People in the Tarot
When teaching tarot classes, I have found that one of the most challenging areas of tarot interpretation for students is within the court cards.
Before we begin this brief tutorial on court cards, you should read and fully understand the following article: Tarot Reading Basics
Now let’s get to work on understanding the court cards.
The court cards are the cards in a tarot deck that represent people. They are usually titled Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages. In some decks, the terms Knight (for King), Queen, Prince (for knights) and Princess (for Pages) are used. Very few decks use this alternative court card format. The only one that I currently know of is the Thoth deck.
In reality, Court Cards are relatively straightforward to understand and interpret. This is particularly the case once a tarot student learns that most court cards represent both a type of person AND a kind of situation. I strongly encourage my tarot students to learn the court cards right after having mastered the suits, but before they tackle the major arcana.
Let’s take a look at the Court Cards. As we do so, keep in mind that upright version of the card is considered the positive personality traits and the reversed version of the card are considered the negative personality traits. Also, it’s important to understand that the same person may come up one way in one reading and a different way in another, depending upon which traits they are most dominantly displaying or will be showing in the future.
Court Card’s Physical Descriptions
Physical descriptions are always difficult to nail down. Typically it’s best to avoid giving physical descriptions unless a client specifically asks for it. When you are giving physical descriptions, it’s better to be vague as opposed to specific. You also always want to remind a client that just because someone doesn’t match a physical description – that doesn’t mean they may not be the person being spoken about. It’s far better to base things around personality and behavior than physical appearance.
Here are the physical descriptions I was taught when I was a tarot student. To this day, I still come back to them when I need to. Please note, these are based on the suit and not court card. So a King of Wands, Queen of Wands, Knight of Wands, and Page of Wands all have the same general description.
Wands Physical Description: Normally light hair (blond, red, very light brown) or bald. Bright eyes. Tends to be athletic when upright. Astrologically they usually are Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius.
Cups Physical Description: Normally brown hair (from light to dark). Light to medium eyes. Regardless of upright or reversed, tends to be rounded and/or slightly overweight. Known for their often times sexy bedroom eyes. Astrologically they are usually Cancer, Scorpios, or Pisces.
Pentacles Physical Description: Normally dark hair (almost always black, but in a few cases may be dark brown) and dark eyes. Tends to be height/weight proportionate. Many wear a hat/cap or have a tattoo. Astrologically they are usually Taurus, Virgo, or Capricorn.
Swords Physical Description: Normally light or strange hair (blond. strawberry blond, very light brown, white, graying, any other color shade) and dark eyes. Some may wear glasses. Typically thin or tall. Astrologically they are usually Gemini, Libra, or Aquarius.
Kings are usually seen as mature men.
* The first King that comes up in an adult male client’s reading is a representation of the customer. If it falls in the past, it will be how they acted and behaved in the past. If it’s the present, it’s how they act and behave in the present. If it’s in the future, it’s how they will likely act or behave in the future. A reversed King in the future interpreted this way is read as though the negative traits are showing.
* This first King ALSO represents another person. If the King is upright, the person is helpful to the client, and the client likely knows them, If the King is reversed in a future position, the client probably doesn’t know them yet, but they will be good for them. Read as though the positive traits are showing. If the King is reversed in the present or past, the person is likely someone the client doesn’t yet know (though not always), but who is acting out in a negative manner.
* All other Kings represent different mature men. Using the same rules above, determine if the client knows them and if they are helpful to them or not. Also, determine their personality traits.
King of Wands Upright: Physically active. Close to family or loves the home, but needs to be out of the home environment the majority of the time. Eager. Sometimes insensitive.
King of Wands Reversed: Potential to be physically abusive. Has false ideals and perceptions of the world and people around him. Selfish. Explosive temper. Always insensitive. Likely to be unfaithful due to lack of sex or disappointments in sexual matters. If deceitful, will usually try to cover it up.
King of Cups Upright: Feels emotions intensely. Prefers to be inside or at home and away from large crowds. Intuitive/psychic. A caregiver or emotionally supportive individual. Tends to have more female friends than male friends.
King of Cups Reversed: Tends to overreact emotionally. Prefers to be inside or at home and away from crowds. Emotionally unstable. Either addictions or depression tends to be an issue. Likely to be unfaithful due to emotional needs not being met. If unfaithful, will almost always be open about it. Intuition/Psychic ability is blocked.
King of Pentacles Upright: Good with hands. Good with money. Good at business. Difficult to read. Rock solid emotions. Good under stress or crisis. Very dependable and trustworthy. Can be very spiritual or religious.
King of Pentacles Reversed: Lazy. Can’t be trusted, especially in matters of business or finances. Usually not good with money. Usually, doesn’t work or works little. Lacks spiritual direction. Likes to manipulate people.
