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Tarot Court Cards - An Overview of Reading the Court Cards in Tarot


Designed by Pamela Coleman Smith under the direction of AuE.Waitethur
Page of Pentacles - Rider waite

Media from WIX
Tarot Spread

The Court cards of the Tarot Deck consist of the King, Queen, Knight, and Page. There are other names the court cards go by such as Master or Visionary for King. The Queen in some decks goes by Lady or Mother. The Knight can be seen as the Seeker or the Artist in other decks. The Page can be seen as the Student or Child.


Media from WIX
A Knight and his owl

The Court cards can be referred to the face cards, people, or human cards. There are tarot deck creators who give different names to the Court cards to give a non-binary and non-royal hierarchy feel to the Tarot face cards. Some card creators don't like the word "Court" and will refer to these cards as human, face, or personality cards. Some alternate names for Court cards include:

  • Mentor, Teacher, Advisor, Guide - instead of King

  • Mother, Crone, Nurturer, Shadow - Inside of Queen

  • Messenger, Artist, Traveler, Risk-taker- Instead of Knight

  • Student, Child, Beast, Apprentice - Instead of Page or Valet


As a professional Tarot Reader, I appreciate all of these names and the creativity behind them. Over the past couple of decades, I have learned that sometimes the traditional court names of Queen, King, Knight, and Page can be offputting to clients so I make sure to explain how I read these cards. Like the pip cards (number cards) the energy is important. The Queen's energy is not necessarily an actual female person, however, it can be. Not only is your intuition and knowledge of the cards important in reading for others, but the conversation between you and your client is important. When reading the court cards in a spread, I read the energy of the card and I ask my clients how they feel about the card. For instance, I ask, "What or who does this card remind you of?"


The Court cards can bring up the following in a reading:

  • a person

  • an action, lack of action

  • an attitude, a way of thinking, a change in a way of thinking

  • Emotions

Court cards can be very helpful to the client in recognizing their emotions or feelings regarding a situation. I find the court cards are very helpful in helping a client with self-reflection and using the cards to give "permission" to feel what you feeling. Where the pip/numbered cards let us recognize the day-to-day events in our lives, the Court cards help us recognize:

  • how we feel about the day-to-day

  • how we are feeling about what's going on

  • what actions we are taking to deal with the day-to-day

  • how we are showing up for others and ourselves

  • who is showing up for us, i.e. who can help or advise us


Reading the Court Cards:


When reading the court cards in tarot, here is an overview:


The Page/Valet


Rank: Initial or Start of a phase, process, or beginning

Energy: Hesitation, uncertain and humble

Element: Earth


The Page in Tarot is represented by a young person. In many cards, we are not sure if this is a male or female. There are many sweet and tender qualities of this figure such as flowing hair, wide eyes, and a sweet smile. Looking at the posture of the figure we get a sense that there is hesitation and uncertainty. The figure looks "innocent' and needs advice or guidance and maybe a little help. The Page figure is someone who doesn't own a lot, is dressed very modestly, and is still dependent.


There is also a bit of awkwardness to these figures:


The cup is heavy and the figure seems to struggle with holding the Cup and looking into it.

The club or wand is often very big in comparison to the Page figure and they cannot hold it.

The sword is also big for the Page figure and it is held very awkwardly against the shoulder.

The coins or pentacles - the Page figure seems to be able to handle one of the two.


When we look at the suit symbol of the card the symbols look big and difficult to handle. We can interpret this to mean that The Page is at a learning stage. They are learning to handle money, a project, a skill, or becoming aware of their feelings. There is also an appearance of a lack of control and a need for guidance. For instance:

  • The Page of the Cup stumbles

  • The Page of Wand is not able to carry their club

  • The Page of Swords is trying to put the sword in its sheath

  • The Page of Coins cannot handle so many - they can only carry one

On another note, the Pages can represent a stage/process:

  • working in a new field or skill

  • apprenticeship

  • a fresh new start

  • help from others

  • forgiveness of past mistakes

  • childish attitude/lack of maturity

  • not responsible or lack responsibility




Valet de Coupe
page of Cups Jean Dodal Marseilles Tarot

The Page of Cups (Earth & Water): The suit of cups has indications of the water element (emotions, intuition, feelings, relationships, love); the Page has indications of the earth element (need for grounding, growth, and maturity as well as mentorship)

  • Awareness of feelings after a brief encounter

  • beginnings of a new romance

  • hesitation to show feelings

  • sincerity

  • good intentions

  • discovering one's desires

  • playfulness, light-heartedness

  • artisticness

  • dreams, intuition

On the other hand:

  • immaturity and not taking care of relationships

  • shyness

  • overwhelming feelings

  • need to learn one's responsibility in a relationship

  • need to control one's impulses

  • frustration

  • pessimistic

  • seeking attention

  • fantasizing

  • preoccupation with partying or FOMO (fear of missing out)



