An Introduction To The Elemental Dignities Compendium

by Douglas Gibb on September 16, 2009

I’m really excited about this new series. Over the next three posts, Catherine Chapman of Tarot Elements and I propose to present to you a complete reference work of all possible Elemental combination’s.

This awesome idea all started a couple of weeks ago when Catherine and I started to discuss how we both approach Elemental Dignities. We quickly realised that we both approach this technique differently. It was a lot of fun seeing how someone else uses this method; but very quickly we started to discuss the possibility of writing a complete reference guide for other people to use. We went through several possible ways in which to present the information but we finally decided to provide a complete compendium for all possible two card, three card and four card Elemental combinations.

What we propose to do

We propose to provide you with a reference work to assist your learning of Elemental Dignities. Although these series of articles do not teach Elemental Dignities as such, what they do provide is a reference guide that will help you study Tarot. In a sense, this is very much like the divinatory definitions or keywords that are provided to assist you when learning the individual Tarot cards. Although the keywords help get you started, and are certainly useful as a point of reference, they are only meant to be used as a companion to your own growing understanding of what the 78 Tarot cards represent. Likewise, the definitions that we will be providing are to be thought of as a launch pad to your own understanding of Elemental interactions.

This is a great Tarot resource that will help you get the most out your Elemental Dignities study.

A Visual Guide

Although the articles that both Catherine and I have collaborated on are a shared work, we have decided not to simply reproduce the same identical article on both blogs. This is for two reasons; the first – search engines don’t like duplicate content and the second, Catherine and I want to put our own unique perspective on what we have produced. However, we have purposely incorporated a lot of consistencies between the posts to help ensure that the spirit of collaboration remains throughout. The main consistencies you will notice will be the use of imagery.

Images selected to represent the Elements

We have decided to represent the Elements using a combination of visual colour and shapes. For the shapes we have chosen to use Platonic solids. Plato theorized that these shapes constitute the most fundamental components of matter. Although Plato’s theory is rather strange, given how science has moved on, it’s still remarkably similar to how we view the building blocks of everything. Essentially, simple numerical ratios are represented by tiny shapes whose fluctuations constitute the fabric of the perceived world.

It was important for both Catherine and I that we select images to represent the Elements that visually remind people that the Elements are not simply contained within the Tarot, but rather, their interactions with each other represent (on a theoretical level) the very fabric of space. In science, the concept of space-time and the elastic nature of Time, as proposed by Einstein can be represented by the Tarot – not as an individual card, but as a combination of Elemental interactions.

Elemental Dignities and the Platonic Solids

One of the most exciting aspects of my collaboration with Catherine is how we view the Elemental interactions differently. We both agreed that it would be really beneficial for people to see those differences, therefore, when both Catherine and I have a different interpretation for a particular Elemental interaction, we clearly display the differences to help enrich your understanding and also, to reinforce the most important factor when reading Tarot cards – everyone reads differently; uniqueness and variety are things to be valued, and having confidence in your own unique perspective is one of the first steps to becoming a great Tarot reader.

Great Elemental Dignity Resources

Below is a selection of great articles that will help you learn how to use Elemental Dignities. I would recommend reading these articles and incorporating them into your Tarot practice. The Dictionary definitions for all Elemental combinations that Catherine and I have created will act as a great companion to these articles. I would recommend starting with Catherine’s Part One of the Elemental Dignities Series from Tarot Elements.

Elemental Dignities Articles on Tarot Eon

Elemental Dignities At Tarot Elements

Elemental Dignities on Mary K. Greer’s Tarot Blog

Elemental Dignities on Supertarot


This is the first part to the Elemental Dignities Compendium.

  1. An Introduction To The Elemental Dignities Compendium
  2. The Elemental Dignities Compendium – Two card combinations
  3. The Elemental Dignities Compendium – Three card combinations
  4. The Elemental Dignities Compendium – Four card combinations

I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions or ideas on this series of articles. Do you think this will be useful? Do you think it’s a good idea to collaborate with other Tarot bloggers? What would you find useful when learning Elemental Dignities? I look forward to reading your comments :) .

(Theoretically) Related Posts:

15 comments… Let's discuss

Ginger September 17, 2009 at 1:59 am

Really looking forward to this…I have been seeing elemental dignities not just in my tarot readings but elsewhere in life….so interested in reading more


Douglas September 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Hi Ginger,

It’s a great sign when you start to ‘see’ the Elements outside of Tarot – that shows that your intuition is beginning to really connect with the Tarot.


