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Tarot Decoded: Understanding and Using Dignities and Correspondences Paperback – May 1, 2004

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About the Author

Elizabeth Hazel is a professional astrologer and tarotist, who is recognized widely for her original techniques in blending the fields of astrology and tarot.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Understanding and Using Dignities and Correspondences


Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2004 Elizabeth Hazel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57863-302-9


List of Illustrations,
Chapter 1: Forms of Dignity,
Chapter 2: Elementary Elements,
Chapter 3: Elemental Court Cards,
Chapter 4: Modal Dignities,
Chapter 5: Numeric Dignities,
Chapter 6: Planetary Trumps as Free Agents,
Chapter 7: Elemental Trumps and the Outer Planets,
Chapter 8: Planetary and Zodiacal Dignities,
Chapter 9: The Cosmic Axis and Other Spreads,
Chapter 10: Locational Dignities,
Chapter 11: Directional Scanning,
Chapter 12: Demonstrations,
Appendix A: Golden Dawn Card Attributions,
Appendix B: Pip Cards by Element,
Appendix C: Planetary Dignities,
Appendix D: Zodiacal Dignities,
Appendix E: Dignities of the Twelve Houses and Four Elements,
Appendix F: Locational Dignities Horoscope-Form Diagram,
About the Author,



Dignity is the relationship between cards in a spread, and its analysis is afundamental technique of tarot interpretation. A relationship betweenneighboring cards may be good, neutral, or bad, and it is determined bycomparing attributions, elements, and numeric components and by analyzing forstrength or weakness, assistance or frustration. A card that enjoys friendlyneighbors or is placed in a location suitable to its attributes is in gooddignity, well-placed, or well-dignified, and occasionally may gain the status ofperfect dignity. Cards placed near neighbors that are neither friendly norunfriendly may be considered in neutral dignity. If a card is surrounded byhostile neighbors, it is called ill-dignified, debilitated, in detriment, orbadly placed.

Western occult tradition is built upon the philosophical ideas of the earlyGreeks, who devised a dignity system to judge and classify relationships betweenplanets and zodiac signs. Many of the tarot terms that are used to describedignity, therefore, are borrowed from identical or similar terms in astrology.

There are also forms of dignity specific to the tarot, generated by the numericstructure of the seventy-eight-card deck and the geometric dynamics of thespread form into which the cards are placed. The fifty-six cards of the MinorArcana consist of four suits divided into four sets of Ace through Ten (fortypip cards); four sets of court cards (sixteen cards); and the twenty-two cardsof the Major Arcana, usually numbered O-XXI. The symbolism of tarot art has alsobeen supplemented with attribution systems that usually include astrologicalrelationships, elemental assignments, and alphabet and numeric associations.These attributions form a background that enriches meaning by inferringspecialized relationships between particular cards.

Reversals—cards appearing upside-down in a spread—change the meaning of a card,but the attribution remains the same. In a reversed position, some card meaningsmay become less favorable, while others are improved. Since dignities expressthe nature of card relationships through attributions, a tarotist may viewreversals as a peculiar or muted form of attribution, adapting the improved ordeteriorated implications of a reversed card to the surrounding card dignities.Some tarotists who specialize in analyzing dignities do not use reversals atall, and the demonstrations in this book show all cards in an upright position.

European mystics like Falconnier, Papus, Wirth, Etteilla, and Levi createdseparate and unique sets of attributions to the tarot between 1780 and the late1880s. These early systems are focused mostly on the trump cards. In the 1890s,a group called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn taught a new group of tarotcorrespondences to their members, and this system is the one associated with theWaite-Smith deck and the Thoth deck. One advantage of the Golden Dawnattribution system is the detailed planetary and zodiacal assignments to the pipand court cards. This system is common to American and British tarotists(although certainly not unanimous), while Europeans often use the Continentalattribution system, particularly with antique tarots like the Tarot deMarseilles. Various modern authors have created further original systems thatare usually unique to a single deck. The Golden Dawn attribution system is usedin this book as the basis for elemental and zodiacal dignity; the complete listof attributions is in appendix A.


