Creating with the elements
If you follow my weekly Tarot for Creatives readings both here and on Instagram, you might remember The Magician popped up on Monday’s spread. This Major Arcana card encourages us to work with our own skills when it comes to creating, but also invites us to work alongside the four elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. The elements are important to my personal spiritual practice, but outside of it, and Tarot, I’ve never given much thought to bringing the elements into my creative processes.
The four elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth surround us on a daily basis. They appear in our physical world in ways we all recognise, but when translated into the less tangible, their presence, although less obvious to see, isn’t subtle. The elements feed into Tarot through the different suits, and during a reading, an abundance of one suit over another indicates an imbalance in this area. For example, a reading with predominantly Swords cards, which relate to the element of Air, suggests the client has an abundance of logic, communication, and intellect at play. But if there’s an absence of Cups, it would suggest emotion doesn’t feature in their situation, indicating too much head over heart thinking. So how does this reflect within the processes of creating, and can becoming more aware of where the elements present in our work offer more insight and provide more inspiration?
Let’s start with Air. Associated with the intellect, communication, and visualisation, this is the thinking stage of our creative process, before the brush touches the easel, or fingers hit the keys. Who else lies awake in bed at night, head and heart full of excitement as one idea after another flows, and everything feels possible? Possibly the most addictive aspect of creating, the sky’s the limit here as we allow the wind of inspiration to take us higher and higher. Without this visualisation process, we’d get nowhere.
Fire come next. This element brings drive and passion. It’s the start of the action phase when we plot out a story line, sketch the first images, or lay out fabric. Moving from the thinking phase, we’re now equally as excited, but projecting thought into action as our thoughts transform into the tangible. Fire represents the power of transformation, and this reflects in changes we make as our work takes shape and we begin to tweak. You may even find yourself breaking apart an initial idea to reform it into something better.
Water brings even more creativity, and now truly deep into the creative process, here’s where we find ourselves ‘in the flow’ where we lose time and slip into the in-between as creation takes over. We’re emotionally attached now too; our project takes shape before us, and we nurture it with love. Intuition also comes into play at this point. It nudges us to make changes by adding in, or taking away. We instinctively know what will or won't work at this point.
Finally, comes Earth. The opposite to Air with its grounded, focused nature, Earth makes its presence felt when we’re at the more practical stages of a project; considering its financial potential, birthing it into the world, smoothing off the rough edges, and harvesting our hard work. A world away from the up-in-the-clouds energy of Air, it’s where we put our business hats on and think about the more mundane aspects.
A solid, tangible piece now exists, crafted through the power of Air, Fire, and Water.
It’s not difficult to see how an equal serving of these four energies would make for smooth sailing with our creative endeavours, yet, it’s a flow that many of us don’t experience enough.
So, thinking about where you are right now with your creativity, can you spot where elements are in abundance or lack? Perhaps you’re lingering in the Air phase of thinking. It’s great to have all these ideas, and you’re excited about the potential, but you haven’t yet brought in Fire to get yourself started. Maybe you’re nearing the point where it’s time to get the business cap on, but you’d rather hang out in the creative flow of Water for another while, because really, the Earth aspects are so dull and who wants to think about marketing when you’d rather just stay in your happy creating place? (Me, definitely!)
This is only one aspect of how the elements feed into our creative life. But what if we dig deeper? How do the elements influence below the surface?
As a writer, I’ve found myself halfway through a scene realising it feels flat, or a character isn’t engaging me as much as it should. Most recently this happened when I realised a character needed to throw a spanner in the works if I wanted to keep the pace of the story flowing. Up to this point, he’d been behaving; keeping emotion in check, avoiding murder (not easy for most of my vampire characters), and thinking with quite a level head. While I’m sure my readers were happy to see him making strides, I knew for the story to keep them engaged, I had to knock his Mr Nice Guy balance off. Looking back now, I can see how I introduced a blaze of Fire, (passion and anger got the better of him) and the story took off again, delivering a great twist that got my inspiration flowing and kept the story feeling fresh. Going forward, I’ll be keeping the elements in mind when I next read over a scene and find myself thinking ‘meh’.
How could you translate this to your creative work? Could it be something as simple as an introduction of an element’s colour? Yellow for Air, Red for Fire, Blue for Water, and Green/Brown for Earth? What about the how the elements correspond to our senses? Air rules hearing, Fire corresponds to sight, Water to smell and taste, and for Earth, feeling and touch. Could more of one of these senses take your work onto a new level?
On a purely physical level, consider how the elements could become a tangible part of your work. Mixed media artists could incorporate a wealth of elemental correspondences into their pieces. Other modalities too; fashion, pottery, and jewellery jump to mind immediately. Below are just a handful of ideas of how the elements can be physically brought into life within your creative work.
Air: Yellow, feathers, birds, clouds, movement, wind, plant flowers, incense, and smoke, all wind instruments.
Fire: Red, charcoal, ash, plant seeds, string instruments. With transformation a key aspect of Fire, even the act of making changes within your work brings in this element.
Water: Blue, moon water, shells, plant leaves, cymbals and bells, tears. I’ve used moon water when painting with acrylic and watercolour to add a magickal touch.
Earth: Green/Brown, soil, leaves, plant roots, natural dyes, creating texture with sand or salt, acorns, pine cones, drums and percussion instruments.
Take a look around the space where you create. Is there an imbalance of the elements? Too much Air when you’re already stuck in the thinking phase? Or not enough Water when you’re at the start of a project, but can’t get into the flow? Something as simple as a candle can bring in more Fire (just don’t actually set the place on fire!) or a sea shell on a shelf for Water, a cheerful plant for Earth, or a feather for Air. Even seeing the prompt of an element might be enough to remind you to push forward and not linger too long in one phase over another.
The elements play a key role in ritual work, but perhaps even these aspects could bring something extra to your work?
Air: Divination, focus, visualisation, masculine energy.
Fire: Transformation, protection, courage, sex, banishing, masculine energy.
Water: Purification, love, cleansing, healing, psychic abilities, female energy.
Earth: Grounding, prosperity, money, employment, manifestation, stability, female energy.
Reaching this point, I realise I’ve only scratched the surface with how the elements feed into our creativity, but I hope there’s something here that inspires a new way of thinking for my fellow creatives. Perhaps this is a topic I’ll explore further, but until then, I’ll sign off for now, and keep this elemental exercise parked in my brain for more consideration. Ooh, there’s the element of Air!
Have you a creative or tarot topic you’d like to see featured on the blog? You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org Maybe you’re a creative who’d like to feature as a guest? If so, let’s chat. Whether it’s a question, an idea, or a recipe that involves chocolate, let me know! I love to hear from creatives and am always up for a natter.