COURT CARDS #1: DEVELOPING PERSONALITY PROFILES
In this lesson, you will become familiar with the court cards of each suit. These cards represent people in your readings – both aspects of querant’s own mind and personality and other people that affect the situation. By far the largest percentage of readings have to with other people – love relationships, spouses, children, family, and co-workers, yet many readers find the court cards to be the hardest to interpret. This series of lessons is designed to make the court cards much more accessible and friendly to the reader.
The purpose of this first lesson is to begin developing your own personality profiles for each court card, independent of what you may have learned from books or other study. In later lessons we will look in detail at the structure and symbology of the court cards, but your connection to these cards will be much deeper if you have built your own relationships with them. For the exercises that follow, clear your mind of whatever you have already learned, and please do not refer to books or notes.
Court Cards and Their Variations
Every tarot deck has four court cards for each suit, but they are not always called the same thing from deck to deck. Traditionally, there are a Page, Knight, Queen, and King. Sometimes you will see Princesses rather than Pages, and even Princes instead of Knights. Occasionally you will see Knights in place of Kings, which can be very confusing the first time you see it. Regardless of the specific terms used, the Queens and Kings or their equivalents are traditionally used to represent mature adult men and women, while the Knights, Pages, Princesses or equivalent are used to represent younger men and women, teenagers, and children. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, just tradition. Queens and Kings can represent a mature and experienced approach to a situation, while Pages and Knights may represents a youthful or innocent approach, or a new life experience for the client. Both youthful and mature qualities may coexist in any one person, in different areas of their lives.
Court cards have three major uses in tarot readings. They may represent:
* Actual people, including the client, that are affecting the situation
* Aspects of the client’s mind or personality that are coming into play
* Activities associated with the court cards, such as starting out on a quest or new activity (Knights) or receiving a message (Page of Wands or Cups) or beginning a new area of study (Page of Pentacles), or taking on a position of leadership (King of Wands)
It is best not to limit yourself to any one of these meanings, as which one applies will almost certainly vary from reading to reading. For this lesson, however, we will be focusing in the innate personalities represented by the cards, whether the client or someone else involved in the situation.
Exercise #1. Remove all the court cards from one or more decks and set the rest of these decks aside. Become familiar with the names used for the court cards in your decks and whether there are any differences between them. Lay out the court cards in four rows of four and look them over. Which court card do you feel intuitively represents you? Think about whether you might be represented by more than one card in different areas of your life or in different moods. What additional card or cards might you pick for these situations? Now look at the rest of the cards. Which person would you choose as an ideal spouse and why? How about if you were starting a new business and needed a business partner? Choose one card to represent each of your family members and then notice what attributes of these cards reminded you of them.
Developing Personality Profiles for the Court Cards
In the previous exercise, you began the process of developing intuitive associations of personalities with each card. Although you may read descriptions of card personalities in books, it is important to realize that they vary strongly from deck to deck. Below are three Pages or Princesses of Swords from different decks. Notice how different they are from one another – the first one appears defensive or protective, the second imaginative and idealistic, and the third appears to be floating in a turbulent, swirling cloud of air or thought.
It is very important when learning to read court cards that you develop your own personalities for your cards based on what the images in your deck suggest to you. Each of the Pages above share certain traits or attributes – all are Pages or Princesses, so they represent youth, inexperience, and idealism. Each is in the suit of Swords, so each shares an affinity for thought or ideas rather than emotions or practicality. However, within these shared qualities each approaches their thoughts (Swords) very differently – some with imagination and enthusiasm, some with protectiveness or even obsession, some with curiosity or confusion. What deck you choose for your readings may strongly influence your interpretation of the court cards (some decks even use animals!).
Exercise #2. Using your layout of four rows of four, start developing keywords for the cards by reminding yourself of the qualities of each suit. All court cards in the suit of Cups will share personality traits related to emotions, relationships, creativity, spirituality, etc. Now develop some key words for each rank – Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings (or whatever ranks your deck uses). For example, some keywords for the Pages are listed in the paragraph above. When you are done, combine the keywords for the suits with the keywords for the ranks as a starting place for identifying the basic attributes of each court card.
You will find as you work with different decks that the personalities of the court cards may be one of the key factors that attracts you or turns you away from a particular deck. For example, many readers find the court cards in the Rider-Waite deck to be somewhat unapproachable. One way to become more comfortable with reading court cards is to choose a deck in which you can relate to these cards as real people. Similarly, most readers have specific court cards that they intuitively like or dislike more than others. This may be due to an association you have between the cards and people in your life, or due to a basic affinity or clash with your own personality type.
