The Elemental spread is inspired by the theory that each element (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) corresponds to an intrinsically important area of human life. Just as the four elements are the building blocks of life, so the areas they represent are the building blocks of human experience.
Four Card Version
The cards can be laid down in any order, though many people (especially neo-Pagans, for whom each element also corresponds to a cardinal direction) like to place them so:
- Earth represents the querent's physical and material life - their home, family, health and mundane concerns. It is useful to begin the reading with this card because it often tells the reader what the immediate situation of the querent is, allowing the rest of the cards to show the causes and effects of this.
- Water represents the querent's emotional life - their joys and sadnesses, their relationships with other friends and lovers, and where their emotional bonds lie. It often indicates the state of the querent's emotions - whether they are balanced and ticking along nicely, or if they are imbalanced and are having difficulty dealing with something.
- Fire represents the querent's spirit, will, and ego. If the querent is mystically inclined this card often represents their spiritual or magical life and where their mystical quest is currently taking them. For creative people this card indicates what projects they desire to get done, where their inspiration is coming from, and the drive that pushes them forward.
- Air represents the querent's mind and mental processes. For academics and thinkers this is an especially important card, since it rules over all issues of scholarly research and all endeavours of the mind. It can also tell the reader about the querent's state of mental health, and can indicate issues caused by unconstructive mental processes (e.g. over-anxiety, stresss.)
Five Card Version
A variation upon the basic Elemental spread is one that uses five cards, adding the 'element' of Spirit to the reading alongside the four traditional ones. Once again, this spread can be laid down in any order and pattern desired, though one suggestion is the pentagram:
Fire, Water, Earth, and Air have the associations mentioned above, whilst Spirit represents the synthesis of all four. It shows how all four areas of the querent's life combine to form 'the bigger issue', and it often underlines the entire reading and draws it all together.
This spread is also useful for finding out what areas of one's life are imbalanced. By using elements applied to each suit of the Minor Arcana (e.g. Coins/Pentacles as Earth and Cups/Chalices as Water) one can see if there is (for instance) too much Fire in the area of emotions (Water) and what effect this has upon the querent's life.
Either of the Elemental spreads can prove to be a very effective means of gaining insight into the querent's life from all angles.