This week, I welcome Louise Richard to the Biddy Tarot blog, with an excellent post about the Court Cards.
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you might already know Louise. Her comments on the Tarot Circle posts (and other posts) are incredibly insightful and well articulated. So much so, I invited her to write a guest post. I was delighted when she agreed and offered to write about the Tarot Court Cards.
Interpreting the Tarot Court cards is something that many people say is their biggest challenge in learning to read Tarot. I wrote about the Tarot Court cards a while ago, so be sure to check out my post along with Louise’s post. I think you’ll get some valuable perspective reading both and contrasting our approaches to these cards.
Over to you, Louise…
For beginning readers, Court Cards sometimes seem a little hard to pin down in interpretation: Do they represent other people? Are they personality? Or do they indicate a situation or an event? It can be bewildering, even for experienced readers, to go through all the permutations. Too often we end up feeling like the bamboozled character in the 7 of Cups, standing in the dark while being overwhelmed with too many options. I have experimented a lot with the Court Cards over the years, and have come up with a system that has transformed my own interpretation of the Tarot Court. I would like to present this approach to you today so you can take it into consideration and perhaps experiment with it yourself.
Tarot Court Cards as People
First and foremost, we need to acknowledge that the Tarot Court cards depict people. The illustrations across each Suit show different personages of the same “rank” in similar but suit-related settings. Mostly they’re sitting, although the Pages are standing. But they’re really not doing much are they? Sure the Knights are on their horses but they are all on horses! Sure the Pages hold their Suit symbol in their hand but they’re all doing that! There really isn’t a lot of variation of action or activity between the Suits of the same rank. To me, this lends heavy weight to the argument that the Tarot Court represent people and personalities far more than situations and events. What we seem to be looking at are people, and how rank and suit can distinguish different “personalities” or, as I like to think of it, dimensions of personality.
For the sake of clarity, I almost always interpret the Court cards as personality. Not the whole of a person’s personality, nothing quite so cut and dried, but each Court Card can depict an aspect of personality. The Tarot Court illustrates figureheads, leaders, representations of ‘types’, and to my mind this all adds up to personality indicators. I know a lot of readers allow the Court cards to represent situations and events as well, but what you might like to openly consider is whether this clarifies your readings, or tends to confuse them? I don’t believe there is an inherent right or wrong answer to anything much in life, let alone Tarot card interpretations. To my way of thinking there are just options and consequences.
I believe the Pip cards (with the exception of the Aces) are our cards of situations and events, for each Pip card clearly shows different things happening. I don’t find benefit in getting the Tarot to double up by also interpreting Court cards as situations and events. I interpret the ‘groupings’ in the Tarot like this: 1) The Pip cards (2-10) represent situations and events (more than personality); 2) The Court cards represent people and personality issues (more than situations); 3) The Aces represent the four elements, and are an offering of pure elemental energy; and 4) The Major Arcana represent the broader archetypal and spiritual energies that underpin life, and will therefore delineate deeper issues and influences, spiritual guidance, and major life lessons.
Like I said before, at the end of the day I don’t believe in any right or wrong answer. I am a firm believer in the Tarot responding to your personal style; so if you decide Court cards are always personality, then that’s what they’ll be when you read. But if you broaden the interpretation to include situations and events, each time you see a Court card you will have to decide whether it is a person, a personality issue, a situation or an event. Personally, I find this brings more confusion to a reading than clarity. The only exception I would allow is when a Court card comes up in a ‘Situation’ position. Then I would read it as both a personality and a situation indicator. (It seems there has to be an exception to every rule, even in Tarot!)
Every time I see a Court card I think: this is telling me about an aspect of the querent’s personality that is of prime concern in their situation, or about someone around the querent who is a powerful influence at present (but I will only consider this second option if it’s in a relevant position to indicate someone external). I would encourage beginning readers to experiment …everything you read or learn needs to be tested for yourself in the crucible of personal experience. It’s all about defining your own understanding and your own style.
So, with all that said, let me give you a quick glimpse at how I define the various Court Cards of Tarot, with a focus on how they give us insight into the querent’s personality as it relates to the situation of the reading…
Understanding the Pages in a Tarot Reading
If a Page comes up in a reading, it will represent a childlike, relatively unformed or new aspect of the querent’s personality that is just beginning to come to light. (Anyone familiar with Jung’s theory of Personality Types might relate the Page to the “inferior function”). This is the traditional “student” quality of the Page, it represents young, nascent qualities that do not have a firm hold in the person’s nature. He or she might be experimenting with these new qualities, trying them on for size so to speak. Depending on the position and surrounding cards, I would interpret a Page as indicating ungrounded qualities that the querent is beginning to open up to, or is only just learning how to express and acknowledge within the self. I would then look to the Suit and it’s element to indicate the type of qualities that are emerging.
When a Page comes up in a reading, we need to ask: what new qualities is this person learning how to recognise within themselves? Surrounding cards will indicate how this is going.