It is very important to remember that no court card is inherently good or bad, although many readers fall into the habit of treating them that way. Each personality type has its positive and negative potentials that may come into play in any given situation, just as we each have good and bad days, strengths and weaknesses. Try to be very aware of your biases for or against any specific court cards and the reasons for your feelings about them, and do your best not to let this influence your readings. Remember that your clients each have a different set of personality traits and affinities, and your idea of the perfect spouse or lover may be the least compatible for them.
Exercise #3. Choosing the deck you use most often, lay out the court cards one by one, and write down some key words describing their personality in a journal or notebook, based only on their visual appearance and what you know about the suit and rank. On the first pass through, limit yourself only to positive character traits. Try to think of at least two or three for each card (some can be the same from card to card). Now look at them again and think of several keywords that represent the negative potential attributes of that personality type and write these down. Try to make sure that the overall personality you are developing for each card is evenly balanced between positive and negative qualities. For example, keywords for the King of Wands could include leadership, and on the flip side, domineering. If you have difficulty with any of the court cards, don’t worry. Most readers resonate better with some court cards than others. Simply leave those areas blank, and come back to them later in these lessons. As you learn more associations with the cards, such as astrological, elemental, and personality types, you should be able to fill in the blanks and round out your personality portraits.
Exercise #4. If you have more than one deck, take out the court cards of various decks and compare them. Notice how the personalities you might ascribe to each card changes with the deck. Pick out two or three of the court cards that appear most different to you from deck to deck. For each set of cards, determine what attributes all the cards share and what changes from deck to deck. Write down at least one keyword that is unique to each card. Now pick one set and imagine that you are doing a reading to answer the question “what kind of person should I look for in hiring a new manager at work?” Imagine how your answers might change depending on which of these decks you were working with, drawing the same card from each deck.
Exercise #5. Working with the deck you use most often for readings, lay the 16 court cards out in front of you. Think of several people in your life that you are closest to and most enjoy being around. Pick out the court cards that most remind you of them and set them to one side. Now think of some people that you dislike or have difficulty working with or being around. Pick out the court cards that most remind you of them and put them in another group. Describe what specific personality traits or attributes of each person led you to choose their card. Now look at the remaining court cards – are there any that really appeal to you or for which you have a particular dislike, just in general? Pick these out and put them in their appropriate groups with the other cards. Look over these cards carefully, and make a mental note of which ones you may have instinctive preferences or dislikes for.
The main purpose of this exercise is to realize that we all have conscious or unconscious preferences for some court cards and dislike for others, because of who we associate these cards with or simply the way they are drawn. It is important to be consciously aware of these potential biases and be careful to be impartial when doing readings for others. Each of these cards has positive and negative attributes, and may be helpful or harmful in a given situation. Just as we try to be careful not to judge people by their appearances, we need to exercise the same degree of care when reading court cards for others. Try not to fall into the trap of thinking of some court cards as always bad or always good – look instead at the position the card is in, whether it is upright or reversed (or well or poorly dignified), and what association the card seems to have with the client. However, in our readings for ourselves, it is fine to let these associations into the reading, since they are appropriate for our own personal lives.
Myers-Briggs Personality Types and Tarot
One way to explore personality types is to use the Myers-Briggs system and associate it with the court cards. Under the Myers-Briggs system, there are four scales of personality traits: extrovert/introvert, intuitive/sensing, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. On each of these four scales, you can be all the way to one end, or anywhere in between. Together these four sets of opposing traits combine into 16 personality types, which can be assigned to the 16 court cards. For example, you might decide that the Queen of Cups is an INFP, or introvert-intuitive-feeling-perceiving type. Here are some web sites where you can read and learn more about the personality scales and types:
On these sites, you can read about the personality types, which have been assigned descriptive names in addition to the four-letter abbreviations, such as “Healer” for INFP. These descriptions and names may help in developing personalities for your court cards.
Exercise #6. Learn about the Myers-Briggs system from the web sites listed above, or just think about the terms and opposites involved in this system. Try assigning the 16 personality types to the court cards. Start by making a chart with the suits on the left and the ranks along the top, then associating certain attributes with suits or ranks. Use these personality types to fill in the blanks in your personality profiles. (If you get stuck, I have listed my Myers-Briggs associations at the end of this lesson – yours may differ, as interpretations could easily vary).
Exercise #7. Take the Myers-Briggs personality test on one of the above web sites, and compare the results to the court card you selected to represent yourself. Does it match? If not, what is different? Don’t worry if the gender doesn’t match – in actuality, all court cards can be applied to either gender.
Here is one possible way of developing Myers-Briggs associations:
Feeling: Cups and Pentacles / Thinking: Swords and Wands
Intuitive: Cups and Wands / Sensing: Swords and Pentacles
Extroverts: Knights and Kings / Introverts: Pages and Queens
Judging: Pages and Kings / Perceiving: Knights and Queens