Most of the information I have come across in regards to the Tarot associates Wands with fire and Swords with Air. I feel differently. For me Wands represent Air while it is the Swords that I associate with Fire. See, I have established a close relationship with a few of my Tarot decks, my Rider-Waite one being the deck I’ve used the most. Numerous clients have come back to see me because my Readings are accurate. How could my elemental correspondences be wrong? Is it possible someone else was mistaken?
As I gaze at each Sword, The Ace through King and then at each Wand, I focus on the energy I feel. Empathically I know that for me I am correct. Wands are air energy and Swords are fire. I don’t assume that everyone else is just wrong …
I recall getting into a debate with a poster on LiveJournal, some years ago when I was active in that community, who insisted that my interpretation of the cards was ‘inaccurate’ and that it was clear to her that I was naïve and needed to reevaluate my relationship with the suit of Swords. I pointed out to her that individuals read the Tarot differently and there was no ’right’ or ’wrong’ way to read them. She clearly disagreed and insisted that Swords were Air. They are connected to the athame, which cut through the air. Yes, I intellectually can comprehend the connection. Yes, I’ve read the same damn thing in books but something doesn’t feel right to me. Being in tune with my clairsentient ability when something doesn’t feel right ... then it’s just not.
The Way of Four Spellbook by Deborah Lipp on page nine reads:
The Tarot suit of Air is Swords, although there is an interesting story behind this correspondence.
In 1910, Arthur Edward Waite published his book The Pictorial Key to the Tarot and his “Rider-Waite” Tarot deck. Waite was a Kabbalist and a member of the Golden Dawn magical lodge. His was the first deck to give all seventy-eight cards unique illustrations, and the first to draw associations between the Tarot and the Kabbalah. The Rider-Waite deck became he most popular and influential Tarot ever created, and its influences are seen in the vast majority decks available today.
However, Waite’s membership in the Golden Dawn included an oath of secrecy, so he hesitated to reveal too much in his deck or accompanying book. He decided to switch two of the elemental correspondences in order to preserver his oath. He couldn’t very well change the association of Cups to Water, since that’s a pretty obvious one, and Pentacles are mostly depicted as coin - and again the association between money and Earth is straightforward and obvious. But Swords and Wands are abstract tools, that were not in common usage at the turn of the last century. The Golden Dawn associated Air with Wands and Fire with Swords, so Waite reversed these two and filled his deck with Fiery Wands and Airy Swords.
If you’re a Tarot reader who has used Waite’s deck or a Waite-derived deck, it’s hard to break the mental picture of Air/Sword and Fire/Wand. Every Wand in Waite’s deck has little flames, salamanders, and orange colors, and every Sword has prominent clouds, sylphs, and a lot of light blue. Perhaps because most Witches read the Tarot, most associate the sword, or athame, with Air.
On the other hand, the original associate used by the Golden Dawn and others makes a good deal of sense. The Sword is the stronger and more destructive tool, and Fire is more destructive than Air. The Wand is the tool of the intellectual magician, but the Sword is the tool of the willful warrior (Fire is associated with will). Once you get to know the tools, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that a person wielding a Sword means business (has will), but a person holding a Wand might still be just thinking it over.