There are several types of dignity that add to the spectrum of advanced forms ofinterpretation.

Elemental dignity is the most frequently mentioned usage and is based onassignments of the four elements, fire, water, air, and earth, to the four suitsand trump cards. Elemental relationships provide basic clues to the interactionsbetween neighboring cards. The elemental trumps—Fool, Hanged Man, Judgment,World—along with Aces and Pages (also called Princesses) have the virtues ofpure elements, while the zodiacal trumps and pip cards share the element oftheir zodiacal attribution. Each level of status of the court cards (King,Queen, Knight, and Page or Princess)is also attributed to an element. Only theplanetary trumps are free of elemental association, but they do experienceaffinities to certain elements. A significator card, the card that representsthe querent in a reading, may be chosen by determining the querent's elementaltraits.

Modal dignity may be conferred by any card with a zodiacal attribution. Modesare the triplicity of the zodiac; that is, the twelve signs are divided intothree modes: cardinal, fixed, and mutable. A preponderance of a single mode in aspread gives emphasis to the specific energy type of that mode. Modes may alsoform sequences that suggest the direction of the energy flow between the cardpositions in a spread.

Shared Status is a specialized form of dignity for court cards, the sixteencards designated by ascending royal titles. Court cards are assigned bothelement and mode. Shared status applies when sets (mode) or sequences (element)of court cards appear in a reading. For example, a set is a pair of Knights in alayout, and a small sequence the King and Queen of a single suit.

Numeric dignity occurs when sets and sequences appear in a spread. This form ofanalysis is specific to card reading and draws upon rules from poker and rummy,where points (or tricks) are dependent on matching number or suit groups. A setincreases the influence of the numeric vibration, and one may use numerology orthe rules of cartomancy (divining with playing cards) to interpret these groups.Sequences are comparable to a straight in poker—for example, Five, Six, Seven(regardless of suit). Sequences suggest a progression, or a process ofdevelopment or deterioration that is occurring in the layout. Sets and sequencesin tarot are more generalized than in card games—trumps and pips may be blendedin sets; and cards of various suits may form numeric sequences. Cards may alsoshare numeric dignity by being in a spread position of the same number, a formof dignity more properly belonging to the next category.

Locational dignity is related to an astrological concept called "accidentaldignity," but is actually specific to tarot reading. It occurs when a cardoccupies a position in the spread that assists or undermines its strength andmeaning. Spreads are usually organized into geometric forms that suggestfavorable placements, both by the order of the card spread and by the positionmeanings. The astrological form of locational dignity may be applied to CosmicAxis or Twelve-House spreads (described in chapter 9). These spread forms arederived from the horoscope house system and are related to the natural order ofthe zodiac. Locational dignity may be simple or infinitely complex.

Planetary and Zodiacal dignities are based on the particular system ofattributions used with the tarot. In the Golden Dawn system, signs of the zodiacare attributed to twelve trump cards and are also assigned to court and pipcards. Planets are assigned to trump and pip cards on the basis of decan (ten-degreesegments) rulership assignments. The traditional rules of astrologicaldignities govern the interrelationships between signs and planets assigned inthe tarot. Although full use of astrological tarot attributions requires someknowledge of astrology to apply, it's also the method that allows the tarot tomimic the scope and accuracy of astrology. The Twelve-House spread is stretchedto its full potential by blending the conventions of both tarot and astrology.

* * *

Attributions and dignities don't change the divinatory meanings of the cards, oreven specific deck-related meanings. By giving details to neighborlyrelationships, dignities add color and depth to the meaning of a card andprovide underlying associations that define combinations and zones of emphasis(neighborhoods) in a spread. Dignities don't so much change a card's meaning asfine-tune it, as its neighbors increase its potency or dilute its intentions.Some cards, by nature, are more permeable and translucent, while others arerelentlessly dynamic and aggressive. Dignities provide a basis for comprehendingwhy the Knight of Wands might pop a baseball through the Tower's window. Andalthough the various attribution systems applied to the tarot are myriad, thebasic techniques and astrological conventions for using them are not.

