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Contacting the Elements

August 7, 2019

by Tony Willis    

As British occultist Dion Fortune tells us: A spiritual crisis always ensues in some form or another when spiritual power is called down. Take this into account before embarking on any of the following exercises.

An Experiment Regarding the Elements and the Tarot Suits

Here is an experiment anyone can attempt. Its aim is to establish a connection between the person performing the experiment and the four so-called Elements, or building bricks of the Universe. Long before the modern elements oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc. were discovered, ancient philosophers posited the existence of four “consistencies”, solid, liquid, gaseous and electrical. These they named Earth, Water, Air and Fire. These Elements were and are crucial factors in magickal philosophy. The signs of the zodiac are divided among them, Aries being a Fire sign, Taurus an Earth sign, and so on round to Pisces, a Water sign. Every person alive is considered to have a “temperament”. Some people have relatively simple temperaments; they may be Earthy (practical, pragmatic, full of common sense), Airy (talkative, amiable, but easily distracted), Watery (emotion-driven, caring, intuitive), or Fiery (ardent, possibly rash, no-sooner-the-word-than-the-deed types). But most people are a mixture of Elements. How much of each Element one has in one’s personality can be estimated from the horoscope. Almost nobody, however, is born with the harmonious disposition produced when the four Elements are in balance.

One of the first tasks often set for trainee magicians is one intended to lead them to an understanding of the imbalances of Elements in their own temperaments. Once this is attained, the next mission the trainee magician is tasked with is to strengthen the weaker Elements in their character and to learn how to harness the strengths of the dominant ones.

But before work on the Elements was undertaken, it was considered wise that aspiring mages should forge a contact with the Elements outside themselves, the Universal Elements from which everything in existence, including the human personality, is constructed. The exercise I am about to describe is based on one I was made to carry out myself soon after I received initiation into a mystery school. It was the first exercise all neophytes of that school were expected to carry out. It was considered important because it alerted us to the powers – that is to say, the energies – of the four Elements in the forms that they assume when manifesting in daily life. This entailed invoking those energies into one’s environment, into one’s domestic and work-place settings.

In describing the exercise, I am going to adopt the following correlation of Elements to suits: Earth is assigned to Pence or Pentacles, Water to Cups, Air to Rods or Wands, and Swords to Fire. My reasons for adopting these correspondences have been described in a previous post. There are decks that adhere to these associations with the images on the spot cards reflecting this. In the illustration below, for example, it is evident from the symbolism on the Ace of Swords card that the related Element is Fire. If you work with another set of correspondences then you are welcome to adjust the instructions accordingly.


In magickal language, the tarot Aces are spoken of as the Roots of the Elemental Powers; it is for this reason that the exercise revolves around the Aces. Also, occultism associates the four directions – North, South, East and West – with the Elements. The attributions are: North links to Earth, South to Fire, East to Air, and West to Water. Bear all this in mind as you read through my instructions.

How do you choose which walls to fix the Aces to seeing as houses are rarely orientated exactly to the cardinal directions? For North, for instance, select the most northerly facing wall. You can work out which this is either by consulting a compass or noting the position of the sun at noon in relation to your home. Using a compass, place it on a table and leave it for a minute to settle down. Then, note where the compass needle is pointing. That direction is north. Take your other bearings from this. Using the sun, in the northern hemisphere, note where the sun is at noon. That direction is south. North lies opposite to it. My living room windows have the sun pouring through them at noon. That wall of my apartment faces south. The wall to its right faces west, the wall to its left faces east. The wall opposite it faces north.

Do not deviate from the instructions other than to substitute one Element for another; so that, if you accept the Elemental associations suggested by the Waite-Smith tarot, you may, in the case of Air, replace the Ace of Wands with the Ace of Swords, and, in the case of Fire, replace the Ace of Swords with the Ace of Wands. But if you institute any alterations of your own and get into trouble, I cannot help you. Whereas, if you follow my instructions to the letter, you will come to no harm: elemental events will occur in your life, but they will do no damage. Should you feel swamped by rate at which events are occurring, simply take the Ace from the wall you have it pinned to and insert it back into your tarot deck; almost immediately matters will return to normal.

We will work from the densest Element to the most rarified, as I have found this to be the safest way for those inexperienced in occultism to approach them. Earth is the densest Element, Water coming next; Air is less dense than either Earth or Water, and Fire, representing electricity, the effects of which can be experienced though electric current but cannot otherwise be apprehended by the five senses, is the most rarified of the Elements. To begin, then, you will invoke the Powers of Earth.