Phine September 17, 2009 at 8:44 am

I´m looking forward to your series!!!
Unfortunately using ED´s is not popular in Germany – even though I got in touch with this great technique several years ago ;) . Since then I tried to make it pubic in forums, but just a few people seem to be interested in this clarifying additional help the ED´s are giving…

Glad that I found yours and Catherine´s blogs I will surely convoy your great work.
Thank you in advance for the wonderful blogs you both created,



Douglas September 17, 2009 at 11:56 am

Hi Phine,

Thanks for stopping by :)

Unfortunately using ED´s is not popular in Germany

I’ve been on your blog several times and I think your doing great work ;)

If there’s anything that you feel we could do to improve this series – I’d love to here your feedback!

…I will surely convoy your great work.

I really appreciate your kind words! :D


Rose Gardenfae September 17, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Wonderful beginning.. looking forward to the series and increasing my knowledge!


Douglas September 17, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Hi Rose Gardenfae,

I’m glad you like the introduction :)

Let me know what you think of the rest it – I’d really like to hear your feedback :D


Ginger September 17, 2009 at 10:40 pm

I know this is a tarot blog…but I am sure cartomancy (reading with playing cards) is somehow related to tarot….and I am wondering if you have any idea about how the elements relate to the suits in a deck of playing cards or…hmmm…maybe it’s the numbers that relate to the elements…or maybe there isn’t a relationship…just interested cause I like to use plain playing cards for readings sometimes and I’d like to weave the elements in if possible.


Douglas September 18, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Hi Ginger,

The Tarot, historically, developed as a card game and your certainly right to point out the connection.

Playing cards are divided into four suits – Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades. The connection between Tarot and playing cards is:

Hearts – Cups
Diamonds – Disks
Clubs – Wands
Spades – Swords

It’s therefore possible to apply the Elements based on the above correspondence. I’m not entirely sure how accurate the correspondence I’ve suggested between playing cards and the Elements is – I only know a little bit about it through the study of Tarot. Hope that helps :)


Jason September 28, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Hi Ginger,

There are many ways to relate the elements to playing card (PC) suits. The most common attribution for those who read tarot is what Doug described, with Clubs=Fire, Hearts=Water, Spades=Air and Diamonds=Earth. But there are many variations on these among PC readers and authors. Hearts are most commonly attributed to water; but everything else is up for grabs. Leo Martello, for example, makes a good argument for Spades as earth. Ana Cortez, who published the Playing Card Oracles, treats diamonds as fire. And so on.

I suspect playing cards were read without any elements until the occultists came along. :) Also, a lot of the ideas of this blog — which center on card interactions, rather than cards as individuals — have roots in the older cartomantic methods, which used card interactions to define a reading rather than today’s common positional spreads in tarot.

I’ve been working with PC cartomancy this year, and studying a lot of older works. My current feeling is that PCs read well on their own, without elemental attributes. I also believe they should “earn” elemental attributions based on their own merits rather than adhering the tarot link. Unless, of course, one reads them as tarot minors. :)

Perhaps I’ll blog about this at a later date.


Helen September 18, 2009 at 5:47 am

I shall look forward to reading this series Doug.


Douglas September 18, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Hi Helen,

I hope you enjoy the next three posts :D


Phine September 18, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Hi Ginger,

I think, there IS a connection.
I´m reading the Little Lenormandcards as well using mainly the Blue Owl Deck. And I started taking care for the ED´s proposed by their playing card symbols immediately after getting knowledge of this system ;) .
I decided that clubs are swords and spades are wands because of the aces in the man´s and woman´s card (the woman has the “fire” of the man and he has the “feelings” as well as she has – I see it like this yin-yang-symbol ;) …).

And Douglas, thank you for reading my blog in return! I really enjoy this kind of exchange all over the world. I´ll stay tuned :) .


Douglas September 19, 2009 at 1:23 am

Hi Phine,

Thanks for the excellent information :D .

I really enjoy this kind of exchange all over the world. I´ll stay tuned :) .

That’s excellent. I look forward to reading more of your comments :D


Jason September 28, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Hi Phine,

Are you reading the Lenormand cards with EDs? That’s interesting, I’ve never seen anyone apply that technique. To be honest, I would find it overkill. I don’t have much use for the astrological relations with Lenormand either. I know an experienced reader who feels they don’t work — and she’s really good with horary astrology!

Thanks for sharing. I do love those cards; feel free to stop by my blog sometimes, where I write about them.


Ginger September 28, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Hi Jason…yes I’ve been playing around with the elements and playing cards…sometimes they seem to add a nice layer of meaning but sometimes they just muddy the water…and with all the meanings people have for playing cards…the water is muddy enough already…LOL…There are SO MANY meanings that after playing around with a bunch of them…I just sort of blended some together and call them Ginger’s Card Meanings..they seem to work nicely and even though they are short and sweet…I can add to them as things unfold during the reading…they are just a framework….Do you use the whole Aces are beginnings, twos mean exchanges, threes are things growing??? ETC?


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