Join the Mailing List for Promotions and New Decks
Expand search form

The Four Suits as Aspects of Alchemy

The Four Suits as Aspects of Alchemy



Element Color Alchemical Animal Quality


Wands Fire Red Salamander Hot and Dry South
Cups Water Blue Undine Wet and Moist West
Swords Air Yellow Sylph Hot and Wet East
Pentacles Earth Green Gnome Cold and Dry North

The Four Elements are QUALITIES not Substances.
The four classical elements are not fire, air, water, and earth. They are however called Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. Got it? The names of the classical elements, Fire, Air, Water, Earth are not literally describing actual fire, air, water. earth, but certain metaphysical qualities, which from the time of the ancient Greeks have described specific tendencies in the way energies operate in the cosmos, and how these energies manifest in the mundane world. So, when an astrologer or alchemists or Medieval physician spoke of the Moon as ‘Watery”, or someone having a ‘Watery” Phlegmatic constitution, they weren’t thinking of actual physical water at all. They were talking about a specific range of qualities or behaviors.
Each of the four Elements is a combination of two Powers. The Powers, like the Elements are not talking about actual substances, but are ‘code words’ for a collection of related qualities that share certain behaviors, and should be thought of as adjectives and adverbs too. The four Powers are:
Heat – Causes things of the same kind to join, so each seeks it’s own and things that are different separate, hence it is the source of separation, differentiation, discrimination, dissociation, and opposition. Heat is expansive, outward directed, energetic. It is speed. It is the cause of change, analysis, judgement, justice, honesty, critical thinking, skillfulness, diligence, authority, selfishness, intolerance, willfulness, and dominance.
Dryness – Dryness is contractive, gives shape and is formative. It causes rigidity, solidity, purpose, and practicality. It is unreceptive, inflexible, commanding, arguing, strict, concrete, of long duration, and grounded.
Cold – Unites things. It is mixing, joining, synthetic, relating, loving, undiscriminating, indecisive, slow, nurturing, sympathetic, cooperative, and sluggish.
Moisture – Has a lack of self-determination, and conforms to its surroundings. It is receptive, adaptive, form receiving, flexible, fluid, short of duration, mercurial, unreliable, indefinite and lacking self control. It is agile, gentle, obedient, conforming, passive, yielding, accommodating, weak, sensitive, understanding, kind, empathetic, and compassionate.

Fire = Dryness + Heat

Air = Heat + Moisture

Water = Moisture + Cold

Earth = Cold + Dryness

Fire – Elemental Fire is a combination of Heat and Dryness. It divisive and rigid, quick reacting and long of duration. The Fire type would be ambitious, dynamic, decisive, independent, impulsive, short-tempered, proud, dictatorial, and unforgiving.
Water – Elemental Water, being Cold and Moist is uniting and flexible, slow reacting and short of duration. The Water type would be accommodating, tolerant, frugal, and inoffensive, but timid, sluggish, uncreative, unresponsive, unmotivated, and rather emotionally indifferent.
Air – Elemental Air is Hot and Moist, flexible, fluid, but separating and expansive, quick reaction, but of short duration. The Air type is friendly, sociable, pleasure seeking, light-hearted, careless, inconsistent, restless, scatterbrained.
Earth – Elemental Earth is Cold and Dry. Relating, purposeful, slow reacting and long of duration. The Earth type is introspective, hardworking, studious, penetrating, reflective, and visionary, but critical, solitary, depressed, withdrawn and unforgiving.

You might be interested in …