Understanding the Knights in a Tarot Reading
The Knights are learning how to master the elemental energy of their Suit through action, adventure, following a cause or a crusade or a leader. They can be quite fired up about this new energy but still haven’t mastered it. Like the Page, the Knight indicates these personality functions are not fully formed, but the Knight is well and truly involved in expressing and working with these qualities in the outer world. They have progressed with this element to a fair degree, but are still being tested and tried in life experiences; they are not fully-grounded in this elemental energy like the King or the Queen. There will be a lot of experimentation, mistakes being made, crusades and battles to wage in this dimension of personality. The Knights are mounted, moving, and therefore a symbol of change and growth; they are actively developing the elemental skills and attributes of their Suit. I would interpret a Knight as indicating an aspect of personality that is being tempered through action, and will involve a lot of change, drama, and grappling with the energies indicated by the Suit.
When a Knight comes up in a reading, we need to ask: What aspect of self is this person learning to manage through the field of action?
Understanding the Queens in a Tarot Reading
The Queen represents the internal, receptive expression of the Suit and element concerned. She is fully formed, but the energy is internalised more than externalised. The Queen understands her elemental nature and power within her being. She is an authority in her element and a leader too, although her leadership is less in the spotlight, less action-oriented, and less direct than the King’s. She is much more likely to lead by example than issue orders. Hers is a much more subtle and indirect expression of the Suit, but just as valuable and powerful as the direct expression of the King. The Queen represents an aspect of the personality that moves behind the scenes. When a Queen comes up in a reading we are looking mostly at internal features of the personality. Sometimes this means it is an aspect of personality that is contained more than worn on one’s sleeve.
When Queens come up in a reading we need to ask: How does this person move behind the scenes? What is going on internally for this person?
Understanding the Kings in a Tarot Reading
Kings represent mastery and expression in the outer world. Kings are of course the head of a hierarchy; the most powerful member, the dominant male, the highest out-forming expression of the Suit. Kings are leaders, not followers. The King always takes action in the outer world, is usually a figure-head, has a public face and public responsibility. He is a leader, a spokesperson, an authority figure, a man of action, ready and able to get things moving! The King is the highest masculine expression of the element and Suit concerned, and he pushes the elemental energy outward – out into the world for external expression. This energy would correspond to Jung’s ‘dominant function’.
When Kings come up in a reading, we need to ask: How does this person like to take charge and lead? What aspect of the personality is so well-mastered that it might dominate their outward persona? Surrounding cards might indicate how this is working out.
Case Study: A ‘Real Life’ Tarot Reading with the Court Cards
Using the above method the Queen of Pentacles indicated that internally the client knew herself to be a practical and realistic person who approached life in a cautious, realistic and sensible manner. There was nothing flashy or too fast about her approach to life, slow and steady wins the race for the Queen of Pentacles and she tends to be very methodical and predictable, thorough and committed. Sensible is her catch-word. She likes to see tangible evidence before she commits to a path. In the situation at hand she might not always appear to be ‘taking charge’ but she had a lot of power and control behind the scenes which she exercises in a cautious, careful manner. She doesn’t have a grand vision nor is she a great risk-taker, she prefers to stick to what had worked in the past, what is tried and tested, predictable and safe. She doesn’t rock the boat unnecessarily. This is a woman who likes to be organised, who favours routine, who wants to be comfortable and who values financial security.
Because this Queen came up in the Situation position, I felt the reading was largely concerned with the practical, so-called ‘real’ world of mundane daily activities, the “grounding” in daily life that we all need beneath our feet, areas that could involve: food, shelter, money, work, comfort, health, routine, organisation.
The Page of Swords in crossing position (a position which I prefer to interpret as a ‘challenge’ to the first card more than an obstacle), indicated to me that the winds of change were starting to blow through the well-established Queen of Pentacles kingdom. The old tried and tested way of doing things needed to be shaken up a bit, that the client needed to allow the nascent energies of the Page of Swords to stir up new ideas for her. The Page indicated a new aspect of herself coming to light, a side of her that wanted (or needed) to play with new ideas, to begin to think for herself, and the Queen of Pentacles was being challenged to let the winds of change begin to breeze in. This was no sudden overhaul though, what the Page was indicating was the first fluttering and gentle stirrings of something new coming to light in her way of thinking and doing things, not a hurricane blowing through turning everything on it’s head. I encouraged the client to temper her sensible and practical nature with the gentle stirrings of new ideas. While she had been comfortable doing things in a predictable manner which had always worked very well for her, new concepts were trying to emerge and take hold. Her challenge was to nurture these new ideas and new ways of thinking which were not yet grounded in her being. Given that The Fool was the outcome card in this reading, I encouraged the client to consider taking more risks and perhaps stepping-off the well-beaten track to explore new and innovative options in this area (pentacles/earthy-mundane) of her life.
This is only an introduction to my system for interpreting the Court Cards, but keep in mind the personality descriptions for each Court Card comes from an analysis of the Suit and the Element it represents: whether Earth and Pentacles, Air and Swords, Water and Cups, or Fire and Wands. I would love to hear your thoughts and personal experiences with the Tarot Court so please feel free to post your comments and any feedback.
Find Out More About Louise
Louise has been playing with the Tarot for over 20 years, but says it took a long time before she considered herself proficient. She has a BA and post-graduate qualification in Applied Psychology and a background in family mediation and counselling. In her quest for the answers to Life, the Universe and Everything she has also studied Astrology, LOA and is a voracious reader of metaphysical literature. Her approach to the Tarot is an attempt to balance intuitive insight with intellectual discrimination.