The Alternative Tarot Course Weekly Reading, Week 2: The Four Elements Spread

I wrote last week about the first weekly reading for the Alternative Tarot Course by Beth Maiden; after not having much time to work on the second week’s exercises during the week, I worked through most of them yesterday, including the second weekly reading, which Beth refers to as “the Four Elements spread.” The basic idea behind this spread is to look at how the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire) influence a situation. There are five cards to this spread:

  1. Your situation at this moment (center of the spread).
  2. The earth of your situation (below the first card).
  3. The water of your situation (to the left of the first card).
  4. The air of your situation (above the first card).
  5. The fire of your situation (to the right of the first card).

For this reading I used the Wildwood Tarot (Mark Ryan and John Matthews; art by Will Worthington), which is a beautiful and somewhat unconventional deck. I didn’t have a particular situation in mind when I started shuffling (there have been several situations worth exploring recently, and I was struggling to pick one); I decided to just lay out the cards and see what it was my subconscious wanted me to focus on. Here’s what I found:


  1. The Eight of Bows – Hearthfire. This lovely card depicts a community – adults at various stages in life supporting one another, creating a home and hearth and warmth and love together. They are bound by common place and purpose; they listen to one another’s stories and treat one another with kindness and respect.
  2. The Three of Bows – Fulfillment. This one was a little tricky for me to relate to earth. It always strikes me as the fulfillment of ideas – fire – and the fruition of plans – air. But I think the relation to earth is this – I have longed for community. It was why I made a brief foray back into a formal church setting. Now a do have community – a real, solid, physically present community – in our knitting friends here in Chicago. And much of our friendships centers around what we can create with our hands, which is another earthy factor.
  3. The Four of Vessels – Boredom. This is where my deck got up and slapped me upside the head. The woman depicted here has so much, and she doesn’t see it. I have been discontent lately, convinced I don’t have friends, lonely…and all unnecessarily so. I have friends, I have community. I just need to get away from my tendency to self-isolate, reach out and connect.
  4. The Ace of Bows – Spark of Life. While this card is full of fire, I am seeing it as well-planned fire – there is thoughtfulness and air here. I need to make plans, but rather than looking at this as an intimidating task, I should be excited by the idea of connecting with people I like and care about. There is so much to learn from all of these friends that I have!
  5. 21 – The World Tree. There is such growth and safety here. Fire is about beginnings, and I feel like this is maybe an indication that it is time to make these friendships (which are all with people I met through my partner) my own. We have such a strong foundation, and a common passion, and we will all continue to grow in support of one another, to learn from each other, and to spur each other on to create new and beautiful things.

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