards can be assigned one of four classical elements (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) according to the quality of the sign to which they correspond. The three trump cards associated with three of the four “primary” elements are similarly non-controversial, once one gets over the idea that Earth isn’t a member of that particular club since it’s an amalgam of the other three. (Besides – how convenient! –  there are no unattached  trumps to accommodate it.) However, the seven planetary trumps aren’t as unanimously favored. Elizabeth Hazel, for one, considers them “free agents” that take on no elemental coloration. This sounds fine in theory, but it becomes rather awkward when trying to work with Elemental Dignities. For this reason, I have always assigned them the element connected to the sign of their traditional primary rulership, which involves a couple of “judgment calls.” Below is the system I’ve used for several decades, to good effect.

Trump Card Elemental Assignments

Fool (Air) (0)

Magician (Mercury/Air) (I)

High Priestess (Moon/Water) (II)

Empress (Venus/Earth) (III)

Emperor (Aries/Fire) (IV)

Hierophant (Taurus/Earth) (V)

Lovers (Gemini/Air) (VI)

Chariot (Cancer/Water) (VII)

Strength (Leo/Fire) (VIII)

Hermit (Virgo/Earth) (IX)

Wheel of Fortune (Jupiter/Fire) (X)

Justice (Libra/Air) (XI)

Hanged Man (Water) (XII)

Death (Scorpio/Water) XIII)

Temperance (Sagittarius/Fire) (XIV)

Devil (Capricorn/Earth) (XV)

Tower (Mars/Fire) (XVI)

Star (Aquarius/Air) (XVII)

Moon (Pisces/Water) (XVIII)

Sun (Sun/Fire) (XIX)

Judgement (Fire) (XX)

World (Saturn/Earth) (XXI)

For the twelve zodiacal trumps, I use the element of the associated sign (for example, the Chariot would be Cancer and therefore Water). I use the traditional rulerships to assign elements to the seven planetary trumps. For those planets that rule two signs, I select the sign and element that most typify the nature of the card (for the Empress, it would be Taurus and Earth; for the Tower, Aries and Fire; the Magician as Mercury is decidedly more Airy than Earthy; the World as Saturn is more of the nature of Earth than Air; the Wheel of Fortune seems to partake more of the capricious nature of Fire than of contemplative Water). There are also the planetary “temperaments” to consider: choleric (Fire, hot and dry), sanguine (Air, hot/warm and dry); phlegmatic (Water, cold/cool and moist) and melancholic (Earth, cold and dry). For the three primary elemental trumps, the Fool, the Hanged Man and Judgement, I use Air, Water and Fire respectively. I don’t use the three modern planets in this system, so I’m not bothered about where to assign them.

In truth, though, there may be something to the idea that a trump card emphatically “is what it is,” and may not be much affected by the persuasions of “friendly” or “unfriendly” neighbors. When working with Elemental Dignities, I do like the notion of a mini “force field” or “power profile” (my own terms, not traditional) that emerges from the combination of three cards according to their elemental natures, so will continue to assign elements to the planetary trumps.

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