The Court Cards as “Natural Forces”

There is one understated area of Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth that I’ve found to be useful in practical terms when applying metaphors and analogies to the court cards in my readings. Crowley very briefly goes into these cards as an expression of “natural forces.” He covers a single four-part example: the Knights as the fundamental power of Fire that operates differently in each suit. In the Element of Fire — “Fire of Fire” — it “corresponds to the Lightning flash; in the Element of Water, to Rain and Springs; in that of Air, to Wind; in that of Earth, to Mountains.” He goes on to say “It is very important as a mental exercise to work out for oneself these correspondences between the Symbol and the Natural Forces which they represent.” (I’ve always felt he was bailing out on the subject here rather than doing it justice.) At the back of the book, in the table “The Triplicities of the Zodiac,” he gives a few more general examples, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen these correspondences covered thoroughly anywhere.

While studying Elemental Dignities, I took a close look at the modifying effect the element of one card might have on that of an adjacent card in terms of “natural forces,” both organic and as augmented by human ingenuity. I made my own table with a comprehensive set of analogies addressing all of the cards. (The “plus” and “minus” symbols indicate the polarity of the elements represented by the planetary correspondences.) These associations aren’t limited to the court cards and can also be applied to the 40 “pip” cards according to their Chaldean decan, and to some extent to the trump cards (although those have very specific, more profound esoteric interpretations that tend to override their elemental aspects; that said, as Jim Eshelman points out in Liber Theta, a potent trump as “focus card ” or recipient of the influence can dominate a weaker court or pip card with which it is paired).

Elemental Pairings as Natural Phenomena

Fire modified by Fire (+/+): a fire-storm; an explosion; a lightning bolt; a melt-down (Sun-Mars-Jupiter)

Fire modified by Water (+/-): cooling/extinguishing; steam formation; sweat; a wet sauna (Mars/Moon)

Fire modified by Air (+/+): an intense flame; a cutting torch; a blast furnace; a “flame-out;” an uncontrolled burn (Mars-Jupiter/Mercury)

Fire modified by Earth (+/-): steady combustion; smoldering; a dry sauna; a controlled burn (Mars/Venus-Saturn)

Water modified by Fire (-/+): evaporation; cloud formation; condensation; thawing; boiling; a thunder-storm (Moon/Mars)

Water modified by Water (-/-): saturation; flash-flooding; a cloudburst (Moon-Venus-Jupiter)*

Water modified by Air (-/+): turbulence; aeration; waves; a water-spout; a hurricane; a tsunami (Moon-Jupiter/Mercury)*

Water modified by Earth (-/-): turbidity; solidification; freezing; glacial flow; tidal action (Moon/Venus-Saturn)

Air modified by Fire (+/+): Summer; hot weather; South wind; thermal convection; a tornado (Mercury/Sun-Mars)

Air modified by Water (+/-): Spring; wet weather; fog; rain; East wind; a low-pressure system (Mercury/Moon)

Air modified by Air (+/+): Autumn; dry weather; West wind; a high-pressure system (Mercury/Venus-Saturn)*

Air modified by Earth (+/-): Winter; cold weather; North wind; a polar vortex (Mercury/Saturn)

Earth modified by Fire (-/+): plate tectonics — mountain formation, a volcano, an earthquake, a subduction fault, plastic deformation; metal smelting; kiln-drying (Saturn/Mars)

Earth modified by Water (-/-): erosion; irrigation; hydraulic fracturing; mud; quicksand (Venus/Moon-Jupiter)*

Earth modified by Air (-/+): drought; desertification; a dust storm (Saturn/Mercury)

Earth modified by Earth (-/-): compaction; stabilization; settling; cultivation; artificing (Saturn-Venus-Mercury)*


The active expression of Mercury relates to its Air sign of rulership, Gemini.
The passive expression of Mercury relates to its Earth sign of rulership, Virgo.
The active expression of Venus relates to its Air sign of rulership, Libra.
The passive expression of Venus relates to its Earth sign of rulership, Taurus.
The active expression of Mars relates to its Fire sign of rulership, Aries.
The passive expression of Mar relates to its Water sign of rulership, Scorpio.
The active expression of Jupiter relates to its Fire sign of rulership, Sagittarius.
The passive expression of Jupiter relates to its Water sign of rulership, Pisces.
The active expression of Saturn relates to its Air sign of rulership, Aquarius.
The passive expression of Saturn relates to its Earth sign of rulership,

*Consideration has been given to planetary exaltation in addition to rulership: the passive (-) expression of Venus in the Water sign of its exaltation, Pisces; the passive (-) expression of Jupiter in its Water sign of exaltation, Cancer: the active (+) expression of Saturn in its Air sign of exaltation, Libra: and the passive (-) expression of Mercury in its Earth sign of both rulership and exaltation, Virgo.

The qualities of the planets are derived from the elemental “humours” as described by William Lilly.

I’ve been involved in the esoteric arts since 1972, with a primary interest in tarot and astrology. See my previous work at .

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