The court cards in tarot can be one of the most confusing groups of cards in the whole deck.
First you have to know the meaning, but then who are they representing?
What are they representing?
It can make you draw a blank when you’re first learning tarot, but the more you work with the court cards, the better you’ll understand them.
Let’s begin with the who and what they are.
Court Cards: Person or Thing?
This is one of the things that can be confusing about the court cards in tarot:
Who or what are they representing?
A court card can represent a person, which can also be used as a significator. (For more about significators, check out Significators Cards in Tarot.)
However, the court cards can also represent:
- a situation
- an attitude
- an energy
So how do you know which it is? A person or a thing?
This is where your intuition really comes into play.
Ask yourself: Is the court talking about a person?
Listen to what you feel.
Do you feel a gut reaction?
Do you hear a yes or no in your mind?
Do you get an urgent or subtle feeling that confirms it?
If you don’t get a confirmation that it’s a person, then ask yourself if it’s about a thing?
A situation? An attitude? An energy?
Tarot can be read in an analytical and rational way sometimes, but it’s also an intuitive art.
Trust Your Intuition
When you get court cards (or any card in a tarot reading), follow your first impression.
Go with it.
Follow where that impression leads you.
Trust your first thoughts about a card.
Don’t doubt yourself.
And if you’re wrong?
Even the most world renowned psychics, tarot readers and mediums are wrong sometimes.
It’s all part of the learning process.
Court Card Families
Let’s look at the court card family members first, then we’ll break it down after to the suits.
After that we’ll look at the meanings including the element mixes of the suits and court cards.
In the tarot courts for each suit (Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles), there are four court (family) members:
This is common in Rider Waite Smith-based tarot decks.
While in the Thoth tarot and decks based on the Thoth system, the court dynamic is listed as:
This is a different dynamic that puts the concept that the Knight (a virile young man) has the conquest of joining the Queen.
If you’d like to learn more of the basics of the Rider Waite Smith and the Thoth decks together, check out a review for The Complete Tarot Kit by Susan Levitt.
For this post, we’ll focus on the Rider Waite Smith version of the courts.
This has the system for the genders of the courts as such:
- Page – female
- Knight – male
- Queen – female
- King – male
Again, this is just in the Rider Waite Smith based tarot decks – which can vary from other tarot decks.
For other tarot decks that are more inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly, check out Asali Earthwork’s list of tarot decks: Tarot of the QTPOC – Deck Listing.
A note on age, gender and the court cards:
Although the courts are usually assigned Page – Female, Knights – Male, Queens – Female and Kings – Male, it doesn’t always have to be that way.
When reading the courts in tarot, focus on the interpretation of the characteristics first to get a feeling of what someone is like if you feel the court card is describing a person.
If you get the impression that a King or Knight is talking about someone who is feminine or identifies as feminine, don’t be afraid to go in that direction if the court cards are describing that person’s characteristics or behaviour.
In this modern age, there aren’t really any hard and set rules about gender when it comes to the court cards (or at least there shouldn’t be.)
Try not to become fixed on that Queens can only represent women and Kings only men, or Pages only young girls and Knights only young men.
Kings could represent a younger woman and a Page an older man.
When you focus on what the interpretation of the characteristics of the court card are instead of trying to describe someone by physical appearance, it allows for a broader interpretation and expand your intuitive horizons.
Above all else, trust what your intuition tells you when it comes to the court cards and people!
The Court Cards
Page Cards of Tarot
Let’s start with the page cards of tarot first and separate from the suits.
Pages are young and childlike, often representing children and teenagers, but don’t always have to be someone who is young.
The page in tarot can often be summed up for any suit of the tarot with this quote:
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind, there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki, Soto Zen monk.
A page can be someone who is:
- young at heart
- a student in life or school
- a novice
No matter the suit of the tarot, when there is the page, it can be someone or something that’s new or just beginning on that path.
There’s a sense of inexperience and much to be learned.
When the page is referring to a person, it can be someone who is inexperienced, a novice or just starting on a path of the what the suit is about (Wands, Swords, Cups, Pentacles.)
When the page is about a situation, it can be something:
- that is just starting
- hasn’t taken form yet or
- the energy of which the reading is about is new or
- hasn’t developed to its full potential.
Knight Cards in Tarot
Knights are the adventurers of the tarot.
They go off on their quests and get what they seek.
However, in each of the tarot suits, they each have a different way of going about it.
Knights can be someone who:
- is bold
- is adventurous
- is daring
- is inviting
- gives offerings
- bring something to you or the table
- takes initiative
The knight can represent a person or it can represent a situation or energy in a reading.
This can describe how someone behaves or who they are or what’s needed in a situation or how you should or shouldn’t act.
