Reading the Court Cards

Let’s take a quick look at the personalities of the court cards. The Court Cards are part of the Minor Arcana or Small Cards. They are related to the ‘ordinary world’ of our experiences, usually showing the people involved in our question but they reflect fragments of the higher principles too (you might like to have a go at matching up the court cards with the personalities of the Trumps). Remember with the Tarot, everything is interlinked. Nothing stands alone, the symbols are just different expressions and tones of core ideas. Like Russian Dolls everything is nested in everything else.

In the Tarot everything is explained using four elemental categories:

Fire Water Air Earth

Fire: Dynamic, Yang, Active, Hot Water: Reflective, Yin, Holding, Cool Air: Dynamic, Yang, Active, Cold Earth: Holding, Yin, Sustaining, Warm

When it comes to the Court Cards the 4 elements of the suits are reflected through 4 personality ‘types’ or states of mind. The Court Cards show:

  1. Your state of mind, how you are acting in the situation

  2. The character you are playing in your drama

  3. How you need to act to master your destiny in the situation

  4. Someone involved in your life – (they are usually clearly recognisable, the charming King of Cups, the argumentative Knight of Swords, the passionate Queen of Wands)

The 4 court cards express the 4 elemental principles through the personalities of the King, Queen, Knight and Page:

Fire – Beginning, Initiating Water – Sustaining, developing, reflecting, diffusion Air – Movement, division, communication, action/agitation, volatility Earth – fulfilment, solidity, tangible, ‘real’, the simplicity of matter

King: Fire Queen: Water  Knight: Air Page: Earth

Each character in the Court represents the idea of the suit (Wands: will, Cups: heart etc) and an elemental principle too (Fire: action, Water: development)

thus: King of Wands = Fire of Fire, Queen of Wands = Water of Fire, Knight of Wands = Air of Fire, Page of Wands = Earth of Fire

King: First action, expression of power & confidence (he is a King after all, he has authority over his element!)

Queen: Developing and steady she holds her own (she is a Queen, she sits with confidence in her element. She is majestic and stately, she has no need to rush)

Knight: He is ready to act, to DO something, to kick things off (he is a warrior, he wants to live out his element, he doesn’t want to wait or sit still. Now is the time to leap forward!)

Page: The Page is an apprentice, she is young, still learning but her ideals are pure because she is innocent. (She doesn’t have the authority yet to take charge like the King or sit in confidence of the Queen. She is not ready to fight but the purest idea of her element is with her. She hasn’t had her values and energy changed or modified by life’s experience. Think of the idealism of young teenagers! It’s so pure and inspiring and from our jaded view seems incredibly out of step with reality!)

If we add some more keywords we start to get the idea:

King of Wands = First burst of Fire, energetic & inspired action Queen of Wands = Sustained Fire, cultivating and holding inspiration & creativity Knight of Wands = Movement of Fire, taking charge, acting out and seizing opportunity Page of Wands = Fulfillment of Fire, the opportunity to start anew, expressing yourself simply & completely,

The King of Wands shows the initiating energy of fire, (think of the flame leaping up from a match or a lightning strike; sudden and spontaneous) the Queen, sustaining and reflecting energy of Fire, (steady burn, warmth of the sun, a generous and steady open fire: we can experience the energy & pleasure of fire) The Knight – a conflagration, like a bonfire, leaping up, consuming all, or a wildfire, ripping through the landscape. Fire on the move. We see the action of fire, for good & ill. The Page – the flame of an oil lamp, grass made warm by the sunlight, the passive & steady experience of heat & warmth. We can experience fire without being burned the ‘Earth’ that the page represents holds the energy of fire. This is fire in it’s complete and simplest form. The purest idea of the element.

Ok…. we’re getting a little abstract but you probably have a good idea of what these cards mean when they arrive in your reading. What type of role are you playing? Who are the other personalities involved? By changing my approach in this situation how can I master my fate?

Remember, there’s no hard and fast definitions, you have to make your tarot your own. Work with it until you fit it into your own framework of meaning. Interpretations are a good guide but you won’t remember it until you file it in your own thinking system. It’s not meant to be logical; tarot symbols exist in the a-rational realm much like our dreams and imagination. Everything reflects everything else so do some work on making the links between the cards. Build a story. Then tell it.

Got a question about a Court Card? Please comment below!

And check out the post category for the Court Cards here

xo Asha Maria

Asha is an experienced tarot teacher and runs courses in Sydney & Wollongong. You might be starting with a brand new deck, jumping to the next level after using Oracle cards or want to deepen your practise. Asha’s work is about the narrative, the symbol and the story. Sign up to the tarot class mailing list – she’s launching her online courses soon! For now she is running workshops in person around the place. Register your interest here:

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