Understanding the Tarot Court Cards: How to Interpret the Court Cards in Tarot

Posted on May 01, 2019

The Tarot Court Cards are often considered some of the most difficult cards in the Tarot deck to interpret, though this is usually because it can be tricky to discern whether the card represents a person, energy or situation. This is why Court Cards often require the use of intuitive reading more than any other cards.

But there are ways to understand the Court Cards a better and get to know them like you would real people in your life! Read on to find out how.

What are the Court Cards in Tarot?

The Court Cards of the Tarot refer to any card in the Minor Arcana containing a human figure.

In traditional Tarot decks, the Court Cards are Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages - all members of a royal ‘court,’ where the name comes from.

The Difference Between Kings, Queens, Knights & Pages

It can be helpful to look at the Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages as a traditional family unit.

Let’s imagine this family want to build a house.

The King is the head of the family – he has mastered full control over his element. His ideas motivate everyone to get involved and he inspires everyone around him. It is the King who woke up one day and, after much careful consideration, decided it is time to build that house. He thinks of the blueprints, where the house will be, how much it will cost and allocates everyone their own specific role to make this a reality.

The King’s primary role is action.

The Queen is the second head of the family – whereas the King’s power is external and active, the Queen’s power is internal and passive. She is the one who will note down the costs, location and engage in the running of the home to make sure everything is in proper working order.

To best understand the difference between the King and Queen, imagine that they have a child. One day, the child returns home in tears because people have been bullying her. Both the King and Queen will feel the same thing (distress for their child and an urge to protect them) but both will react differently. The King, whose primary motivator is to act, will say, “Right, where are they? Let me get my hands on them!” whereas the Queen will – in internal fashion – comfort and cuddle the child, drying their tears.

Let’s take the King and Queen of Pentacles, which represent earthly and physical manifestations.

The King is the sort to run an empire, focus on material wealth so he can provide for his family and has a very determined and driven view in terms of stability. The Queen of Pentacles focuses more on what’s inside that empire – running a home, keeping the garden beautiful, keeping herself in good health. There is a strong introvert/extrovert aspect to the King and Queen.

The Knight is the doer, the wayward son who goes out into the world. He (or she – the Courts can represent any gender) will be the one to collect the tools and supplies for this house, gather the friends who help build it and take an active role in the running of it. The Knight is the immature aspect of the King; both are active, both are doers, but in very different ways. The Knight has not yet mastered his suit and still has many lessons to learn.

Let’s take the King and Knight of Wands in a love/relationship reading. The Knight is known for being a bit of a ‘player’ and sowing his wild oats everywhere he goes. He has a high sex drive and tends to leave a trail of broken hearts along the way. The King, on the other hand, has had his fun and is ready to settle down with the right person. He is far more likely than the Knight to stay faithful.

The Page is like a young child who still views the world in an innocent, naïve way. The Page will watch his parents and older brother prepare the new house and learn from them. They will also run errands and send messages (Pages are strongly linked to messages in the Tarot). Pages are learning.

Let’s take the Page of Swords and how it may differ to, for example, the King of Swords. Swords are all about intellect and thought. Both the King and the Page have a natural talent for the verbal and written word; but the Page is still learning how to use his gifts. The King is cool and collected, choosing his words carefully for the benefit of all. The Page is still stumbling around with his words and may come across as insensitive or even boorish.

As an example, let’s imagine both the King and Page have just been asked by the Queen of Swords if they like her new dress:

King: “It is very befitting, dear, though it may benefit a little from a tweak at the bottom to show off your marvellous physique.”

Page: “It makes you look like a jumping jackfruit that’s about to burst open!”

Experience, of course, will turn this Page into a King eventually!

Do Court Cards Represent People or Situations?

Another thing that confuses people is whether Court Cards represent an actual person or a situation. At times like this, intuitive reading is important.

A Page or Knight can represent a message or messenger; a King or Queen could represent situations that encompass the energy of these cards. The best thing to do is ask yourself if the Court represents anyone you know and look to surrounding cards to see if it makes sense.

Back in the day, before there were things such as planes, trains and other forms of transport, Court Cards were given certain characteristics. For example, the Queen of Cups was a woman between the ages of 20-35 with blonde hair, blue eyes and a slim build. Such descriptions don’t apply so much today. Remember, back then the population was scarce and there were only about two hundred people who lived in the village; a woman fitting that description may have only made up about five women, so it wasn’t too hard to see who the card was referring to.

If a card comes up representing a situation then the spread may be telling you that you need to harness the qualities of this card or it represents a situation you are in/going into. Let’s take the Knight of Cups. The cards could be telling you that you need to become like the Knight of Cups – creative, imaginative, romantic, sensitive – or it could be telling you that a Knight of Cups situation is on the way. In the physical sense, this could mean a situation which requires you to use your imagination or that a new romantic situation is on the horizon and life is about to get a whole lot dreamier!

And, of course, the Knight of Cups can represent another person. It could be a known admirer or an upcoming one. A new love interest; or someone who brings out your creative side.

Concluding Thoughts…

The Tarot, in general, requires a combination of intuition and knowledge of Tarot card meanings. Don’t be frightened by the Court Cards of the Tarot; whether they represent a person, situation or energy that requires harnessing is up to you, the reader, to determine.

Hopefully, the pointers above can help make this a little easier next time you pull from the Courts! And remember, you can always practice interpreting Tarot spreads - with or without the Court Cards - using our free online Tarot readings.

Related Article: Can Tarot Cards Be Wrong?

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Sarah Brownlee is a harmonious Libra Sun, Conflicted Scorpio rising, and a Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac. A whirlwind writer with a passion for Tarot cards and Astrology in all forms… Read More »

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