How do you interpret Tarot court cards?
Some people find court cards challenging. I love it when there are court cards in a reading!
The major arcana represent life stages and lessons being learned.
The minor arcana pips are more everyday lessons and events.
What about the tarot court cards? What do they represent?
In the RWS Tarot each court card depicts a person interacting with the symbol of their suit.
- The pages are youthful, standing figures.
- The knights are all on horseback.
- The queens are women sitting on thrones.
- The kings are men also sitting on thrones.
But what do they mean in a reading?
The court cards as ‘personalities.’
One good way to think of these cards is as personalities.
Let’s imagine that the four members of the court are a family/tribe/group who have traits that are related to their suit. They express their personality according to their ‘class.’ In effect, they embody their suit and express it according to their life experience.
Let’s have a look at how each of the classes can embody their suit.
For me the page is the engaged and curious padawan. Each one is standing, grasping the symbol of their suit in their hands. They are observing the qualities of suit. They are curious to learn about the depth and power of the suit. They are learning and questioning things. They are thirsty to know more and have more control of the power of the suit. Pages have ambitions that are related to the energy of the suit.
- The page of pentacles is curious about tangible, practical things.
- The page of wands is thirsty passion and purpose.
- The page of cups is exploring emotion and intuition.
- And the page of swords is on a quest for knowledge and truth.
The knights are ‘men’ of action. The knights are all riding horses. What are horses good for? Getting places quickly! To me, these cards are about how we move through life or events.
- Do we move slowly and purposefully, watching our footing, charting the best path?
- Do we move quickly acting on facts and information, getting to the heart of the mission at all cost?
- Do we move with care and courtesy, keeping everyone happy and fulfilled?
- Do we move with intention and pizzazz, all eyes on us, the life of the party?
Which knight do you think matches each of those descriptions? In order, I’d say pentacles, swords, cups and wands.
The queens sit, holding their element, regarding it, guarding it. They are all women. They are more focused on their element than they are on the outside world. The only one who looks at us directly is the queen of wands.
Just as a mother’s womb nourishes and protects the growing fetus, the Queen nurtures and protects the element in her charge.
- The queen of pentacles is the guardian and nurturer of the physical. She looks after her health and has an orderly home and minds her pennies.
- The queen of wands protects the passion and inspiration. She tends the flame of passion and sets the environment for launching into the next fun adventure. She is alluring, people are drawn to her.
- The queen of cups guards the tender emotions in her ornate and covered chalice. She makes sure that the heart is full and safe and ready for all that life can bring.
- The queen of swords guards the truth. She will keep your secrets, or help you become a better student, ensuring that knowledge is safeguarded. Don’t lie to her, you’ll regret it.
The kings are men, seated in thrones. In life, the king has the ultimate authority. Tarot kings are no different. These stately men are in charge of their element. They are commanding. They have complete control of the element they reign over. They lead and take charge, directing and making decisions based on their mastery of the energy of their suit.
- The king of pentacles accomplishes things. He is the master of the physical realm. He drives a nice car, has a nice house and keeps himself in shape. But don’t think that means he’s spent all his money! Quite the opposite, his bank account is also impressive.
- The king of wands knows what he wants and will make it so, no matter what the cost he will find a way. He’s the creator and the director of the project – and…. ACTION!
- The king of cups controls his emotions, he is in full control of his feelings. He balances intellect with emotion.
- The king of swords is an intellectual, wise and observant. He is the master of the truth. and will speak it even when no one wants to hear it.
The Querent or Someone else?
- Who exactly is the court card representing in a Tarot reading?
- Does it represent the querent?
- Does it represent a person in the querents life?
- Something else entirely?
The answer to these questions lies in the reading itself.
If you are using a spread, it may be clear that the court card is someone else. The position in the spread may define the court card as an outside influence on the the reading. In this case it could be another person or even some other element in the environment.
For me, unless there is a clear indication that the card represents someone else, it generally represents the querent. The Tarot reading is about us after all, not about other people.
Other ways to use court cards
There are a myriad of other things you can intuit from the court cards some of which might include the level of maturity, the gender, the speed with which something will happen, the overall tone of an event.
An interesting way to look at (and remember) the court cards is to assign an element to each class.
- pages represent earth, they are grounded
- knights represent air, they are moving
- queens represent cups, they are nurturing are caring
- kings represent fire, they are passionate creators
(I’ve heard some people assign fire to knights and air to kings. Which way do you feel it?)
In this way, the court cards are all double elements.
- Page of pentacles is “earth of earth,”
- Page of wands is “earth of fire,”
- Page of cups is “earth of water,” and
- Page of swords is “earth of air.”
You can do the same with each class. Knight of pentacles is “air of earth,” and so on.
What’s your take on court cards? Post a comment and share it with us!