When doing a reading, we tend to look at the meaning of the cards and the elements that are present in the reading. Sometimes however, it can be helpful – and even revealing – to look at what elements are NOT present.
For example, if I am doing a relationship reading for a client and there are no cups in the spread, I might suspect that there is a lack of love in the relationship. Or if there were an abundance of swords and no cups, I might suspect that the relationship was more intellectual than emotional.
If there is a lack of fire, it may hint that there is no passion or energy in the situation. It may indicate that nobody is taking any action; thus there is no movement. I might see this as a need to take action or move away from something or someone for which the client feels no “fire”.
The lack of Earth in a reading can suggest an unstable situation or an idea that is impractical. This can also indicate that the client is ungrounded and may have his/her head in the clouds (especially if there is an overabundance of swords in the reading). I might see this as a need for grounding and being practical.
A lack of swords may suggest a breakdown or lack of communication – or simply not thinking through the situation carefully. I might see this as a need to talk with those involved so that there is an understanding on all sides – or perhaps simply a need to react with the head instead of the heart.
I typically look at and consider missing elements on a case by case basis. It will depend on the client’s question, the combination of the other cards in the reading as well as the imagery of the other cards present. For instance, let’s suppose we had a reading with no fire cards at all, suggesting perhaps a lack of energy and passion. However, if the Chariot card were present, this may make up for that lack of fire. Even though the Chariot card is a water card (astrological sign of Cancer) it also represents forward movement, willpower, momentum and going out and conquering – all “fire” qualities.
Thus, while it can be helpful to consider missing elements in the context of the reading, the imagery of the other cards may very well make up for that which is missing.
Images from the Radiant Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck