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Court Cards, When Not People

August 26, 2019

Over the years, the question I have been asked most often is: What do the court cards mean if they don’t signify people. There is a part of my mind that, even after being asked this question numerous times over four decades, doesn’t understand why people are asking it. Our lives a composed of a sequence of interactions, with our spouse, our children, our relatives, our friends and work companions, surely it is useful, necessary even, to have cards to represent people in a divination, However, as so many would-be tarot readers have trouble interpreting the court cards in this manner, I have put together alternative meanings for these cards. Yet note that the two facets of meaning can be intertwined. The King of Wands reversed can signify approaching danger, but the source of that peril may very well be a go-getting, outwardly successful business-man type. With that point understood, let us move on to, first, a broad view of the courts as events rather than individuals.

Broadly speaking, court cards that forecast an agreeable outcome are: the upright King, Queen and Page of Wands, the Page of Pentacles, the King, Queen, Knight and Page of Cups and the King of Swords. Those forecasting an unwelcome outcome are the upright Knight of Pentacles and the Page of Swords. The other upright cards – Knight of Wands, King and Queen of Pentacles, Queen and Knight of Swords – bear a mixed influence.

King of Wands   PageWands   Queen of Wands

The King of Wands signifies successful business dealings, but this can be read as success in a general sense where the question is unrelated to career or business matters. His Queen is a symbol of generosity of spirit and of loyalty and trustworthiness. As the ‘result’ card she points to expansion or growth of some kind. So where the question is “Will I gain the promotion?”, her appearance gives the  answer “yes”. In a regular divination, the Page of Wands denotes: A message from someone closely related to you; also well-regulated financial affairs. In the ‘result’ position, and where the question concerns money, it is an excellent omen. In any other matters it signifies that favorable news concerning the situation will soon arrive.

The Page of Pentacles also announces good news but also forecasts a pleasurable or satisfactory end to the scenario under review. The King of Swords points to attainment, particularly where a decision has to be made by a third party that could benefit or disadvantage the inquirer, depending on which way it goes.

Page of Pentacles   King of Cups   Queen of Cups

The King and Queen of Cups likewise predict favourable outcomes. The keywords for the Cup courts are fertility and growth. Depending on the question asked, the result will be happiness, advantage, increase or pleasure. The Knight of Cups is indicative of promises being kept, the support of others and a pleasant trip or visit, if that fits in with the question the inquirer has posed. More broadly the card represents the goodwill of the gods, smiling down on the inquirer’s hopes. Good news concerning money or a birth are represented by the Page of Cups in any reading. As a ‘result’ card (position ten in a Celtic Cross spread, for example) it signals gain or growth. “Will my bid on a property be accepted?” The Page of Cups, as the last card in an Equal-Armed Cross reading, says, “You will obtain what you want.”

The Knight of Pentacles is not a good card to have in the ‘result’ slot. The card warns of a new and worrying influence coming into play that does not bode well for the inquirer’s dreams and ambitions. Nor is the Page of Swords a helpful card as to have as the ‘result’, for it speaks of evil tidings and impediments and, in matters of romance, a treacherous rival in love, who will strive to do the inquirer harm.

cups page   mmTarot 67   Swords Queen 2

Cards of mixed import are the hardest to interpret. They usually denote partial success in an enterprise, as with the Queen of Swords. Her meanings are: riches combined with discord, abundance together with worry, joy intermingled with grief. I have known the card appear where a dispute has occurred over a will, or when someone close to the inquirer has died (grief) but has left them a considerable sum of money in their will (joy).

The Knight of Swords has some of the qualities of The Juggler/Magician. Elsewhere in a reading the card signifies the skilful avoidance of trouble, prompt reaction to an obstacle that gets one’s plans speedily back on track. As the ‘result’ card, this Knight tells the reader that the inquirer will achieve her ends and will do so mainly through her own capable and ‘can do’ attitude. The point being, that there is something that first needs to be cleared up or attended to; success isn’t guaranteed, and if the inquirer is dilatory, she may well lose out because of it.

