The Courts. Pages, Knights, Kings and Queens
Added at 16:10 on 22 March 2023
The nature of the Courts can confuse a lot of new and not-so-new tarot students.
When we look at the Court cards, the tarot's royal households, the Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings, they do not seem to fit in with the flow of the story from the Ace to the Ten within their suit at first glance. Yet as The Fool travels through them, he is learning. When he enters an Ace and leaves it at the Ten, he moves through them, learning from the start, from birth (Ace) to wisdom (Ten), what each suit brings to human existence. This is because they are the physical embodiment of the suit they represent, such as Air within the royal family within the Swords. Within each suit, the courts are divided into ages and gender, which gives an angle to which the suit's element is displayed and the level of maturity, or rather, understanding of the element through experience with it.
So, we will start with the elements.
This is an issue I did not write about the following elemental issue within Understanding Tarot, yet you will find a lot of details about them within it - and that is that regardless of what suit (Wands – Fire. Cups – Water. Swords – Air. Pentacles – Earth) a Court card is placed in, all Kings are Air, all Queens are Water, Knights are Fire, and Pages are Earth. I know this may sound confusing if it is a new concept, so bear with me.
When you see the suits presented as they are below, the concept may make more sense.
Kings – Air. Intellect, force, communication, Direct, logic.
King of Wands – Air of Fire (Aries)
King of Cups – Air of Water (Pisces)
King of Swords – Air of Air (Aquarius)
King of Pentacles – Air of Earth (Taurus)
Queens – Water. Emotion, sentiment, loyal, compassion, trust.
Queen of Wands – Water of Fire (Leo)
Queen of Cups – Water of Water (Cancer)
Queen of Swords – Water of Air (Libra)
Queen of Pentacles – Water of Earth (Capricorn)
Knights – Fire. Passion, exploration, enthusiasm, drive, daring.
Knight of Wands – Fire of Fire (Sagittarius)
Knight of Cups – Fire of Water (Scorpio)
Knight of Swords – Fire of Air (Gemini)
Knight of Pentacles - Fire of Earth (Virgo)
Pages – Earth. Slow, caution, honest, practical, perseverance
Page of Wands – Earth of Fire (Any Fire sign)
Page of Cups – Earth of Water (Any Water sign)
Page of Swords – Earth of Air (Any Air sign)
Page of Pentacles – Earth of Earth (Any Earth sign)
Each Court card embodies the element given by their suit, which is altered by the element that they independently and automatically, due to their title, carry.
For example, the King of Swords, is Air of Air. Air is a mental element; it is about thought, battle, strife, tension, force, truth, and logic. As this court is Air of Air, he is pure Air.
Whereas if we look at the Knight of Cups, Fire of Water, we have the drive and passion of Fire, the desire, ideas, and drive meeting emotions, feelings, and idealism, so someone driven by passion can feel and dream about what he or she is driven by. The Fire drives this Knight, but it is then filtered through the Water, so it can lead to fantasizing rather than acting.
Let’s look at the Courts titles and what they bring to the deck.
Pages A Page represents the medieval Pages which were a part of the royal courts of Europe, as do all the royal families within the deck from a traditional stance. A Page was a young boy, usually from a wealthy family. They would come into service at a young age, often about 7 or 8. They were attendants to knights and noblemen. Some decks like to see the Pages as Princess or Princess, making them children of the King and Queen, yet traditionally they represent a young boy (which translates into a child of either gender within a reading) who served a household. Pages, as a young teen would then become a squire before becoming a knight, so they show someone learning what they need to know.
Within a tarot deck, as they are all Earth regardless of suit, they show the essence of the suit, the potential of it. From the earth all grows.
When asking if a Page can bring commitment, success, or even failure, it is to expect too much. Pages are a bit like Aces, they hold the element as it is and the way it is approached when we find it within our minds, hearts, or lives. It is the possibility, the offer, the opportunity to learn more from what each Page represents. We learn with the Pages; we explore with the Wands, imagine with the Cups, think with the Swords, invest with the Pentacles. They show the start of a journey, often without the first step being taken.
A Page within a spread can also represent news or an event.
Page Keywords: News. Event. Youthful. Children. Ideas. Opportunities. Immature. Learning. Potential. Exploration. Hope.
Knights Looking at Knights from the same perspective as the Pages, from their place in the royal court, they too would have been male, often a Page, then a Squire, to train them to become a Knight, often at about the age of 21. A Knight would still have a nobleman to serve, and so here is the Knight serving the King, and or Queen, or both. They fight for, or with, the family they serve to protect.
Within a tarot deck, the Knights are their suit in action. As they are all primarily fire, they are moving, changing, and evolving. Often, when a Knight comes up, people ask if this is a sign of commitment or sincerity, and while sincerity may be offered by some of the Knights, commitment is not. They are experiencing, soaking up what an experience gives them, and the need for fire to burn and eat away at its landscape means that a Knight is a temporary feature or state of mind, depending on if it is you with the idea or situation or another with whom you are dealing.
A Knight can also represent an event within a tarot reading.
Knight Keywords: Movement. Change. Progress. Erratic. Immature. Uncommitted. Action. Confident. Accelerating. Focused.
Queens As we have Kings within a tarot deck, a Queen is not the overall ruler of any suit. As the cards depict the medieval court landscape, marriages were often for power, diplomacy, and the bringing together of different regions or countries. So, the Queen is the Kings peaceful counterbalance, the Yin to the Kings Yang.
Within the tarot, the Queen, being Water, is there to show the emotional element of the suit they reside within, so add the flow of feeling, emotional depth, and emotional maturity into play. They represent the feminine elements of life and of individuals; the sentiment, the warmth, the love, and the hopes that emotions bring are represented and filtered through the individual Queen's personal suit element.
While the Queen traditionally represents a married woman, she can, like all the court cards, be any gender, age, or relationship status within a spread.
Queen Keyword: Feminine. Mature. Wise. Knowledgeable. Passive. Receptive. Gentle. Nurturing. Strong. Open. Sensitive.
Kings At the head of the table are the Kings. Kings can be made, or they can be born into the role, and with either there are many rites of passage to get to that point, so they show a mature preparedness to matters.
This is where the suit of Air stands out over all the others: logic and control. They are the superiors of their suits and rulers. They express their own suit, which stems from the suit they are born into, combined with Air as a force that controls that with directness and purity. The Kings are direct and have complete knowledge of who they are and what they can achieve.
Kings bring power, commitment, and a no-crap world view. If you wish to know where you stand, a King will tell you. When Kings turn up, we see the masculine elements of life and the individual, the control aspects, the aspects of the self, and situations that need clarity and focus.
Traditionally, within the Tarot, a King was a married man. Yet, as we know, any of the courts can be of any gender, age, or status.
King Keywords: Masculine. Mature. Wise. Knowledgeable. Power. Control. Order. Determination. Action. Force. Order. Expertise. Established.
The Courts within a spread
We can get confused by the Court cards when they show up in a spread. Are they another person? Do they represent the self? News, or an event?
Knowing more about where a Court card stands does come with experience, so if you’re struggling, relax, as they will become clearer as time passes and you study.
What can help is starting with a good, well-worded question before you even start to shuffle. A suitable spread with well-thought-out positions, as at times the positions can tell you more about what angle to view any card from, let alone a Court card.
A very simple view of the Court cards is that they represent other people who have, are, or will influence your life or situations, or the sides of the personalities of those people you will see, how they are within that moment or situation, or even the core of who they are, and often that can be the case. Yet, at times, they will be you—something you need to embody or avoid, or even the advice that is needed on how to approach matters.
More: Those Pesky Court Cards