After being so pleased with Kitchen Table Tarot, I went out and bought Melissa Cynova’s most recent book, Tarot Elements: Five Readings to Set Your Life.
I initially heard about this book from a Tarot Bytes podcast episode I was listening to. The implication of the holistic aspects of Tarot Elements peaked my interests. I went back and forth on whether I wanted to invest in this book, but again, after reading her last book, I felt it was definitely worth the pennies.
The Book Itself
The premise of the book is how to use each of the elements found in the Pentagram: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit—in order to rebuild your life. By using this premise, Cynova developed five different spreads to work on each aspect of life that the elements correspond to:
- Earth = Home
- Air = Mind
- Fire = Body
- Water = Heart
- Spirit = Soul
She explains that through each of these readings, you can use the Tarot to guide you toward what you want from life, or how to cope and/or alter the corresponding aspects of life that you don’t like.
The first two-thirds of Tarot Elements (176 pages) is divided into seven sections—one for each of the spreads, some follow-up spreads and self-care (super important!), as well as an introduction as to how she developed the idea and put it into motion. The introduction also talks about how to use the book and how to decide where to start.
I’ve designed the following tarot spread to help you decide which element reading to do first. It’s kind of like that basketball thing where the teams play against each other to see who wins (googles frantically): the BRACKET. Thinger. I don’t know sports, you guys. Just go with me.p. 15
The idea is that you look at each of the elements, and pair them up. You pull a card for each card in the pair and decide which one wins based on the cards you drew for each. To show this, Cynova gives starts with Air and Earth against each other. She selects the Ace from each of the corresponding suits to act as a signifier, then pulled the 3 of Cups for the Ace of Pentacles, and the Chariot for the Ace of Swords. In her book, Chariot trumps 3 of Cups, so the element of Air wins and moves on to the next round.
You repeat the process until you have narrowed it down from element, and you go from there.
Tarot Elements Spread Sections
Each section for each of the spreads contains an introduction for what the spread is meant to focus on—how she interprets the elements. Namely, she correlates Fire to health (which surprised me).
From the small spark of hope to a raging inferno, fire is best when its in our control. When tame it and give it specific boundaries, fire can enhance and brighten our lives. When we lose control is either when it goes out or consumes us.
This lines up with our bodies well. When we are focused and care for them, we can be strong and lithe. We can sleep soundly and feel good most of the time. We can meet the challenges that face us without worrying about losing our breath or strength. It’s when that control slips that we run into problems.p. 86
After explaining the element and the area of life it outlines, she gives a diagram of the spread, and then two sample readings. Accompanying the sample readings include a picture of the reading, which is nice, a definition of each card, and an explanation of how each of the cards relates to the querent.
Not Just Tarot
Once the spread itself has been explored, Cynova leaves the readers with exercises to ease the general area of the element. For example, in the element of Earth which deals with finances, she gives exercises to make you feel more comfortable with your current finances, and steps to create responsible finance plans.
At the End
The remaining third of the book is an appendix of Tarot card definitions. She is quite generous in that she gives a page per definition, but still leaves room for someone to return or go to Kitchen Table Tarot.
Each of the spreads follow a similar format. They answer three questions:
- What can you hold on to?
- What can pull you forward?
- What gets in your way?
With each of the elements, there are 6 or 7 cards pulled in the design of the elemental triangles. For Earth and Air, there is a line that goes through the triangle, thus 7 cards are pulled to create said triangles. The element is what determines how many cards are pulled for which question.
Fire Spread Example
One example is in the Fire spread. The Fire spread only has 6 cards (because there’s no line), and 1 card is pulled for the position of what gets in your way, 2 cards are pulled for the positions of what you can hold onto, and 3 cards are pulled to answer what pulls you forward. In contrast, the Earth spread has 7 cards, and 3 cards are pulled for what the querant can hold on to, 3 cards are pulled for what can pull them forward, and one card is pulled for what gets in their way.
Spirit however has a different roll. This spread is done in a circle and has eight cards, and these questions differ.
…I tried to simplify the [other spreads, and] doing the same to spirit just doesn’t work. It’s a complicated thing and has a more complicated spread. The mechanics are the same, though. You got this.p. 132
The initial three questions still stand, but additional cards are pulled to address who or what in your life can assist you with this journey, and what choice can you make right now to get closer to your path.
My Response to Tarot Elements
Over all, I wasn’t that impressed with the Tarot Elements. I had some high hopes for it, especially after reading her previous one and after getting pretty hyped on some of the other books in general I’ve been reading (I’ve been pretty lucky with what I’ve been picking up). However, while loaded with a very distinct and fun voice, the readings didn’t go into depth the way I wanted them to.
What I did Like about Tarot Elements
As I said before, I liked that Cynova had a good voice through all of it. While I can’t remember what her voice was like on the podcast I heard of her talking about this book, I can almost hear her voice. It’s very much like someone is there with you walking you through each of the sections.
I like that she provides sample readings so that you can see how the spreads work and how they can help people. She’s very thorough like that. She really does spend the time working to make sure the reader knows what she’s on about.
I also really like the time that she put into providing definitions of all the cards. Even though there’s an Appendix at the end of the book with all the card definitions, she still goes into a good amount of information in the sample readings, making it as clear as possible. It also gives the reader a chance to perhaps interpret the reading before seeing how she did it. Because of this, it can make for a really good teaching tool.
Oh my god I love the puns. I will say, she has a great sense of humor, and puns are one of the surest ways of winning me over, and this book is riddled with them—intentionally. She calls herself out on it, which just adds to the entertainment.
This is a very entertaining read, if nothing else.
What I didn’t like about Tarot Elements
Tarot Elements was a very entertaining read. I know that’s listed in what I liked, and it seems like a compliment, but I feel like so much of it was more focused on expressing the voice and the character of the author. As a result, much more of the deeper work or information that could have been said regarding these spreads was left untouched. In the nicest way possible, it did somewhat feel like a very in-your-face cartoon character (someone like a knowledgable Bart Simpson) was telling me how to do this. That’s not a bad thing for everyone—as I said, it’s entertaining and makes for good teaching tool. However, I personally really enjoy a more academic feel. There is certainly space for both, but a balance must be met, and I don’t feel like this book met that balance.
All the readings are the same
That sounds harsh, but essentially, they are. Each of the tarot spread is designed to replicate a glyph for the element as generally seen on the Tarot cards. So, all the triangle representations. All of the spreads with the exception of the Spirit spread have seven cards, arranged differently, but each addressing ‘What’s blocking you’, ‘What’s pulling you through,’ and ‘What can you hang on to?’ Each spread has a different amount of cards allotted to each question, but still, each spread is asking the same three questions.
Given that the elements are so different, I thought that perhaps there might be a little more specificity to the element to work with for each reading. Thus, this did disappoint me somewhat.
It was really short. For those of us who have read Kitchen Table Tarot, we didn’t need the rest of the book. I had hoped for a more in-depth study of each of the elements and how they could relate on various levels to our lives, but I felt that this was very much on the surface, and thus, I don’t feel like the spreads will reach the impact that is intended in the querants’ lives. However, that being said, that depends heavily on the reader and the querent.
I do have to put an asterisk next to my rating. The reason is that I believe there is value in this book and the spreads given. However, I personally haven’t worked through them all, and thus might not see the whole picture of what is being presented.