Monday, May 21, 2012


Great emotional warmth and the gift of creativity.

By Judy Jennings    © Copyright 2012

Interpreting the court cards in a reading can be a variable task.  Compared to the major arcana, which have deep but specific meanings, the court cards can seem almost elusive.  For example, even gender can vary; at times Kings and Queens represent people around the seeker, but they can also suggest personality traits of the querant, whether male or female.

Additionally, different decks may have different hierarchies in their courts.  The Universal Rider-Waite deck uses Knaves instead of Pages, and those illustrations cast a very different light than do the Pages of the classic deck.  The Thoth deck, designed by Aleister Crowley, eliminates the King altogether and elevates the Knight to the highest member of the court, followed by Queen, Prince and Princess. 

This article will work with the classic Rider-Waite model, which offers a good foundation even if you choose another deck as your favorite.  Each of the court positions reflects a different aspect of the human experience.  The meaning of each specific card is found in the intersection of the qualities of the position and the forces of the suit. 

Kings represent the Spirit.  They indicate a dynamic personality and are symbolic of the ego. 

Queens represent the Soul.  That’s a term that’s bandied about frequently, but what is the soul, exactly?  Paul Foster Case defines it as the “link between spirit and matter”.  Queens signify the inner mind, creativity, the nurturing side of the personality, and the emotions.

Knights represent the coming and going of matters of great importance to the seeker.  Action and activity are suggested.  A Knight might refer to a message or an accomplishment, or could portend a journey.  In some cases a change of residence might be indicated.

The Page represents daily activities.  An optimistic outlook is often suggested.  A youthful person might be indicated.

The traits listed above are true for all of the corresponding cards, regardless of suit.  The addition of the suit, however, is what differentiates the court cards from one another.  Forces described in the Four Suits are centered around basic survival needs, beginning with the assignment of an element to each.  Human beings literally would not exist without fire, water, air, and earth.  All of the qualities of the Four Suits relate in some manner to spiritual, emotional, psychological or physical well-being.

Wands refer to the world of pure ideas.  They represent action, energy, desire, motivation, and the potential for a connection with higher power.

Cups, The High Priestess, and the symbol of water all share the same meaning.  They indicate the subconscious mind, the forces of memory, and the source of creativity.  Cups and water contain all of the meanings of the Priestess herself. 

Swords indicate mental processes, patterns of thought, communication, and the handling of conflicts.  Swords are a symbol for the world of actualization, where ideas that have come out of the subconscious mind are manifested in the material world.

Pentacles represent our bodies and anything that has to do with our physical well-being.  Business, finance, place of residence, and ties to the community are all topics that might be suggested by a Pentacle in a reading. 

Now let’s match up these two dynamic approaches, beginning with the King of Wands.  When this card appears in a reading, you know immediately that there is an out-going, motivated person involved in some way.  Other qualities formed by the combination of King and Wand are leadership abilities, honesty, passion, vitality, charisma, and the possibility of erotic overtones.

The King of Cups is a different sort of fellow.  This is the card of a generous and compassionate personality, always kind and considerate.  Creative talents and a quiet sort of power are indicated.  An emotional nature resides underneath a calm exterior.  This King rules through benevolence and by taking responsibility.

The personality described by the King of Swords is someone who is able to stand on the strength of belief.  In keeping with the qualities of the Swords, this person is observant and cautious, and likes to think things through before taking action. 

The benevolent King of Pentacles is someone to be counted on.  This is a generous, helpful person.

These four Kings serve well as examples, but this process works with all of the court cards.  Time spent in consideration of the others will be rewarding and greatly increase your working knowledge of the Tarot.  Keep in mind that the minor arcana is intended to be somewhat more “practical” and less metaphysical than are the triumphs, as well as more specifically involved with the on-going concerns of everyday life. Even so, when a court card appears in a reading, its importance is considered to be as significant as that of a trump.

Additional context is added by other cards around a court card in a reading.  Flexibility and intuition are both called on when interpreting the courts, perhaps more so than with any other sub-group of cards, because of the variables.  Practice and experience are the remedy.

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