The Court cards. They are beautiful, complex and bring a lot to any tarot reading. They tend to be the most frustrating cards to learn for newcomers to tarot, and no wonder, when they can represent aspects of your personality, or the people around you affecting events.
- People around you affecting events
- Energies that you need to acknowledge
- Energies you might be using
- Messages pointing you in a certain direction.
Tarot creators allow their creative inspirations to really express themselves in these cards, and these are often the first cards I go to examine when looking at a new deck. When they appear in a tarot reading, understanding what message the court card is being communicated is difficult, but once you get it, these cards offer incredibly deep and powerful insight.
First, let’s systematically look at the court cards, and then broaden your understanding once that foundation is set.
Common Corresponding Characteristics
Wands – growth, self-development, enterprise, passion, and innovation. Associated with astrological fire signs: Ares, Leo and Sagittarius. Spring seasons, ideas of birth, beginnings, new fresh starts.
Cups – emotions, intuition, and relationships. Water sign: Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. Summer, ideas of maturity, understanding, and emotions.
Swords – mental and logical functions. Point to struggle or conflict or decisions that need to be made. Associated with astrological air signs: Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. Fall.
Pentacles – money, the result of work, applying skills for gain. Associated with Earth Astrological signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn.
Men of Men – The Kings in Tarot
The Kings are very similar to the Emperor. While the Emperor is THE Authority as an archetype, the King is specifically the authority of his respective suit, and has mastered in the realm of his suit. Keep in mind that because this person “makes the rules”, they are also limited by them and the responsibility that comes with it.
Energy is directed towards the King. People look up to them…..
The King of Cups
Has strong, well-developed relationships and in tune with his emotions. He might have control over his emotions, but his logical judgment might sometimes be affected by jealousy or suspicious thoughts.
The King of Wands
Achievement oriented makes moves and takes decisions inspired by intuition. This person is creative and is self-expressive. Might be showy, like to gamble and act dramatically in situations.
The King of Swords
Swords is the suit of communication, making Kings are very good at communicating ideas, convincing others and public speaking. The King of Swords would be would be someone who is recognized for his intellectual achievements (like a lawyer or a doctor). To elaborate more, this is someone who would already come from a background to have access to higher education and is recognized by society for his achievements.
The King of Pentacles
The King of Pentacles would be an authority on finances or is firmly rooted in work and creates consistent results. He is responsible but is comfortable with what he knows are successful approaches, and doesn’t feel comfortable trying new things or taking risks.
The Leading Ladies – The Queens in Tarot
Just as we related the Kings to the Emperor, the Queens share the same connections to the Empress. The Empress is THE MOTHER as an archetype. The ultimate giver, THE source of nourishment and growth. The Queens are adult women who amplify the qualities in their respective suits and create and develop things according to their suit.
Energy flows outward from the Queen. The queen is the calm resource that offers without asking, and growth comes from the support and energy she projects.
The Queen of Cups
Empathetic, intuitive, and deeply in touch with emotions and natural cycles. She is comfortable expressing emotion and gives others a safe place.
The Queen of Wands
Self-confident, passionate, and thrives off of inspiring others and giving them safe energy to be creative. She is expressive, protective and motivating.
The Queen of Swords
A professional, sharp-minded, confident woman who is comfortable communicating on behalf of others but sometimes too blunt in her message. She doesn’t mind offending others if it means communicating the truth.
The Queen of Pentacles
She is a wealth of practical knowledge and ready to help anyone in needs. She very good at managing money and resources (including the body, food and what grows from the ground).
The Doers – The Knights in Tarot
the Knights have the potential of growing into the King, but they still have a lot to learn and are not “there” yet. They are action-oriented, they have a lot to prove, but they have the foundation and they are set up to assume that role.
The Knight of Cups
A dreamer and a lover. Loves romance and gets distracted with fantastic ideas. He is sensitive, creative, and seductive.
The Knight of Wands
He himself is growing, developing, enthusiastic and inspired. Ready to move forward and take risks.
The Knight of Swords
An idealist, driven by ideas (find other words here) He speaks freely and openly to deliver his message and prove a point and doesn’t who might take offense and why. He is courageous and assertive.