This can go for any of the court cards in a tarot reading and for any suit.
When the knight is about a situation, it can be something:
- where swiftness is needed or happening
- quick action is needed or happening
- where everything is happening suddenly or quickly
Queen Cards in Tarot
Queens are one of two rulers of the court cards. She has the dignity and power of the king, but with a “woman’s touch.”
Queens are rulers of their realm and kingdom (Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles) and embody the essence of that realm.
They feel it and exude it. They are a representation of it.
A queen can represent someone who:
- is intuitive
- is sensitive
- knows their stuff
- how to work magic to get people to get along, collaborate or make things happen
- feels emotionally and makes decisions wholeheartedly
- doesn’t separate emotion from logic – but can master them to make sound choices
Queen court cards have a sense of experience in emotion and feeling, ruling by how they feel empathically, intuitively, logically, and physically.
What they do is for the good of the themselves and for others.
When the queen is about a situation, it can be something:
- where emotions are high and prevalent
- sensitivity to others is needed or felt
- empathy to others is needed or felt
King Cards in Tarot
Kings are seen as the leaders of the court cards.
They were once knights and have now become rulers with experience to show for it as they rule over their kingdom and realm.
Kings can be someone who:
- has experience in a certain area or topic
- has had success and has learned from failure
- shows leadership
- leads by example
- puts emotion aside and thinks rationally
Kings are often seen as more masculine, but this shouldn’t exclude women who have these characteristics or who may behave or identify with the king court cards.
The masculine ruling energy of the king doesn’t have to equate to “maleness” rather it’s more forward, rational, less emotional or sensitive than the Queen’s energy, behaviour or attitude.
When the king is about a situation, it can be something:
- where leadership is required or happening
- more experience is needed or shown
- where someone has to take charge of the situation
The Tarot Suits – Wands, Cups, Swords & Pentacles
Let’s look at the suits and then we’ll see how they match up to the court cards.
As you read through the suits’ energies, think about how each of the court cards would “superimpose” itself into the energy of the suits in tarot.
There are four suits in tarot:
Here are a few descriptions for each of the suits that may describe a court card’s energy:
Fiery, passionate, intense, driven, ambitious, initiative, curious, fun.
Sensitive, empathic, intuitive, friendly, kind, compassionate, genuine, romantic.
Intellectual, witty, sarcastic, quick, straight-talker, fair, communicative, logical.
Practical, reasonable, materialistic, steadfast, hardworking, productive, studious.
Now that we have the suits’ energy described and the court cards identified, this is where we can mix and match the court cards.
This method will help you to find your own interpretation and feeling about each court card, which can help you to get a better understanding in your own words about the court cards.
The Elements of the Court Cards
To help even more with the court cards, we’ll look at the elements of each of the court cards and the elements of each of the suits in the tarot.
As you may know, each suit in the tarot is associated with one of the four basic elements:
- Wands – Fire
- Cups – Water
- Swords – Air
- Pentacles – Earth
This is one of the most common associations of the four elements, however some tarot readers associate them differently.
However, for the purpose of this post, we’ll use the element correspondences listed above.
Now, this is also applied to the court cards.
Each court card is connected to one of the four elements:
- Page – Earth
- Knight – Fire
- Queen – Water
- King – Air
If you’re familiar with what the four basic elements represent, then this method may help you to understand the court cards better.
If not, let’s summarize what the four basic elements represent:
Creativity, passion, drive, boldness, rashness, heat, impatience, ambition.
Intuition, psychic, romance, feeling, emotions, empathy, kindness, love.
Intellect, communication, thoughts, ideas, swiftness, quickness, travel.
Stability, grounding, steadfast, slow, stubbornness, persistence, material, physicality.
This is where we begin to mix and match each of the elements with the court cards.
In the chart below, this is how the court cards and the elements are paired up:
|Wands||Earth of Fire||Fire of Fire||Water of Fire||Air of Fire|
|Cups||Earth of Water||Fire of Water||Water of Water||Air of Water|
|Swords||Earth of Air||Fire of Air||Water of Air||Air of Air|
|Pentacles||Earth of Earth||Fire of Earth||Water of Earth||Air of Earth|
As you can see, some elements mix together better than others.
In each suit, there’s a court card that matches the same as the suit’s element.
This explains why some court cards seem to be in their element in some suits, while other court cards seem to be more out of place or struggle with the suit which makes them a little more difficult to work with for some people.
Feel free to study and work with this chart as a way to understand the elements and the court cards better.
Court Card Meanings
Since this post was going to end up very long, Part 2 of this post has been added in another post for the court card meanings.
Check out Learn the Tarot Court Cards Meanings to find what all the court cards are.
Stacey & the Tarot Pugs
Share on Pinterest:
You may also like:
Images designed in Canva.