The Court cards are a very interesting component of the Tarot deck and there are several different ways to interpret them in a spread.
Traditionally they were associated with human figures, ourselves and the people we interact with.
To understand how they were assigned and associated, we must go back to the traditional playing cards and their use of fortune-telling.
Generally, a simple playing card deck is composed of 52 cards. Just like the Tarot deck is divided into 4 suits and each suit is composed of 10 numbered cards – from 1 to 10, and 3 so-called Court or ‘Faced’ cards. They are called ‘Faced’ cards because traditionally they depict nobles and royal faces, respectively a Page (or Jack), a Queen and a King.
In the Tarot deck, we have the similar structure, but instead of 3, we’ve got 4 Court cards, a Knight is additionally added to each suit.
The whole key of the Esoteric understanding lays in the understanding of the 3’s and 4’s, their possible combinations and to understand what and why is 3, respectively 4 in the Esoteric system. It may sound a little bit fancy, but I can assure you, it is not.
There are controversial opinions regarding how the figures of the playing card deck are associated to the figures of the Tarot deck. I think the Knights of the Tarot deck are actually the Kings of the playing card deck and the extra cards in the Tarot deck are the Kings.
The Clubs, which are the Wands of the Tarot deck, representing the element Fire, are considered to represent dark-haired – sometimes red haired – persons.
The King of Clubs – Knight of Wands – represents a dark-haired, kind-hearted man, respectively a generous, spirited man.
The Queen of Clubs represents a dark-haired, confident woman who is also considered to be a good adviser.
The Jack of Clubs represents a dark-haired or fiery youth. Considered to be a popular young person who is good-hearted and playful. Can also indicate an admirer.
The Hearts, which are the Cups of the Tarot deck, representing the element Water, are considered to represent fair-haired persons.
The King of Hearts – Knight of Cups – is a fair-haired man with a good nature. He is fair and gives helpful advices. Affectionate, caring man. This man helps you out without much talk. His actions reveal his kindness and concern.
The Queen of Hearts is a fair-haired woman with a good nature. Affectionate, caring woman. Sometimes, this card can indicate the mother or a mother figure. Also, can signify kind advice.
The Jack of Hearts is a warm-hearted friend. A fair-haired youth; or a young person. Often this points to a younger admirer.
The Spades, which are the Swords of the Tarot deck, representing the element Air, are considered to represent dark-haired persons.
The King of Spades, which is the Knight of Swords, represents a dark-haired man. He’s an ambitious person, perhaps self-serving.
The Queen of Spades represents a widowed or divorced woman. May also represents an older woman in a younger male person’s spread, or a mistress.
The Jack of Spades is a young person who is hostile or jealous.
The Diamonds, which are the Pentacles or Disks of the Tarot deck, representing the element Earth, represents fair or graying haired persons.
The King of Diamonds, which is the Knight of Disks, represents a fair-haired or graying man, respectively an older man. A man of authority, status, or influence. Sometimes can be the father figure or a mentor.
The Queen of Diamonds is a fair-haired woman. It’s also may signify gossip.
The Jack of Diamonds is a young person, possibly in uniform. Or, may be a jealous person who is unreliable. Also, a person who brings news, generally negative, but relatively minor.
This is the traditional interpretation of the Court cards. Tarot readers and scholars along the years developed several parallel interpretations and added their own vision to these meanings.
In my opinion, in the Tarot deck the Kings have similar attributes like the Aces. They represent the transcendence, the connection between the lower and the higher levels of cards, respectively of consciousness, they are the key to the path to our enlightenment (self-development, awakening).
I think the path of life is an upward spiral. This path is depicted metaphorically in the Iggulim, the circular representation of the Tree of Life where the Sefirot are presented as successively smaller concentric circles. We got something quite similar if we place the Tarot cards on the Natal Chart (Wheel of the Zodiac).
Down in the middle are the 36 Numerals. That circle represents our life. From down there the spiral seem to be a circle and the man live his life trapped and ‘running in that single circle’.
The four Aces are enable us to break out from the circle of the Numbered cards and ascend to the Court cards. The Aces represents impulses coming from outside, the awakening it’s not possible for somebody who’s ‘sleeping’, the first shock of awakening is always coming from the outside. The Aces represents these opportunities we may pursuit or we may miss.
The Court cards on the other hand represents our conscious effort to evolve, to become better persons, better versions of ourselves – to ‘awake’.
These are not easy cards. Each one of them is a difficult task, respectively a tensioned, contradictory astrological aspect which require some sort of reconciliation, a ‘super-effort’ as Gurdjieff would call it. These cards are about finding the best compromise between the things we ‘want’ and the things we ‘have’ to do. On the spiritual level, this is a struggle between our many fake I’s and our (divine) essence.
The Page of Wands represent Mercury in Sagittarius. The Mercurian Air will fuel the Fire of the Sagittarius and the situation might become very unstable and inflammable. It will make almost impossible to choose between what we ‘want’ and what we ‘have’ to do.
The Knight of Cups represents Saturn in Cancer. The earthly Saturnian aspects will be dissolved in the water of Cancer. The individual might become overly sensitive to the impulses coming from the outside and the Saturnian burden may bring the shadow of the past guilts into her or his home and comfort zone. The expensive and ambitious Saturnian character might felt imprisoned in the retired nature of the Cancer.
The Queen of Swords represents the Sun in Aquarius. The already revolutionary Aquarian just got an extra kick of energy from the Sun and she or he may become very unstable, unpredictable, even reckless. Keeping your head clear in these circumstances may be a real challenge.
All these challenges require conscious work and sustained effort because they put us in difficult positions right between a rock and a hard place.
The twelve Court cards, respectively the Queens, Knights and Pages, represents allegorically the twelve labours of Heracles (aka. Hercules).
The four Kings, on the other hand, in a similar manner like the Aces on the inferior level, enable us to ascend from the level of the Court cards to the cards of the Major Arcane on the next level.
Both, the Aces and the Kings might be considered ‘lucky’ cards because they show us the path to the next level of consciousness and are doorways to our spiritual evolution.
Excerpt from the book ‘The Unified Esoteric Tarot’ by Attila Blága. Full or partial use of this text for commercial or non-commercial distribution by any means whatsoever is strictly prohibited unless expressly authorised by the author.