King of Swords Upright: Brilliant. Usually good with words and all forms of communication including writing and speaking in front of crowds. Tends to be cultured. Social artist – good in social settings and at meeting people.
King of Swords Reversed: Icy and harsh. Manipulative. Mental Chess player. Enjoys inflicting pain (usually emotional) on others. May also be verbally abusive or cruel. Likes to threaten or even follow through with lawsuits.
Queens are usually seen as mature women from puberty onward.
* The first Queen that comes up in a female client’s reading, regardless of their age, is a representation of them. If it falls in the past, it will be how they acted and behaved in the past. If it’s the present, it’s how they act and behave in the present. If it’s in the future, it’s how they will likely act or behave in the future. A reversed Queen in the future interpreted this way is read as though the negative traits are showing.
* This first Queen ALSO represents another person. If the Queen is upright, the person is helpful to the client, and the client likely knows them, If the Queen is reversed in a future position, the client probably doesn’t know them yet, but they will be helpful to them. Read the good traits in the chart at the end of the article. If the queen is reversed in the present or past, the person is likely someone they know (though not always) but who is acting out in a negative manner.
* All other Queens represent different women. Using the same rules, determine if the client knows them and if they are helpful to them or not. Also, determine their personality traits.
Queen of Wands Upright: Understands men really well. Tends to have more male friends than female friends. Idealistic. Usually enjoys being physically active or working out. Enjoys sports either playing or watching. Strong emotionally or mentally. Will defend her friends and causes to the end.
Queen of Wands Reversed: Unfaithful. This may be to her lover, but it could also be to her own values that she says she believes in. Can be prone to using physical violence. Aggressive.
Queen of Cups Upright: Emotions change quickly depending on who she is around. Tends to mirror the emotions of others. Compassionate. Makes for a good shoulder to cry on. Great listener. Good at offering advice when emotions are in check. Not great at providing material or practical help. Intuitive/Psychic.
Queen of Cups Reversed: Uses guilt to get her way. Is draining to be around. Over emotional and over-sensitive. Often times depressed or prone to depressive episodes. Unbalanced. Gives bad advice that shouldn’t be paid attention to.
Queen of Pentacles Upright: Solid. Stable. Grounded. Great with money and business matters. Practical. Good at offering financial advice and material help. Typically must get her attention before she offers advice or help.
Queen of Pentacles Reversed: Creates dependency to control others. Manipulative. Doesn’t care. Tends to ignore people unless they give her a reason to focus on ruining their lives.
Queen of Swords Upright: Intelligent. Usually, comes from a difficult or dark past and as such can take some time to trust and open up to other people. A great conversationalist.
Queen of Swords Reversed: Gossip. Not trustworthy. Verbally abusive or cruel. Obsessive.
Knights are frequently seen as adolescent males or males that have not matured yet. In other words, clients will generally view them as being the same age or older than them, but see them as emotionally younger than themselves. You know that ex-boyfriend that never grew up? Yea, he would be a Knight even if he was 20 something, 30 something, or 40+ years old!
* First, all Knights should be read as either a beginning or ending or a situation (like Aces). If upright, there is a new beginning and if reversed it is an ending. The type of beginning or ending depends on the suit.
- Wands = Physical/Medical
- Cups = Emotional/Relationships
- Pentacles = Financial/Spiritual
- Swords = Career/Education/Communication
* Second, Knights should ALSO be read as a person that is an adolescent male OR a male that has not yet matured. Reversed in the future means they don’t know them yet, read their traits as positive or upright. Reversed in the present or past means they probably do know them and they are displaying their negative traits. Read these as reversed.
* The Knight of Swords, in addition to what has already been read, should ALSO be interpreted as “heading toward trouble.” Who exactly is heading for trouble? If near another court card, the person the other court card represents is heading toward trouble. If there are no other court cards, the client is moving toward difficulty!
Knight of Wands Upright: Flamboyant. Showoff. Easily impressed by others. Strong, good values.
Knight of Wands Reversed: Tends to get into first fights. Has questionable values and morals. Trouble controlling temper.
Knight of Cups Upright: A helpless romantic. Artistic. Sensitive. Intuitive. Philosophical. Usually very aware and has profound insights into others motives.
Knight of Cups Reversed: Emotionally not stable. May have anxiety or depression. May have an addiction problem. Tends to brood for extended periods of time. Brings others down. Selfish.
Knight of Pentacles Upright: Thinks carefully before making decisions. Usually more mature than others gives him credit for. Practical. Good with hands. Responsible with money. Most will find him dull or uninteresting.
Knight of Pentacles Reversed: Lacks motivation. Lazy. Does not listen to reason and does not offer good advice to others.
Knight of Swords Upright: A tendency to not think before leaping. Mind moves faster than the mouth. Showoff. Enjoys speed. Good at improvising when situations are dangerous or difficult. Women tend to be very attractive to him.