The view of dignities offered in this book is "astrologically correct." In otherwords, my explanation of the use of dignities does not contradict astrologicalconventions, particularly in regard to the planetary trumps. Instead, I utilizeastrological conventions to extend and amplify tarot dignities and blend themwith card-specific forms of dignity. Thus given, the tarotist who chooses tolearn astrology (or the astrologer learning tarot) will not struggle withincongruous methods but may proceed with a helpful foundation in the concept ofdignity.



In tarot, astrology, magic, and alchemy there are four primary elements thatclothe the spirit of life. These are fire, water, air, and earth, and thesebasic components have been a core part of the fabric of the occult sciences forabout two thousand years, since the days of Ptolemy, Aristotle, and Plato.

The ancients determined there was an underlying order to the structure of theuniverse, and these four elements were the basis for all life on earth, allthings in existence. The elements were superimposed on the twelve zodiacconstellations and later became part and parcel of magic and alchemy. HenryCornelius Agrippa gave detailed lists of the things composed of elemental blendsaround 1500 CE. Eventually, the four elements were grafted into the tarot.

There is some dissension about which element belongs to which suit in the tarot,but the most commonly used assignments are:

Fire = Wands

Water = Cups

Swords = Air

Pentacles = Earth

This is the system worked out by the Secret Chiefs of the Hermetic Order of theGolden Dawn and used in the Waite-Smith tarot deck, as well as in the Crowley-HarrisThoth deck. Since these two decks are the basis for the bulk of moderntarot decks (although certainly not all), this given system of attributions is agood starting point.

The four elements are like a family:

Fire = Father

Water = Mother

Air = Son

Earth = Daughter

The elements have affinities and preferences and characteristic results when oneis blended with another. Elements are constantly trying to influence oneanother, to blend in new and meaningful ways. This view is the one held byAgrippa, and it is often neglected in contemporary explanations of elementaldignities.

In the basic concept of elemental dignities, there are friendly, neutral, andunfriendly pairings of the elements:

Friendly Neutral Unfriendly

fire and air fire and earth fire and water
water and earth air and water air and earth

In this primitive schema, if a wand is sitting next to a cup, they are at crosspurposes, each weakening the other. But in practice (and in the view ofAgrippa), elements are much more subtle and prone to more intermingling than theabove outline permits. Elemental dignities should be regarded as a flexibledynamic between neighbors rather than a set of ironclad rules. Fire and watermay be at odds, but that friction accounts for the driving power of steam.Challenging relationships promote learning and growth, whereas compatible, easyrelationships may devolve into inertia. The inherent characteristics of eachelement give a basis for understanding how it will respond to any of the otherthree elements.


Fire is hot and dry, according to Aristotle, thought by many to be the primalelement of the universe (the biblical version: "Let there be light.").Prometheus was kicked out of Olympus for bringing the secrets of fire tohumanity. Fire embodies the descent of spirit into matter, the primordial sparkof life. But on a more practical level, as Prometheus knew, fire was a keysurvival tool, allowing people to cook their food and warm their wigwams.Providing both heat and light, fire is a critical necessity, and understandinghow to use it is a great boon to humanity and the development of civilization.Likewise, the fiery light and warmth provided by the Sun's fusion is necessaryfor life and growth on Earth.

Some of the less friendly aspects of fire occur when it isn't controlled or isin the wrong hands—devastating fires that destroy forests, homes, and books thatare out of favor with the goon squad. Fire is also demanding, because it needsto be fed. If there's no more wood or other flammable substances around to burn,it gets mighty cold in the winter. Fire is the enemy of trees. The Sun's fieryheat, in excess, can cause droughts, deserts, and miserable wastelands.

Fire can be the element of last resort, too. The Russians burned Moscow to theground to prevent Napoleon from capturing the city, and General Sherman burnedAtlanta to hasten the end of the Civil War. This method of warfare even has afiery name—"scorched earth" policy. The dropping of two atomic bombs on Japantopped them all, raising the devastation by fire to the potential destruction ofthe world.

