Air Elements Overview:
The elements of fire, earth, air, and water are known as the elemental dignities in tarot. They explain the essential nature of each card. The elements themselves are broad categories that represent various aspects of the human experience. Each one is an umbrella under which various experiences may occur.
For example, for the element of air, the umbrella is “thought.” This is as opposed to “action” for fire, “material” for earth, and “emotion” for water.
The Air Element:
The element of air corresponds to the masculine, because air is a release of energy. It’s active, as opposed to reactive. This doesn’t mean that air represents men, or that all Tarot cards with men in them are air cards. It means masculine in an archetypal sense. Air moves and is moved. It dries things out. It forces itself. It can bring the clouds or take them away. It’s the same in all seasons; perhaps colder in winter and hotter in summer, but there all the same. However, air is all around us, and something we take in and share with all living things. We don’t think about it. It’s neutral in a way. The “breath of life” breathed into man by God was more than the simple ability to breathe: it’s the ability to reason and to think. This is what sets us apart from the other animals.
Air is the ability think, reason, and to step away from our own needs, fears, and emotions and make decisions for the good of all. However, while it is objective, it’s also cold. Air isn’t interested in feelings or making things nice for people. It’s interested in what is fair, correct, and most reasonable. The ancient belief that men are more detached or objective than women may be why this element is associated with masculinity.
However, air is also lighthearted. It doesn’t want to have a bad time, and it doesn’t want to dwell on sore feelings, or even heavy feelings. Air will take on its container, but it will also escape, because it doesn’t want to be pinned down by convention.
In tarot, the element of air corresponds to the Suit of Swords, and the major arcana cards The Fool, the Magician, The Lovers, Justice, and The Star. These cards correspond to thinking, balance, and using the mind for greatest purpose, while the Suit of Swords is about sharply focusing on what is desired, overcoming the limitations of the boy and the heart.
The Fool begins the journey of the major arcana, beginning with complete open-mindedness, much like a child. The Magician uses his focus and thoughts for alchemy and to do what most think is impossible. The Lovers are balanced, making a deliberate decision to be together. Justice also deals with fairness, but it makes no special concessions for anyone based on who they think they are or who the world thinks they are. The Star is the spark of hope, the transcendence of the carnal world in which purity is found.
The Suit of Swords is focused on the cycle of an idea coming to fruition despite living in a world in which we must always constantly try to transcend our baser instincts. However, once self-mastery is achieved, one is unstoppable, almost-god like.