You will make this contact by extracting the Ace of Pence/Pentacles from your own tarot deck and affixing it to the north wall of a room. It is best to choose a room that is not used by other people. A spare bedroom, a study, a personal temple, if you are lucky enough to have one – all these can be coopted for the purpose of this exercise. Back in the nineteen-sixties, living in a tiny apartment, I had to use my bedroom as there was no other room I could commandeer. I pinned the card to the wall using a tintack, thus, during the course of the experiment, making holes in all the aces in my only tarot deck. If I was repeating the experiment today, I would use Blu-tack!

Standing in front of your Ace of Pence, make this invocation to Ghob, ruler of Elemental Earth: “Great Ghob, steadfast monarch of the North, look kindly upon my efforts to contact your Element of Earth and the elemental spirits under your care, the gnomes. May the Earth qualities in me be purged and refined by interaction with the gnomes and may their condition be improved by their interaction with me, a human being composed of other elements besides Earth and through whom the quintessential Element of Spirit flows, however weakly.” Leave the Ace in place for seven, fourteen or twenty-eight days, however long it takes to produce a result.

What type of result should you expect? In the case of the Earth Element, where the accent is on growth, fertility, money, and real estate, the indications that a connection has been made can manifest in a variety of ways. To be given a pot-plant; to learn of a pregnancy; to find a coin in the street; to receive a gift of money when it isn’t your birthday; any unexpected gain of money; to see, in real life or on tv, a globe or similar representation of the Earth; to encounter by happenstance a statue or painting of one of the Earth goddess Cybele or Demeter; to be offered an allotment; to find that a seemingly dead plant or tree in your garden has come back to life; to be offered an overdraft or extended credit you haven’t asked for – all these are signs that the Earth forces are running strongly within your aura. Also if you were to inherit money, property or jewelry of some worth. Sometimes, contact with the Elements comes in dreams. To dream of walking through a leafy forest, or beside fields of ripened wheat; or to dream of a plant or tree growing rapidly, as Jack’s famous beanstalk did when it shot up overnight – these too are indications that you have made contact with the Element of Earth.

Fix the Ace in place and wait and see what happens. There is no fixed time scale for the manifestation. It generally comes within seven, fourteen or twenty-eight days. Should you experience a result on the fourth day after setting the Ace of Pence in place, wait until the seventh day before taking it down again.

If there is no result at the end of a month, take down the Ace and move on to the next Element. But check first that nothing has gone wrong. Pointers as to what the problem might be will be found below.

Once results have been obtained using the Ace of Pence, remove the card from the north wall and affix the Ace of Cups to the west wall. Having done this, make your invocation to Nicksa, ruler of Elemental Water: “Great Nicksa, compassionate monarch of the West, look kindly upon my efforts to contact your Element of Water and the elemental spirits under your care, the undines. May the Water qualities in me be purged and refined by interaction with the undines and may their condition be improved by their interaction with me, a human being composed of other elements besides Water and through whom the quintessential Element of Spirit flows, however weakly.”

This act invokes the powers of Water; these are associated with the emotions and the affections. To learn of an engagement or a surprise wedding of the “Julia and I just decided to go for it and the ceremony’s on Friday” type; to be given a fish, crab, or any marine creature or a representation of one, as a charm for a charm bracelet, for instance; to be brought to tears, either through joy or sorrow; to be offered, out of the blue, a trip to the seaside or an aquarium; to fall in love yourself; to be asked to care for a relative or child where this is not normally one of your responsibilities; to encounter a statue or painting of Neptune or Poseidon, lord of the seas – these are all indications that you have made contact with the Element of Water.

Because Elemental Water is associated with the Astral Plane, sometimes referred to as the Astral Sea, you may dream more frequently than normal while the Ace of Cups is on the wall, or your dreams may be heightened, filled with profound or deeply moving symbolism. Other signs that contact has been made are: to see a ship, liner, or similar, either in real life or in movie (this omen is of course invalidated if you live on the coast where such vessels are common features of everyday life); to come unexpectedly across waterlilies or lotuses (but not if you deliberately go somewhere where you are bound to see them, a Monet exhibition, for instance, for Monet often painted waterlilies); or to dream of the sea, or of boats, or of being underwater.

