Tarot and the Chinese Five Elements

Tarot has a wonderful way of crossing over and merging with other systems. Each system has its own attributes which can be utilized to enhance the wisdom that comes through the Tarot cards.

For those who have studied or practiced Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), you are familiar with the “Five Elements Theory.” For the uninitiated, these five elements consist of WOOD, FIRE, EARTH, METAL, WATER…in that order. Wood fuels fire, ashes from fire feed the earth, earth contains metals, metal can be heated to produce water, then wood drinks water. This is the creative order. There is another order, but I will save that for a future weblog.

Key concepts in TCM are “Balance”, mostly between “Yin and Yang” as well as the “Harmony” among the Elements.

  • YIN – Dark, Feminine, Mother, Receptive, Passive, Cold Months
  • YANG – Light, Masculine, Father, Projective, Active, Warm Months
  • WOOD – Spring, Liver, Gallbladder, East, Sour, Tendons, Green, Eye
  • FIRE – Summer, Heart, Small Intestine, South, Bitter, Vessels, Red, Tongue
  • EARTH – Late Summer, Spleen, Stomach, Middle, Sweet, Muscles, Yellow, Mouth
  • METAL – Autumn, Lung, Large Intestine, West, Pungent, Skin/Hair, White, Nose
  • WATER – Winter, Kidney, Bladder, North, Salty, Bones, Blue/Black, Ear

Now, apply a five-card reading to this template, where each card is placed as an influence or expression of the qualities of that “Element.” Here are some of the topics that can be applied to this layout…

  • Seasons of the year
  • Directions to travel or search
  • Body organs or senses…Health
  • Five phases of a project

Although any deck will work if cards are selected randomly, there are two other ideas I would like to share. If working with a traditional Tarot deck, you can be Element specific to match the suit in the cards. Use the element assignment from your Tarot deck that matches the best. Here is an example:

  • WOOD – Major Arcana
  • FIRE – Wands
  • EARTH – Pentacles
  • METAL – Swords
  • WATER – Cups

The second idea is to take a unique deck, such as The Fifth Tarot, that already honors five elements, then apply each suit to an Element in the layout.

Just have fun with this and experiment until you find a system that works for you.


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