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Tarot: Court Cards

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Suit of Wands Courts from the Shadowscapes tarot.

Suit of Wands Courts from the Shadowscapes tarot.

Meet the Royals

There are four Royal families in a standard tarot deck, each with four members: Page, Knight, Queen and King. They often look very medieval and regal. The Kings and Queens sit on thrones, the Knights upon their horses and Pages generally stand around holding a sword, cup, staff or coin, depending on their suit. Suits are not garments but are 'elements' which define the 56 minor arcana cards. They are similar to the suits found in playing cards.

  • Swords represent the element of air and the realm of thought and communication.
  • Cups represent the element of water and the realm of emotion and intuition.
  • Staves or wands represent the element of fire and the realm of action and inspiration.
  • Pentacles or coins represent the element of earth and the realm of practical matters, such as money, jobs, health and environment.

The 22 major arcana cards describe universal archetypes and the energy around a person or situation; the minor arcana, Ace to ten, are generally indicative of the situation or unfolding events. The courts are also part of the minor arcana and reside at the top of each suit, effectively numbers 11–14. The court cards are people cards and therefore represent actual people involved in the seeker's life, the seeker themselves or aspects of a person's behaviour or personality.

Complex Personalities

These 'personality' cards illustrate the whole range of human characteristics—good and bad. It is important to remember that one card is insufficient to mirror an actual living person. We are all so complex that to distill a human personality into the symbolism of a tarot card would be impossible. Instead, a card can reflect aspects of our personality that pertain to the situation or life stage that we are currently passing through. Having said that, often it is obvious to both reader and client that the appearance of a certain court card will be pointing towards a particular person, especially if that person, or his/her behaviour, is somewhat exaggerated in the current circumstances.

When learning about the courts, it might help to take a systematic approach. This will give you a basic framework on which you can hang the various personalities.

Ruled by the Elements

While each court card is dominated by the qualities of his or her suit, each royal rank is also assigned an element. Kings are fire, Queens are water, Knights are air and Pages are earth. This helps to make the courts very three dimensional. For example, the King of Cups is a combination of fire and water, with water, as the suit, being dominant. This means that the King of Cups is predominantly feeling with the secondary King-like characteristic of action. Therefore, when faced with a challenge he will act in accordance with his feelings. The Page of Swords is thinking (air) tempered by practicality (earth), therefore his decisions are made with both feet on the ground.

If you assign characteristics to each element, for example, a fiery temperament, a practical nature, a feeling personality and an intellectual type, then you can see how this would pan out in a real person. Of course, those assigned characteristics are overly simplistic, but you can begin to get an idea of how it works.

See the table below for clarity.

Court Card Elemental Attributes



fire + fire

fire + water

Fire + air

Fire + earth


water + fire

water + water

Water + air

Water + earth


air + fire

air + water

Air + air

Air + earth


earth + fire

earth + water

Earth + air

Earth + earth

Elemental Personality Types

We can assign general (very general) personality types to the elements as follows:

  • Fire: temperamental, active, inspired, enthusiastic. Like fire, this personality can burn bright but also experience burn-out.
  • Water: emotional, feeling, intuitive, expressive. Like water, this personality often changes so much that it is difficult to get a grasp on their motivation.
  • Air: Intellectual, thinking, logical. Air personalities are good communicators, excelling in the use of words for their cause. They also use words as their weapon of choice.
  • Earth: practical, matter-of-fact. Earth personalities often combine some of the characteristics of the other three but in a down-to-earth, pragmatic way. Can come across as a bit dull unless they make an effort.

As you can see, very few people would fall into a single type but they may reveal aspects of these types in certain circumstances. For example, a person with a water personality is likely to resort to tears when faced with an overwhelming challenge. However, they may be able to pull themselves together and call on a secondary, more practical characteristic in order to do what needs to be done.

The Court Card Ranks

Here is a brief overview of the individual royal ranks. There is a link to a more in-depth article for each court card.