There are parallels with the Knight of Wands, whose meanings are prudence in money matters and the need to economize. Its appearance as the ‘result’ card intimates that attainment is possible, especially in money matters, but that ultimately success or failure is in the inquirer’s own hands. If they will rein in their expenditure of cash or energy, whichever applies to the question asked, much can be achieved, though perhaps not everything hoped for. The Knight of Wands is a symbol of unbridled enthusiasm and for anything good to come out of a situation this knight is involved in, energy needs to be focused or contained.

swords knight   wands knight   pentacles queen

The Queen of Pentacles indicates an urge to make money. Here the meaning is presented abstractly. Turned into concrete terms, it becomes: the inquirer uses her skills to make money. The card represents growth in material terms, but it is not good for emotional matters. However, if the Queen of Pentacles describes the inquirer’s love interest, obviously it is a good omen if the card falls in the ‘result’ position, for then it represents him gaining her affections eventually.

As mentioned at the outset, this is one of the drawbacks to using the court cards to represent something other than people. Most of those consulting the tarot are not hermits; they have relatives, friends and co-workers and these individuals will often turn up in a reading signified by a court card. For instance, the Page of Swords represents a rival in love but it can also describe the rival according to way the reader views the suit. A practitioner of the Golden Dawn method of interpretation would read the Page of Swords as someone with a subtle mind, clever and wise in the ways of the world; he may in his manner, display grace or dexterity or both. (I find it best in a multicultural world to keep to a description of temperament rather than concentrate on hair and eye color.)

The court cards in reverse are not promotors of happy results. The King of Wands reversed foretells danger ahead for the inquirer; at best the future is uncertain. The outcome is marred by suspicion, jealousy or mistrust where the Queen of Wands holds the ‘result’ position. Frequently, its message to the inquirer is “You need to be suspicious; there’s something here that doesn’t quite add up.” The Knight of Wands denotes bad luck often resulting from the imprudence of a friend. But it also signifies carelessness in financial matters, and the reader has to choose which of these two meanings to apply. The Page of Wands tells of a wasted opportunity, though it can also point to waste of another kind: thriftlessness or extravagance.

A brighter message is borne by the reversed King of Pentacles. The card denotes good counsel, and advice that should be taken. The intimation is that the inquirer will regret it if she doesn’t take the advice on offer. The Queen of Pentacles reversed is a ‘no’ to success, attainment or expansion. She is a symbol of obstacles, resistance, and opposition in general. Where the question concerns finances, her meaning is that monetary affairs will not proceed smoothly. The Knight of that suit in reverse portends ruptures, discord, and quarrels. In the ‘result’ position, it denotes failure due to a falling out or massive disagreement. The Page of Pentacles reversed also signifies failure of hopes, in particular highlighting the loss of money or prestige. The outcome pointed to by this Page will displease the inquirer, probably leaving her with a great deal to worry about.

q wands gd cicero R[2147]   q wands in gd mould R[2148]   q wands tmd R[2149]

Three examples of Queen of Wands reversed

The Cups courts in reverse continue the pattern. The King of Cups warns of shifty dealings, and like the reversed Queen of Wands, intimates that the inquirer has good reason to distrust the motives of another person involved in the situation, possibly a man fitting the description assigned the King of Cups. The Queen of that suit in reverse tells a happier story, for she portends success although with some attendant trouble. The card often signifies that the inquirer’s dreams are fulfilled only to a small degree, the whole package being denied her. The reversed Knight of Cups warns of duplicity or underhand dealings. The same interpretation should be put on the card when found in the ‘result’ position as was applied to the reversed Queen of Wands and King of Cups above. Much the same can be said of the Page of Cups, whose reverse meaning is flattery, artifice, or trickery.

mmTarot 115mmTarot 130mmTarot 101

The King Swords in reverse is a symbol of chagrin, worry, grief, fear, or disturbance. In essence, in the ‘result’ position, it is a ‘no’ to questions such as “Will I marry X?”, “Will I get the job?”, “Will I be awarded the contract?” If the rest of the reading has been positive in tone, the card can mean: You will get what you want but it will be such a headache to you that you will wish you hadn’t. The Swords Queen in reverse speaks of loss, privation, absence, separation. It is not a good portent for either romantic, family, career or financial concerns. The reversed Knight of Swords is one of the chief symbols of the inquirer being taken advantage of. The card denotes a treacherous situation, where the inquirer cannot trust the ground beneath her feet. Even if the foregoing part of the reading has been good, this knight in the ‘result’ position warns that all is not as it appears to be. The reversed Page of Swords is similar. Its message is to be vigilant, for bad luck, seemingly, is about to strike from out of the blue.

mmTarot 103   mmTarot 104

From → tarot divination

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