It is a perfectly straight forward question.

In tarot why are cups Briatic and not Yetizeratic?

The student had a point. The order of the elements through-out the GD system are Earth at the bottom, Fire at the top. Next one down is Air and water sinks to be close to earth. All very hermetic and works right the way through the elemental system and the initiation system.

But not in Tarot where Mathers seemed to think water comes from Briah — possibly because rain is so architypal in Britain.. A teacher can stroke their beard, if they have one, and are a male (a female beard would be too distracting) and say “ah well that is the Yod Heh Vau Heh formula” but as an answer it is pants. The student can quite rightly say “You have just invented another system and stuck it to another system with blutac… c’mon smartie pants what the hell has Briah, or the archetypal world, got to do with water?” Once teachers were respected.

You cant say “well the Yod Heh Vau Heh stuff props up the elemental tablets” either. If it was so important, then the rest of the GD system would support it. More stuff than the Yod Heh Vau Heh symbolism suggests that the order of the element is Fire, Air, Water and Earth. The Kerux’s staff which is the first thing to smack you in the heart centre at 0=0 empirically tells you that. The Hermetica, which is supposed to be the GD bible says so too. So why does tarot tell us otherwise?

If you can answer see if you can do so without making reference to another part of the GD system… the answer has to say why in Tarot, cups and not swords are briatic….


  1. It’ll probably take me a while to come up with an answer that doesn’t reference some other part of the GD system, but I questioned the attribution of the YHVH to the elemental grades (and why the watery lunar Sephirah of Yesod is attributed to an Air grade while the airy mercurial Sephirah of Hod is attributed to Water) which led to an article I wrote in Hermetic Virtues. The elemental attributions of the Tarot may relate to this unusual “switching” between Water and Air.


  2. My understanding is that there are 16 different possible elemental combinations. Some would attribute them to different Hermetic Arts. Tarot and QBL are the same, Palmestry is EAFW(S), Enochian is AWEF, the four winds are AFWE, etc, etc.

  3. Why are Pentacles Assiatic and the Wands Atziluthic? The same reason: their shapes describe the functions of the four worlds and how they operate together. In this case it’s not about the elements at all; it’s all Qabalah. Now if you divorce tarot from Qabalah, this question itself becomes irrelevant so let’s keep it to Qabalah. It’s the four worlds not the elements. You look in Book T, it even says that the Ace of Swords has the Vav drawn on it and that the Ace of Cups has a Heh on it, so what more proof do you need that this involves YHVH? Further I’d say the YHVH just IS the formula behind the Four Worlds. So really asking for an explanation that doesn’t involve YHVH is begging the question.

    At the Briatic level the influences of the raw Atziluth are contained and shaped into the first forms or passive manifestations. (Hmm look at that, talisman work falls under the first Heh in the Z2…) So naturally you have the cup containing that energy within a form. A cup is an excellent symbol for that process, hence Cups and Briah. But in Yetzirah you get the direct energy acting on matter in Assiah. That is a sword because it’s a specific energy acting on matter (carving the pentacle of Assiah).

    (Now IMO I don’t think the Keryx wand applies to this argument because it’s the three Mother Letters and not the four elements. Also I don’t understand the initiation order criticism; last time I checked it went Fire, Water, Air, Earth going backwards through the Outer Order grades. In the GD stuff I see the YHVH, but not so much this Fire-Air-Water-Earth order.)

    From the hermetic standpoint it also involves Fire and Water as opposite polarities attracting and Air and Earth attracting. That’s very hermetic too, maybe even more than the water sinking close to earth. There has to the back and forth alternation in polarity going down the Kabbalistic worlds. If it wasn’t, these “Briatic swords” would just cock-block the Atziluthic energy trying to come down and everything below stays barren. Just like it’s no good trying to teach someone who won’t quit talking, and it’s pointless trying to have a conversation with someone who won’t say anything.

  4. If we consider the crystallization of light into the elements they would indeed order from fire to air, to water to earth. But perhaps the Creation account in Genesis can explain why Water precedes Air in the Tarot?

    Gen 1:6: Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”

    In Light,

  5. Cara Sor. Lauren,

    Actually the traditional Hermetic order of Elements is Fire, Air, Water and Earth. However I agree with you that the formula of Tetragrammaton permeats the whole of the G:.D:. tradition, and that one has to make a distinction between the primary Elements (corresponding to three Mother Letters) and the Four Elements of Tetragrammaton.

    In Licht, Leben und Liebe

  6. I understand what the traditional Hermetic order of the elements is. In the first paragraph of my post I wrote, “In this case it’s not about the elements at all; it’s all Qabalah,” so I’m not clear on how this follows.

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