Elemental Dignity

In the Opening of the Key, the meaning of a card is not altered by the card being inverted. The only effect of an inversion is to determine the direction the Significator is looking, for the purposes of the counting procedure. The orientation of all other cards is irrelevant.

Instead, a card has its “inverted” meaning if it is ill-dignified.

The cards on either side of a given card determine its dignity. Here are some guidelines.

  1. A card of the same suit as the card being read strengthens it considerably.
  2. A card of the contrary suit weakens it. Air and Earth (Swords and Pentacles) are contrary to each other; Fire and Water (Wands and Cups) are contrary to each other.
  3. A card of the other two suits is simply friendly to the card in question. So for a Sword being read, Pentacles are weakening, Swords are strengthening, and Wands or Cups are simply friendly.
  4. If the two adjacent cards are themselves contrary, they negate each other and the card being read is unmodified.
  5. If the adjacent cards are friendly, they should be read further according to their own meanings as good or bad, etc.


  • 10 of Swords between 9 of Swords and 5 of Swords: The 10 is very strong indeed and indicates that the ruin signified is quite bad.
  • 10 of Swords between 9 of Wands and 2 of Wands: The 10 is not strengthened so much by the wands. The ruin signified can be opposed more readily.
  • 10 of Swords between 6 of Cups and 9 of Cups: The cups do not strengthen the 10; indeed, being very positive cards, they suggest the disaster will be overcome by success and love (though it is still there).
  • 10 of Swords between 9 of Pentacles and 6 of Cups: The 9 strongly weakens the 10, which is further mitigated by the positivity of the 6, so that rather than disaster, the 10 may represent anxiety about a small loss.

Note that every trump card (not just the three “Elemental” ones) has some element associated with it. For the Zodiacal trumps, this will be the element of the associated sign.

Note also a helpful mnemonic: If you remember which trumps are Zodiacal (i.e. not Elemental or Planetary), you can get the correspondence of all 12 of the Zodiacal ones from the order of the trumps: the first Zodiacal trump is Emperor (Aries) and the last is Moon (Pisces) and they follow the order of the signs.

Trump cardCorrespondenceElement
The FoolAirAir
The MagicianMercuryAir
The High PriestessMoonWater
The EmpressVenusEarth
The EmperorAriesFire
The HierophantTaurusEarth
The LoversGeminiAir
The ChariotCancerWater
The HermitVirgoEarth
The Wheel of FortuneJupiterFire
The Hanged ManWaterWater
The DevilCapricornEarth
The TowerMarsFire
The StarAquariusAir
The MoonPiscesWater
The SunSunFire
The WorldSaturnEarth