I have paired the masculine King and Knights together, as each can reflect insights towards each other. The same with Queens and Pages. Although the courts are assigned genders, this is not written in stone. It is quite possible to have a woman who fits a King personality type, and vice versa. I merely use the genders for convenience and, in my experience, I rarely come across exceptions. The most fluid of the courts, as far as gender is concerned, are the pages, who can represent children of either sex.

The Kaves (Pages) of the Universal Tarot by Lo Scarabeo.

The Kaves (Pages) of the Universal Tarot by Lo Scarabeo.

Pages, Knaves, Princes and Princesses of Tarot

The pages (sometimes labelled knaves, princes or princesses) are the youngest and most immature of the tarot royals. They can represent children, teens, young adults and people with a young outlook. These personality types are still in a stage of development. They are coming to terms with their place in the world and their interactions with other people. They are on a path of discovery, with the most important thing being their examination into who they are and where they are headed. They are introspective and practical, but these characteristics are defined within the boundary of their suit. Even a mature person can display aspects of page personality, especially if embarking on a new venture or life experience. The Page of Pentacles is the base marker here (Earth of Earth), being the eternal student of the tarot.

The Queens from the Universal Tarot by Lo Scarabeo.

The Queens from the Universal Tarot by Lo Scarabeo.

Queens of the Tarot

Queens have travelled the path that the pages are only now embarking on. They are comfortable with who they are. Like the pages, Queens are also introspective but they are also very interested in other people. Depending upon their suit, they are nurturing, seductive, campaigning and practical. Queens are passive—not in a doormat sense, but in an allowing way. They understand that the world is made up of pleasing and displeasing things, and all are part of the whole. Queens are also mistresses of game-playing; they can be quite capable of manipulation if they see it as providing benefit. They see that detail is important.

Queens are all connected by the element of water, so the Queen of Cups is the one that is ultra emotional (Water of Water).

The Knights from Lo Scarabeo's Universal Tarot.

The Knights from Lo Scarabeo's Universal Tarot.

Knights of the Realm

Knights are actively moving towards maturity. They are still searching and have not quite defined their life-path. They are bold, intense and sometimes impulsive. They have not yet learned to restrain their extreme suit-driven tendencies. The Knight of Wands and the Knight of Pentacles are at the extreme ends of this spectrum; the former being hot-headed and fiery, while the latter is more measured and calm.

Knights will often appear in readings when the seeker is about to encounter them in real life. In other words, there is an active force on the horizon. Knights have passed by, or ignored the opportunity for self-exploration—they, like the kings, are outwardly focussed but have not quite got it together yet.

The Kings from the Universal Tarot by Lo Scarabeo.

The Kings from the Universal Tarot by Lo Scarabeo.

Tarot Kings

The kings are considered to be the rulers of their suit. However, this doesn't mean that they are controllers or have reached the pinnacle of achievement. It simply means that this personality type is masculine, mature, active—in the sense that he prefers doing something to doing nothing, and expressive. They look outwards. They are more interested in events than in people. They have, or should have, gained clarity and wisdom. They see the big picture.

Kings are ruled and motivate by the element of Fire, therefore the King of Wands is the top dog king among the bunch.

Court Card Keywords at a Glance



Emotional balance

Leader, envisioner

Intellectual, authoritive, philisophical

Secure, independant, wealthy


Calm, compassionate, intuitive

Warm, passionate, encouraging

Perceptive, cool, understanding

Practical, helpful, creative


Romantic, imaginative

Impulsive, adventurer

Confident, opinionated

Hard-working, patient, toiler


Exploring emotions

Free spirit

Explorer of ideas

Studious, curious, curator

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Bev G

Which court card are you?

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 02, 2015:

LOL! I just love tarot -- it is a mirror of human existence. Thanks so much, PP.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 01, 2015:

wow, you are a pro at tarot cards, voted up and shared

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 30, 2015:

My pleasure Bev.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 30, 2015:

Thank you Kristen. Glad you enjoyed it.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 29, 2015:

Great hub, Bev. I hope to have my own tarot card someday. This was useful and interesting. Voted up!