The Knight of Pentacles
Actively working towards a goal the knight of Pentacles is focused and skilled. He has a plan and is following it through strictly.
The Truthtellers – The Pages in Tarot
The Pages represent information being communicated to you from outside and sometimes unconventional sources.
The Page of Cups
Open and welcoming of love and new relationships. The Page of Cups is friendly and warm but emotionally dependent and sensitive. Often times this page could mean or bring forward messages being communicated to you (depending on how and what position they appear in a spread) through dreams or your intuition.
The Page of Wands
The Page of Wands actively seeks direction for the purpose of growth and self-development. He is hungry for knowledge and seeks information. Often times the Page of Wands could bring a message (depending on how and what position they appear in a spread) that will prompt you to change your mind or change your course of action.
The Page of Swords
The Page of Swords brings clarity and offers relief from cloudy or murkiness that weighs on our minds and our moods. He makes space for the truth to come through and will communicate it in any way possible.
The Page of Pentacles
The risk-taker, but also a collector of skills and knowledge. In his pursuit for more information and experience, he is comfortable taking big risks and compromising his security for more gain.
How to know how to Interpret a Court Card in a Tarot Reading
To properly assess how to use a court card in a spread, use this process:
Repeat to your self the position of the card in the spread
Remind yourself if the position of the card is supposed to represent yourself, a person, energy or an event.
Read this article for more insight, where I show how the Queen of Wands’ interpretation and message changes in every different position in the Celtic Cross tarot spread.
Context and the surrounding cards
Consider the other positions of the spread that connect to, lead into or follow a Court Card.
Follow the energy
Consider the energy flow:
– is it flowing from you and away, or forward into you (Queen)?
– Are people drawn to you (King)
– or does it feel new, or not fully formed or directed (Knight)
When Multiple Court Cards appear in a reading
When the same card in repeated suits appears in a reading, the cards add a different layer of interpretation. In addition to what you may have already concluded, repetitions of the same card indicate social interactions.
Many Pages: a group of children in the spirit of learning. Could point to a school, but could also point to a message being delivered to you (you are learning something).
Many Knights: higher education, probably college, or some activity that involves many young people working towards their own self-betterment.
Many Queens: meetings, and or exchanging of information about other people and events, or less eloquently, gossip.
Many Kings: meetings or gatherings of business or intellectual nature.
Journal Prompts to help you keep the Court Cards Straight.
Consider each court card and connect each to a famous person.
Think about and weigh:
- their openness to new risks,
- how they plan and closely they stick to the script (are they rigid and strict or flexible?)
- how diplomatic they may be in interacting with or communicating with other people.
Don’t forget to note down why you’ve made this match. Describe examples, possible influences, etc.
Consider each court card and connect each to people in your personal life.
Decide which friends/family/coworkers/neighbors etc. could be represented by each card. Be sure to match the traits of the cards with your friends’ personalities, find the court card that most suits each of them and don’t forget to write down why.
For more journal prompts to help you connect better with court cards, I am working on some new material so bookmark this page for updates.
A word on physical descriptors for the Court Cards: My personal, unsolicited opinion.
Traditionally, physical and socio-economic traits and attributes are connected to the different suits. These match the different court sets with their own hair color, skin color, and eye color descriptors. Some tarot readers still use these distinctions today, but the trend is less popular with new readers who don’t rely on older texts. I choose to ignore this practice, which is why it is not described in this article, but I feel the reason for this needs to be addressed.
I do not use physical descriptors (like The King of Swords is of light hair, light eyes, and is a member of society elite). This practice is outdated and racist, and ecourages laziness while interpreting the court cards.
I do not use descriptors because are:
- Outdated – times have changed. Socio-economic mobility is extremely different now, so are social classes and how we interact. The lines are blurred, and we are all the better for it,
Racism – we are now more culturally diverse, and features of racial purity are not as clear as they used to be, whether you support this or not.
Lazy – people are more than their physical appearance. Tarot readers who only tell their seekers “I see a dark haired man in your future” while holding up the King of Cups are lazy and are providing a disservice to their clients. People are more than their physical attributes, and the King of Cups is so much more than a tall, dark and handsome emotionally sympathetic man. If you take on the responsibility of reading for other people than you should paint the picture necessary for the client to be able to identify who the court card is pointing them to.