A Three-Pronged Approach to Court Cards: Rank, Element and Dignity
The sixteen Court Cards of the Minor Arcana can indicate significant people in a querent’s life. Court Cards can also indicate the querent. Court Cards can give advice. Court Cards can also be read as any other card may be; as indicative of important thoughts, feelings or happenings in the querent’s life.
This is the reason so many tarotists are perplexed by the Court Cards. These sixteen cards can mean so many different things! What’s more, they can mean so many different things all at the same time, in the same reading.
The versatility and flexibility of the Court Cards make them particularly valuable in a reading. A great deal of information can be found in even one Court Card, if you know where to look.
Each reader has their own ways of interpreting Court Cards. Different tarot decks, and tarot traditions, depict and name the Court in different ways. As with all tarot, each person must find the truth they will in each card.
My approach to the Court has developed on the spot and in the field. Over the course of more than twenty years of professional reading, I have learned how these cards speak to me. Perhaps they will speak to you in similar ways.
The Court as People
Traditionally, Pages are young girls, and Knights are young boys. In my many years, I have seen Pages and Knights come up for children, teens and young adults. I’ve seen Knights as the older siblings, and Pages as the toddlers. I have not reliably seen Pages and Knights conform to their traditional genders (Page/female, Knight/male).
Often, I can tell the gender of the young person the Page or Knight is referring to simply because, at that moment, the androgynous image on the card looks a little more masculine, or a little more feminine. In the next reading, the same card may appear differently.
Pages and Knights may appear to represent a querent’s children, even if they are now adults. Pages and Knights can represent love interests, especially in younger people. In this case, Knights will usually be a male love interest, and Pages a female love interest.
Pages and Knights can represent friends, co-workers and family members, but we must remember their youthful energy. Sometimes, in older people, the Pages and Knights can communicate their enthusiasm, passion and vitality. Sometimes, these cards will describe an older person as immature, or even senile.
Pages and Knights can also be older people who are doing things that Pages and Knights do. An older person returning to school may be a Page. An older person in determined pursuit of something might be a Knight.
Typically, Queens are adult women, and Kings are adult men. Sometimes, women in business with a great deal of leadership and authority will appear as Kings.
Queens and Kings can represent friends, family members, co-workers or love interests in a querent’s life.
What do these People Do?
In my system of understanding the Court Cards, we can ascertain something about the individual’s personality or circumstance by traits associated with both the card’s rank and element.
While each rank may classically denote age or gender, the ranks also have certain traits that can help us understand the motivations and priorities of the people in our querent’s’ lives.
Pages are students and communicators. A Page may represent a person of any age who is going to school or studying something. A Page may represent a person of any age who is actively communicating, or sharing a message.
Knights are travelers and pursuers. Knights have a goal, or a destination, in mind. A Knight may be a person of any age who is motivated and director to pursue a goal. A Knight may also represent a person who travels a great deal.
Queens are nurtures. While, in my experience, Queens typically denote adult women, a Queen could represent anyone in a position of nurturing something or someone.
Kings are leaders. While Kings are very often adult men, I have seen Kings appear to represent women who are strong leaders.
Each Minor Arcana suit is associated with one of the four elements. The Court Card ranks describe the way in which the individual works with their element. For instance, the Page of Cups may be a young person who is learning or communicating about love. If this were a child, we might see the child as sensitive and loving. If this were a teen, we might see the teen as dreamy and romantic.
Let’s look at the way the elements denote the behavior, attitude and circumstance.
Cups people will be sensitive, romantic, compassionate, emotional and dreamy.
Pentacles people will be grounded, stable, responsible and practical. The Page of Pentacles may be a five-year-old with a lemonade stand, while the King of Pentacles may be a CEO.
Wands people will be creative, passionate, inspired and quick-tempered.
Swords people will be honest and intelligent, but sometimes sharp-tongued.
There are three factors to help determine the pertinent nature of a person represented by a Court Card in a reading. One is rank, the second is suit, and the third is dignity.
When a card is well-dignified, we read it’s most direct possible meaning. When ill-dignified, we may see a delay, a lessening, an opposite, or the energy of the card may be in the past.
Readers can determine dignity in a number of ways. We may use reversals, elemental dignities, the context of the surround cards or our own intuition to tell us the dignity of the card.
When a Court Card is well-dignified, I assume the individual the card describes is basically well-adjusted, and living the most positive aspect of their element. When a Court Card is ill-dignified, I see the negative aspects of the element in the character or circumstance of the individual.
Ill-dignified Cups people may be depressed, or shy, for instance.
Ill-dignified Pentacles people may be irresponsible, unemployed or ungrounded.
Ill-dignified Wands people may be boring, unmotivated or lazy.
Ill-dignified Swords people may be stupid, confused or dishonest.
Court Cards as Advice
We can often interpret Court Cards to give advice to the querent. Again, the rank, element and dignity can help us clearly see the needed advice.
What do the ranks advise?
The Pages may direct the querent to learn something, study something, or communicate something.
The Knights may advise setting a goal, taking a trip or being more proactive in pursuit of something.
The Queens may advise nurturing something, perhaps a home, a project or a business.
The Kings may advise taking a leadership role in a particular area.
The suit will give you an idea regarding the arena to which the advice pertains.
For instance, the Knight of Pentacles might say “You need to look for a job.”
When reading Court Cards as advice, consider an ill-dignity to indicate a specific deficit in this area of the querent’s life that needs to be corrected, or a reluctance on the part of the querent to address the issue.
Predictive Interpretations and Specific Advices from the Court Cards
Pages can predict that you will receive an important communication. That is, a letter, a phone call, a text or an email. The nature of that communication will be denoted by the suit.
Pages can also predict or advise education. That is, taking classes or getting a new certification.
Pages can also indicate the World Wide Web, and might refer to finding or starting a specific web page.
Knights can advise goal setting and predict travel. The nature of the goals, or the travel, is determined by suit.
The four Queens can each predict or discuss a particular issue, action or situation. The Queen of Pentacles may relate to business or motherhood. The Queen of Cups may predict a romance. The Queen of Wands may promote creativity. The Queen of Swords may describe loneliness, or the need to speak a hard truth, or make a hard choice.
Kings often predict career advancement and success in business. The nature of the business will relate to the suit.
Of course, as with any card, intuition may point the way to an unusual or unorthodox interpretation in a reading that will be significant to the circumstance.
What follows are some quick concepts and questions for discussion and journaling.
Court Cards can represent people in the querent’s life, the querent, advice, situations or predictions.
Court Cards can represent more than one thing at the same time in the same reading.
Court Cards as people won’t always neatly fit in to their positions in a spread.
A Court Card may be a permanent significator for an individual, or may describe who they are at the present moment.
Dignities are determined based on reversals, elemental dignities, context, intuition, or a combination of all.
When Court Cards are people, well-dignified cards are happier, healthier and more helpful than ill-dignified cards. Ill-dignified cards will be people with problems.
When Court Cards are not people, ill-dignities may change a prediction, or indicate a resistance to the advice of the card, or a deficit of the energy of the card.
What are the metaphysical properties of each element?
What are the character qualities of each element?
What happens to the energy of each element when it is ill-dignified?
Just like the numbers of the pips and Majors, each rank has a particular value.
What key words do you associate with each rank, as people?
What key words do you associate with each rank, as energies?
Specific Personalities and Predictions
Which Court Cards have specific personalities or meanings for you?
How do age, gender, sexual orientation and astrology show up for you in the Court Cards?
What might multiple Court Cards in the same reading mean?