Swords and Wands: Swapping the elements in your card readings

tarot header


As the art of tarot reading relies heavily on your intuition and also an interpretation of the visual element of the cards, it is important for your deck to successfully represent what your intuition is feeling. No- one likes working with a deck that doesn’t speak to them visually, and it also needs to connect to our inner vision of what the cards represent. But what happens if what your intuition feels contradicts what is represented on the cards?

In a traditional Tarot decks such as the popular Rider- Waite, swords are represented by the element of Air and Wands are Fire. The visual differences are not always obvious, however the symbology and the meanings will still represent the element.

Some readers, such as myself, prefer to use a different meaning system based on the Air and Fire elements being switched. But why is this? No doubt every reader who feels this way has their own reasons for this, but mine personally is due to my personal, psychological and spiritual connections with the elements and the items mentioned. It is important not to ignore these personal connections with the elements as they are an integral part of your intuition.

Why do some decks choose to make this switch? Let us consider the idea of the Wand (which is sometimes called a Stave or Baton in some older decks). Some pagans use this implement in spell and ritual work to create magical circles, and to do this, it relies on focus of the mind, and also the imagination. These are both associated with the element of air. Everything that the wand does is ultimately an inner spiritual effect. However, the Sword/ Dagger/ Athame, much like fire, is a rather assertive (as opposed to passive, like the wand) object. It is important however to be aware that the Athame is not used in a physical fashion and is certainly not used for harm, and is also sometimes used to cast circles, hence its popular association with Air.

The argument, ultimately, can swing both ways. So how do you find out which way is best for you? Here are a number of activities for you to try:


Wand/ Athame Meditation
Place yourself somewhere comfortable, but upright, such as a comfy chair or a pillow on the floor. You may light some incense or a candle. Ensure you will not be disturbed and that you do not have any pressing matters to attend to. Hold a wand or an athame/ dagger/ sword (or do one then the other) and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths (ten or more is good) to ensure you are fully relaxed. When you are ready, try to focus your mind on the object in your hand. Feel it’s energy- what sort does it have? Is it dark and passionate, bright and deep? Take as much time as you like thinking on the object and allowing your mind to be fully absorbed into the activity. You may find this will help you work out how you feel about the object and bring you closer to the answer.


Tarot Card Meditation
Sit in a comfortable position with a tarot deck of your choosing and pick a card from the Wand and Swords suit (or their equivalent). Place them side by side and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths until you are fully relaxed. Slowly, place your hand over one of the cards and concentrate on it. Feel the energy reverberating from the card- how does it feel? Can you sense a colour? Try this activity with the other card, then try it whilst focusing on both. Is there an obvious difference between the two?
If you are interested in the idea of using a deck with swapped elements, there are a number you can try- for instance the Art Noveau Tarot, Celtic Dragon Tarot, Fantastical Creatures and Legend: Arthurian Tarot.


This post was written by Jio Butler, who also designed the fantastic new logo for www.Tarot-Explained.com. You can view more of her work here: Deviantart Link

Subjectivity of Tarot

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One of the most striking things I found out when I was learning about Tarot was the sheer subjectivity of the meanings of the cards. They’re read in context, but the divined meanings can differ greatly depending on where you are sourcing your information from. If you’re doing a reading for yourself, this is fine, you understand yourself better than anyone else, much like dreams; usually, if you give it just a little bit of thought, you can work out why your dreams are the way they are. You understand your own internal symbology and mental connections, and when you understand the basic meanings of a spread, you can find sensible ways to apply them to yourself.

This made it difficult, however only slightly, when coming up with meanings for the cards on Tarot-Explained. I gathered the meanings of the cards from a number of sources and tried to put what was ‘right’ or what was generally considered a consensus on the card meaning. In retrospect, this is okay, but i’m not entirely sure if it’s correct. There seem to be two main ways to know what a card means; inherited meaning and applied meaning.

Inherited meaning is what this site provides; the basic outline of what the card is traditionally meant to symbolise. Death = Rebirth, Fool = Beginnings, etc. As I mentioned above, I went through a number of sources and tried to gather the general aspects and meanings for each card, and write them in a way that worked. To understand the core concepts, it’s fine. Given meaning is how the cards make you feel, or, what you understand them to feel, or how you interpret their illustration. You might look at a card and feel something completely different to what the inherited meaning is. This is okay too.

Many people feel a special connection to a deck, and this is where a given meaning can apply best. There’s no right or wrong, in the end it’s up to you how to decide what the cards laid out in front of you are meant to mean.


The site is due a redesign soon. We have a fancy new logo and other things coming. Exciting times.

Using tarot in your everyday life

Tarot card - The Six of Pentacles


Using tarot in your everyday life can be an interesting experience, and there are a few ways you can go about it. Originally a card game and system of divination ,you can use the inherent meanings of the cards to gain a different perspective on what is going on in your life. It’s fun and easy to use tarot cards as a tool to help yourself and others. Lets go through a number of methods about how you can use tarot in your everyday life.

Goal tarot cards

Having a card of the day can help you live a day in a new way and take new paths. Choosing a card at random in the morning will set you up for the day. Choose the card, look up the meaning and be mindful of the definition as the day goes by. It can lead to some interesting situations! For example, you might draw the Ten of Swords. You should be mindful of things that are ending, if not, maybe something important will come to an end today.

Reflecting on tarot cards

Choosing a card in the evening allows you to reflect on the day, as well as honing your reading skills. At the end of the day, when all your major activity is over, draw a card at random and reflect on the meaning. It might even help you, if you were unsure of something today, or there are still problems that you need to work out.  For example, you might have drawn the Seven of Wands. Did you place a bet, or take a chance on something? It’s likely that it’s going to pay off.

Deciding with Tarot cards

This is a bit of a trickier one, but you can use Tarot cards to help you make decisions. As the opening paragraph says, you should not base your decision solely on the meaning of a tarot card, but on the situation itself. The card should help you reflect on possibilities. It may be handy to carry a deck with you during the day (I do!), and use it when you can. When faced with a choice, quickly draw a card and check the meaning. For example, you might draw The Sun when you’re faced with a Yes or No question. In this case, think about where saying ‘Yes’ will take you.

I hope these three little methods have been useful, if you have any more, please comment!

Happy Birthday Tarot-Explained.com!

tarot single card spread

Tarot-explained.com turns 1 today! In the past year, we added definitions for each tarot card, and just started defining spreads.

In the coming year, the site is going to be refined for an easier browsing experience, and each card meaning will be reviewed. New spreads will also be added, as well as some great new features.

Its been good, and I hope that this time next year I’ll be posting a similar message.



All Tarot Card Meanings!

Tarot card - The World

RWS_Tarot_00_FoolTarot - The World

It has taken nearly a year, but all of the card meanings have been completed. What an incredible journey, we have come full circle. A lot has been learned and there is a lot more to say. These tarot card meanings will be added to and updated in the coming new year but I’d like to say thank you for being on this site and reading what I write, it means a lot.





Major Arcana





You can now comment on any article with any information, insights or any comments at all. There’s still a bit of work to be done with the site but any discussion is welcome and encouraged.

Kind regards