Sometimes people feel confused by the court cards. One reason is we spend a lot of time thinking about their personality traits and professions. To find clarity in a reading, though, it is beneficial to think about the roles they play. This topic is explored at length in Your Tarot Your Way. Enjoy this excerpt and I hope it is helpful.
The Court cards represent people. Mostly. And because of that, they can be complicated. Not so much complicated to under- stand as complicated to know when to interpret them as the querent or as another person. To interpret the Court cards, you will rely on, first, understanding them and then on both con- text and intuition. In the pages that follow, I will tell you what I think these cards mean. Here I will tell you that sometimes I ignore all that because I know that the Queen of Wands represents my client’s Uncle Hank (physical gender is irrelevant in tarot … it’s all metaphor).
With the Court cards, it is easier to understand the ranks and suits, which come together to create individual Court cards, rather than start with individual card meanings. Once you understand these general principles, you will find it easier to differentiate the Court cards.
Gender in tarot is symbolic. Kings and Knights are portrayed as male not because they only represent men but because they represent the active energy connected with the card. Queens are shown as female not because they only represent women but because the cards’ energy is passive. Pages are usually shown as young people who are either male or androgynous because the energy is still in a formative stage. In the interpretations below I will use gendered pronouns for simplicity, but please, please remember that Kings can represent women and Queens can be men.
The reason other people show up in readings is because they are involved with the situation being asked about. They play an important part, or they wouldn’t have shown up in the reading. So, your job is to figure out what role they play and how you can work with or influence them. Situations involving others can be unpredictable, since we cannot control their decisions or actions. However, by understanding what drives them, you can find ways to work with them, eliminate friction, and focus on common goals or agree on mutually beneficial courses of action.
The suit of Wands includes personality traits such as charisma, energy, optimism, charm, leadership, and warmth. Wands people are usually driven and passionate. They can also be self- focused or even self-centered. They are volatile personalities that may become angry in a flash, making them rash, immature, or cruel.
The Cups personalities are often creative, empathetic, sympathetic, nurturing, sensitive, loving, intuitive, and caring. They are emotional and value relationships. They can also be needy, demanding a lot of attention from others in their lives, as well as being overly sensitive and easily hurt.
Logic rules the Swords cards, and these Court card personalities love solving problems and making plans. They are often
precise, witty, clever, intelligent, and excellent communicators. Sometimes they appear as cold-hearted and distant. Because they are so discerning, they are quick to pick up on weaknesses and can be known for their sharp tongues and cutting words.
Pentacles people are practical, loyal, and stable. They tend to value money, resources, and creature comforts. Luckily, they are also often good managers of such things. Because of their connection with the physical world, they can seem shallow. In addition, their precise accounting can lead to pettiness and their stability can turn into dullness or stagnation.
As you see, each suit has its own style and nature. If you put any three Court cards in the same situation (or in the same spread), they will all react differently and thus produce a different outcome. Below are some examples.
- All the Court cards can be helpful in a crisis. Wands will take immediate action, Cups will provide emotional support, Swords will develop the best plan, and Pentacles will carry out the plan.
- All can be good friends, in their own way. Wands will be your go-to for a good time, Cups will be your shoulder to cry on, Swords will help rewrite your résumé or plan a vacation, Pentacles will go shopping or help with your budget.
- Like the real people they represent, they can also be manipulative, with Wands daring you, Cups dumping guilt, Swords wielding logic, and Pentacles tempting you.
- All can be obsessive, with Wands worrying about their ego, Cups feeding their emotions until they block out all else, Swords will argue themselves into an ulcer, and Pentacles will fret about pennies.
It is helpful to understand their personalities because under- standing what motivates people will help you move through the world with greater ease and control.
The suits determine personality, but the roles played are determined largely by rank: Page, Knight, Queen, or King. The rank also determines the extent of influence the person has on the situation. Even if you don’t think you know much about kings and queens and maybe even feel like such an archaic hierarchy has no place in our modern world, you will find that as symbols, these actually work really well. I’ve described the roles of each rank in the following pages.
Pages are young, either chronologically or in terms of the situation. For example, they could be a teenager going away from home for an extended period for the first time or they could be a retired person going to college for the first time. They are usually enthusiastic about learning or doing something new but are probably also nervous, because they are unsure of themselves. Pages don’t have much authority or influence. They usually play a supporting role. They are generally willing and eager to be included in projects. They are willing to help because above all they want to feel included. All the Pages share curiosity, skepticism, courage, and fear. They all may feel slightly off-balance and grateful for support or guidance. In exchange, they can offer loyalty and enthusiasm.
Knights are among the most volatile of the Court cards, often unpredictable, extreme, and chaotic. They are all about taking action. They can be single-minded and incredibly focused, always on whatever quest that has captured their attention. Knights are usually more interested in their own lives than anyone else’s. But they do have some power and ability, if not much experience or true authority. Whatever action they take will have an effect, for good or ill. They are hard to control, especially when focused on their own pursuits. However, if you can capture their attention and convince them to do what you want them to, you will have your hands full with a lot of powerful energy.
More than any other Court card, the Queens seem most likely to actually want to (and are able to) help you. They have the dis- position as well as the wisdom, experience, and power to do so. The Queen’s power is not always external or obvious. Like an iceberg, her influences are hidden, deep, and powerful. Although inclined to be helpful, Queens are not pushovers. They are usually busy, involved people, which is one reason they are such great resources. They can also be tricky because they are so complex. Personal connection is important for them. If they take an instant liking to you, that’s fabulous; just don’t betray their trust. If they decide they don’t care for you, it’ll be hard to change that opinion. Solidify your connection or overcome a rift with com- mon sense, such as recognizing her skills and experience. If she decides to connect with you, she can be a friend, a mentor, a cheerleader, or a role model.
In a reading, Kings represent someone with authority who will affect the outcome of the situation. Kings make decisions, delegate, and have responsibility for individuals and/or groups. They usually have achieved some level of mastery, expertise, and accomplishment and are often concerned with maintaining the status quo. They may make final decisions about hiring, scholarships, loans, or insurance coverage, actions that could have a huge impact on someone’s life. Because of their roles, Kings are the least accessible of all the Court cards. Gaining their attention isn’t easy. When you do have it, you have to make the most of that opportunity. Sometimes that opportunity may not be in person, but on paper, such as through a résumé or formal proposal or application.