When contact with Elemental Water has been achieved, take down the Ace of Cups and set up the Ace of Rods on the eastern wall of the room. Then, standing in front of the Ace, make this invocation to Paralda, ruler of Elemental Air: “Great Paralda, resourceful monarch of the East, look kindly upon my efforts to contact your Element of Air and the elemental spirits under your care, the sylphs. May the Air qualities in me be purged and refined by interaction with the sylphs, and may their condition be improved by their interaction with me, a human being composed of other elements besides Air and through whom the quintessential Element of Spirit flows, however weakly.”

The Element of Air is associated with thought, the intellect, communications, intermediaries, and forward planning. Signs that you have formed a contact with Air are: being asked to act as an intermediary or go-between; to encounter a dust devil (a miniature whirlwind); to have a butterfly or bee alight on you or to be given a representation of a bird or winged insect; to be called upon to participate in a brain-storming session where this is not a normal occurrence for you; to experience a period of intense communication (one student reported that since pinning up the Ace of Rods on his bedroom wall he had spent almost every waking moment on the phone attempting to trace the whereabouts of a dining table and he had ordered), to encounter unexpectedly a representation of a chameleon – a story in the newspaper, a documentary on tv; to receive a gift of flowers with a distinctive scent; to be given perfume or cologne out of the blue, not as a birthday or anniversary present; to encounter a representation of Hera (or Juno) or Aeolus, god of winds, or of one of his sons; to see unexpectedly a hot-air balloon or a dirigible; to dream of clouds, of flying, of boarding or travelling on an airplane; to be involved in an unusual amount of paperwork, dealing with documents, or with an inordinate amount of form-filling.

When satisfied that a contact has been made with the Element of Air, take down the Ace of Rods and put up the Ace of Swords on the south wall of the room you have chosen to work in. Standing before the Ace, pronounce this invocation to Djinn, ruler of Elemental Fire: “Great Djinn, dynamic monarch of the South, look kindly upon my efforts to contact your Element of Fire and the elemental spirits under your care, the salamanders. May the Fiery qualities in me be purged and refined by interaction with the salamanders and may their condition be improved by their interaction with me, a human being composed of other elements besides Fire and through whom the quintessential Element of Spirit flows, however weakly.”

Action, activity, will-power and leadership are characteristics associated with the Element of Fire, as is lightning. Signs that you have made contact with this Element include coming across the picture of a volcano erupting or of a forge or kiln in action. (Right after I pinned up my Ace of Swords, the company I worked for sent me on a tour of a glass-blowing factory, where there was fire in abundance.) To see lightning – although thunder on its own doesn’t count, it’s the lightning that’s important. Other signs are: to encounter a representation of Zeus or Jupiter, whose weapon was the lightning bolt, or of the smith-god Vulcan (in Greek myth his name is Hephaistos); to see a picture of, or to be given a statue of, or charm in the form of, a phoenix; to be asked to show leadership qualities; to be assigned control of a team at work; to be required to demonstrate courage – sometimes, the need to stand alone against injustice; to be asked to make an important judgement, where this is something not normally demanded or you; to witness a fire-engine racing to a fire, sirens sounding, lights flashing; to dream of a campfire or similar, or of a burning building.

At the end of the exercise, return the four Aces to your tarot pack.


Never have more than one Ace in place at a time. To do so will create a cross-current of astral forces and under those circumstances neither energy will function effectively; in all probability one will cancel the other out.

Should you find that you are not experiencing any results at all from placing an Ace on the designated wall, the cause of failure may lie with yourself. The Aces must be set in place with the intention of contacting the corresponding Element. While the act of fixing the Ace to the wall seemingly indicates intention, it is possible that your mind may be working against you. If at any level you are fearful of what the Ace, once activated, will bring into your life then that subconscious fear will neutralize your conscious intention. Should you suspect that this is the cause of the lack of results you are experiencing, take down the Ace and contemplate carefully your next step. You may either abandon the experiment – which you should do if your fears are strong – or you can start again, making an effort to set your fears aside, making the resolution to take in your stride whatever comes as a result of your action, pleasant or unpleasant, agreeable or disagreeable. I have found that, once the student admits they were afraid of what powers they might stir up by activating the Ace, and faces that fear, their next attempt is usually successful, often markedly so.

From → occult tarot

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