Knight of Swords Reversed: Causes havoc no matter where he goes or who he is with. Tends to be arrogant. Usually a troublemaker and rebel.
Pages are typically seen as children and usually under the age of 13.
* First it must be understood that all Pages represent good or bad news being received. The nature depends upon the suit.
- Wands = Physical/Medical
- Cups = Emotional/Relationships
- Pentacles = Financial/Spiritual
- Swords = Career/Education/Communication
If the Page is upright, the news being received is good. If the Page is reversed, the news being received is bad. So an upright Page of Cups in the six months position would indicate good news of an emotional nature being received within six months.
* A Page always represents a child. If the page is upright, the child will be on good behavior. If the Page is reversed, the child will be acting out. So, that Page of cups in the six months position would also tell us that the client will be interacting with a well-behaved child within six months. What does the child look like or how do they act? That depends upon the suit, where the page falls in the reading, and if the Page is upright or reversed. An upright page anywhere indicates the client already knows, has heard of, or has seen the child before. A reversed page in any future position means the child is not yet known. Despite not being known, this Page should be read as though the positive personality traits are present. A reversed Page in the present or past indicates a child with the negative behavioral traits.
* A Page CAN represent an animal, but this is not always true. If the person you are reading is a pet owner without children, then it is almost always the case that the Page ALSO represents one of their animals. If upright, the animal should be in relatively good health. If reversed, they may be sick.
* When the Page of Wands falls upright near any other court card, besides what has already been covered, the person that court card represents should be read as being trusting. In other words, even if that court card is reversed and they are displaying the negative personality traits, the Page of Wands upright near them would indicate they can still be trusted.
* The Page of Pentacles, besides what has already been covered, should ALSO be read as the client’s higher self. When upright, they can trust themselves and their own inner voice. When reversed, they should turn to other people for guidance and advice as they don’t see/hear clearly.
* The Page of Pentacles CAN represent suicidal intentions. This will only be true if the Page is Reversed. If the Page of Pentacles is Reversed as the first card, you should always check to make sure the client isn’t suicidal. If the Page of Pentacles is Reversed near any other court card, there is a good chance that the person the other court card represents could be pondering thoughts of suicide.
Page of Wands Upright: Idealistic. A Visionary. Innocent. Needs approval and to be liked. Totally trusting of others. Very few discipline problems. Needs to be outdoors or involve in sports for this child to be at their best.
Page of Wands Reversed: Can’t trust this child. Shouldn’t take eyes off this child. Probably has ADHD. A lot like Dennis the Menace. Doesn’t mean to get into trouble, but trouble almost always finds this child.
Page of Cups Upright: Intuitive/psychic. Very sensitive. Cries easily. Very lovable – enjoys cuddles, kisses, and hugs often. Typically shy. Lots of creative potentials. Needs to be involved in art (theater, music, drawing, painting, storytelling, etc.) for this child to be at their best.
Page of Cups Reversed: Known for temper tantrums. Selfish. Drama king/queen. Must get own way. Will attempt to use guilt to advantage.
Page of Pentacles Upright: Very independent. Enjoys doing things on their own. Usually only reaches out when they need/want something they can’t get/do on their own. Typically enjoys taking care of or caring for others or is forced into doing so. Will usually need some type of religious or spiritual pursuit to be at their best.
Page of Pentacles Reversed: The naughtiest of the Pages – gets into trouble often but usually because they mean to and don’t care about consequences. Needs very firm and consistent discipline to alter behavior. If not correct, then this Page is typically withdrawn and anti-social, being very hard to reach or communicate with. Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Suicidal Thoughts are all possible here.
Page of Swords Upright: Quick Witted. Inquisitive. Talkative. Intelligent, but gets bored quickly.
Page of Swords Reversed: Thief. Liar. Gossip. All of these are possible. Generally, a child that has bad friends or is dealing with much negative peer pressure. The bully. Often times associated with gang activity. Usually responds better to males than females (regardless of the child’s gender).
One of my own teachers, told me a long time ago, that it’s always interesting when you look at the Tarot Cards. The Tarot Cards indicate that women do not have an adolescent period in their life like boys do. Women go from being a page to a Queen. They mature faster. Males grow more slowly and usually pass through an adolescent period of time, the time of the knight! Some men stay in the role of the Knight for a long time before they finally become men or kings. Others may move there more quickly. Some never outgrow their knight phase. Some become men/kings, then revert back to knights/boys. Once a girl becomes a woman, however, they typically tend to stay there and only rarely do they regress back to a page or child. Interesting idea/concept, eh? This is also something worth remembering as you go about learning to work with and interpret the Court Cards.
Now you need to take what you’ve learned and go out and practice. Consider doing at least one reading a day for a friend, relative, stranger, etc. using only the court cards! While this may seem confusing at first, once you master reading the court cards in multiple ways (including just as a suit), you’ll be prepared to move on to the Major Arcana.