The Four Worlds/The Four Suits - the Order


Regarding the four worlds (and the tetragrammaton) and the four suits, I think it is [mostly] agreed that the suits are assigned:

Wands - Fire
Cups - Water
Swords - Air
Pentacles - Earth.

However, the ORDER of these four, as expressed in the Tetragrammaton as Y-H-V-H, [ Atziluth (Archetypal), Briah (Creative), Yetzirah (Formative) and Assiah (Active)] seems to be open to interpretation, regarding their order of descent. I think most modern Kabalists (and correct me if I'm wrong here) place the order as I've listed them above, Fire and Water symbolizing the active/passive, expansion/contraction principle, Air as a medium, and earth as manifestation.

However, I've seen other occultists place the order as:

Fire/Air/Water/Earth, and possibly Air/Fire/Water/Earth.

According the GD ritual tradition, East is Swords, South is Fire, West is Water and North is Earth. Traditionally, ritual starts in the East, making this order Swords (Air) - Wands (Fire) - Cups (Water) - and Pentacles (Earth.)

Can we discuss the order of the elements here, as they relate to the four worlds, which means, how in a sense they evolve and filter down 'here.' I know that all elements are really a mixture of all four and it is the dominant proportion of the one that gives it the predominant characteristics of that element.


I agree with your opinions.
Anyway there is a Wicca tradition (I think Alexandrinians, but I am not too sure and have my books out of reach in the moment) that assigns Fire/Sword and Air/Wand.

According to your statement it would be
Atziluth Air
Briah Fire
Yetzirah Water
Assiah Earth
but I would say
Atziluth Earth
Briah Air
Yetzirah Fire
Assiah Water
would make much sense too.

Comments welcome



The Wiccan tradition (?) must be different, then. I had heard about this reversal somewhere. The information I posted above is based mostly on the Golden Dawn system, and in that tradition at least, is the accepted norm. That is not to say other systems do not work.

I've read that some say AIR, even its spiritual counterpart as is referred to as being an element (opposed to the air we breathe, which only displays certain characteristics of the element Air) is considered the more rarified element because without Air, no Fire. That discussion seems more based on the physical counterparts of the elements.


I will have a look in my books, what kind of lineage/heritage/tradition relates Air to Wands and East to Swords.

What you say about air reminds me on the arguments given to make a correspondence between ether and the cauldron work (made of iron, so earth, filled with water, so that too, boiled with fire and giving off steam, the latter being air) - although I do not share the view of cauldron-ether.


right, it is Alexandrinian Wicca. See "The Witches´Way" (part of "A Witches´Bible") from James and Stuart Farrar, p. 256f.


Thanks. How odd...I just picked up that book yesterday, at a book outlet store, cheap!


I know some wiccans do relate air to wands and swords to fire. I don't really think it matters which way they are seen, in the sense that any way is right.

You could say swords are born from fire, that they are destructive objects, but you could also say wands burn, feed fire [look at forest fires].

You could also say swords cut the air, [the rotors of a helicopter could be seen as swords], that metal rusts [with water or air]. But you also say that trees breathe in and change air, they blow in the wind.

Personally I can't get the image of a flaming sword as the ace of swords out of my thinking :)



What I'm talking about here is not what 'tool' is assigned to which suit of the Tarot, but about the magic system with the Kabalah, the four worlds, the Tetragrammaton, etc.


Ophiel said:
Thanks. How odd...I just picked up that book yesterday, at a book outlet store, cheap!

well then it seems as if you should read it, hu ;) ?


I realise that there are various associations made between the elements, the Tetragrammaton (YHVH), the directions, etc..

Alchemically, it seems that most authors agree with the ancients on the more 'sensible' order of (from the most rarified downwards):
  • Fire
  • Air
  • Water
  • Earth
Can the question also be asked, however, as to whether the ordering of the manifest world needs to follow the ordering of the creative process? here, Qabalists talk at times of Air being in the mind of God, and the 'highest', emanating directly from Spirit, and that Water gives form or birth of the Idea (ie, from Air), Fire finally animating from Water. This ordering is consistent with the three Mother Letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Personally, I prefer to see the elemental attributions of the suits as Swords with Fire, Wands with Air, Cups with Water, and Disks with Earth - but of course, I do not think that these are intrinsic to the deck. Linking these to the four worlds and the original thread question, and given Ophiel's interest in the works of Rudolf Steiner, could the four worlds not better coincide with the four aethers? Here, in descending order, may be a correlated view:
  • Life Aether/Atzilut
  • Light Aether/Beriah
  • 'Chemical' Aether/Yetzirah
  • Warmth Aether/Assiah/Element of Fire/suit of Swords
  • Element of Air/suit of Staffs
  • Element of Water/suit of Cups
  • Element of Earth/suit of Disks
... Just some further thoughts to be discussed...