Fire, like all the other elements, has a range of behaviors, some quiteuncontrollable. The suit of Wands exhibits many of these faces. We see the torchthat lights the darkness in the Ace, ambitions and enthusiasms sparked in theTwo. The Three has signal fires and welcoming candles in the window. The Fourhas the home fires freshly lit, ready for warmth, cooking, and fellowship. Thefires of ambition rage in the Five; the Olympic torches mark champions in theSix. In the Seven, we keep the fire stoked to keep predators from attacking. Thefire dwindles to the unearthly glow of coals in the Eight and Nine, with thepopping of sparks as the fire shrinks. The deepening shadows keep the watcherlooking over his shoulder. By the Ten, the fuel is gone and the fire has died,and there is nothing left but ashes.

The Wand court cards have fiery personalities. The Page is the pure, infantflame, nurtured on kindling to an awakening glow. The Knight burns with energyand ambition; he's hot to trot and has a combustible temper to match. Fire isbetter managed by the Queen; she has all the fuel she needs and knows how muchto use for the size of fire she needs. The King masters fire—he has bellows tomake white heat, furnaces, torches, flashlights, flares, and maybe evenfireworks for celebrations.

This suit is motivated and informed by fire. Fire requires devotion, diligence,loyalty, and caution. Carelessness in fiery matters can result in destruction,whether this means an untended fire that burns down a house or a hot temper outof control. Whether a survival tool or one of mass destruction, fire commandsrespect. The fire of a spotlight can mark human triumph, but an untimely lightcast into the shadows can catch a person with his or her hand in the cookie jar.Fire is the glory of stardom, and the ignominy of notoriety. It's never dull,however. And once a fire dies, it's difficult to rekindle.


There isn't enough paper and ink to describe all of the faces of water, themother element. From the dripping of a leaky faucet to the roaring of the rapidsof the Colorado River, water embodies the extremes of mood and size. Thequalities of water are cold and moist.

Before being born into the light of the world, fetuses float in a dark world offluid in a placenta. For nine months, this inky, solitary ocean is a privateuniverse, quiet and undisturbed. We long for a return to this preternatural,undifferentiated water. Water moves and seeks; it travels and changes form. Itis rain, river, and ocean. Each mood of water has a voice, gurgling in afountain or bellowing like the incoming tide in the Bay of Fundy. Water can befresh and clear, like the cold streams running down from a mountain; it can bemuddy and murky like a polluted river. It can be turbulent, salty, and coloredan angry teal, like the high seas, or a pure dazzling turquoise like LakeMaracaibo in Venezuela.

Water is the symbolic mother of all liquids—frothy beer, hydrochloric acid,India ink. Water is the basis for every soup, sauce, and salad dressing everinvented. Humans are mostly water, about 80 percent, which is ironic consideringthat the bladder is the first to go. Powdered ochre and minerals mixed withwater and fat were the first paints, and the slapping rhythms of the waves gavevoice to the first primitive drum beat.

Emotions and feelings are the stuff of water, with their panoply of range andintensity. Falling in love is like the magnificent Angel Falls, where waterheedlessly drops hundreds of feet from a cliff into vernal rain forest. Sorrowis like stagnant marsh water, fraught with chartreuse scum and the drone ofmosquitoes and gnats. Belonging to a family or a group is like a wide flowingriver, carrying us to a destination.

(Continues...)Excerpted from TAROT DECODED by ELIZABETH HAZEL. Copyright © 2004 Elizabeth Hazel. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 1578633028
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Weiser (May 1, 2004)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 190 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9781578633029
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1578633029
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 10.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 0.75 x 9 inches
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Elizabeth Hazel is an astrologer, tarotist, speaker and author. She got her first tarot deck when she was eleven. Liz has worked as a professional consultant since the early 1980s. She has produced numerous articles for magazines and journals over the past decade. Her new books will be released with her Kozmic Kitchen Press imprint in 2020. More exciting new books about astrology and tarot with Liz's original pen and ink illustrations will be available in the coming months, so keep in touch!

Is your kitchen kozmic??? If you let stars, planets and cards into the room, it is!

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