Valet D epees
Page of Swords - Jean Dodal Marseilles Tarot

Page of Swords (Earth & Air): The suit of Swords has indications of the air element (communication, education, institutions,

Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Page of Swords - Rider Waite Tarot

learning, conflicts, intellect, and legal issues);  the Page has indications of the earth element (need for grounding, growth, and maturity as well as mentorship)

  • preparation

  • challenge

  • learning to use both logic and desire to make decisions

  • learning one's power

  • finding one's voice

  • managing fight or flight reactions

  • making use of information

  • careful observation of others' actions and conversations

On the other hand:

  • speaking without thinking

  • fear to speak up

  • confusion

  • negative thought forms

  • self-sabotage

  • feeling threatened

  • using manipulation tactics

  • unreliable information

  • gossip



Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Page of Wands - Rider Waite Tarot

Jean Dodal Tarot - Lyon 1701
Page of Wands - Jean Dodal Tarot

Page of Wands (Earth & Fire): The suit of wands has indications of the fire elements (ambition, career, creativity, sexuality, competition, rivalry); the Page has indications of the earth element (need for grounding, growth, and maturity as well as mentorship)

  • new projects, new situations, creative potential

  • busy with mundane tasks but the overall path looks promising

  • learning how to manage the demands of others

  • manage reaction requires cooling of temper

  • learning to analyze details of projects before diving right into them

  • actor, sales, performer, and hard worker

on the other hand:

  • learning to deal with delays

  • hot-tempered, urges and desires need to be controlled

  • morose

  • stubbornness and inability to be an effective team worker

  • trouble finishing projects

  • takes little ownership of mistakes



Jean Dodal Tarot - Lyons c.1701
Page of Coins - Jean Dodal Marseilles Tarot

Page of Coins/Pentacles (Earth & Earth): suit of coins/pentacles has indications of the earth element (grounding, skills, resources, home, physical health, mental health, healing, finances, family, social status);  the Page has indications of the earth element (need for grounding, growth, and maturity as well as mentorship)


Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Page of Pentacles - Rider Waite Tarot

  • endeavor

  • potentials yet to be discovered

  • possibilities of success

  • grounding

on the other hand:

  • hesitant to move forward

  • needs to define the purpose

  • not open to opportunities "missing the boat"



The Knight

Rank: Moving towards the goal, Committed to service -older than pages; teenage, younger adult

Energy: Advancement, commitment, action. movement

Element: Fire


Knights in the tarot are mounted on horses that are usually in movement symbolising advancement towards a goal or achieving results. Knights are dedicated to a vision or service. They are honourable, and brave, and can be viewed as risk-takers. The motion that is depicted in most Knights' cards is fast with the knight appearing to control their horse and may indicate travel. They can be seen as messengers who take risks to make sure the truth is heard. The horse is the card that can be seen as a representation of people, and family that a person uses to achieve a goal. How fast the horse appears to be going is how fast and fierce the person is willing to work to achieve their goals. Knights can be seen as romantic and an individual that can sweep you off your feet.


The cup is presented as if there were a proposal or romantic gesture of devotion

The club or wand is held in the Knight's gaze to indicate a fixation on desires

The sword is held in such a way as to force energy in a desired direction.

The coins or pentacles - the coin appears in front of the knight to indicate the awareness of one's goal


Jean Dodal, Lyon c. 1701
Knight of Cups - Jean Dodal Tarot

The Knight of Cups (Fire & Water): Cups is the suit of the

Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Knight of Cups - Rider Waite Tarot

water element (emotions, intuition, feelings, relationships, love); the Knight represents the fire element (relationships, love, partnership, devotion, romance, emotions)

  • devotion to a cause

  • openness

  • honourable service to others

  • authentic

  • give oneself to love

on the other hand:

  • self-delusional or someone who lives in a fantasy world

  • motives to romantic gestures or devotion

  • idealist to the point of radical

  • shallowness


Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Knight of Swords - Rider Waite Tarot

Jean Dodal, Lyons c. 1701
Knight of Swords - Jean Dodal Tarot

The Knight of Swords (Fire & Air): The suit of swords is of

the air element (communication, education, institutions, learning, conflicts, intellect, and legal issues); the Knight represents the fire element (relationships, love, partnership, devotion, romance, emotions)

  • lots of drive and energy

  • moving left in some cards perhaps a warning of going in the wrong direction

  • mask on the left shoulder suggests doubts

  • control over the impulses even though the required resources are in hand

  • the need to double-check the direction of the path or double-check to see if there are "blind spots"

  • having found the right direction or hesitating to find the right moment

  • need to look out for red flags or warning signs

on the other hand:

  • motivation is met by doubts and fear

  • resistance from other blockages to forge ahead

  • insisting on the wrong choice

  • stubbornness

  • enforcing one's views

  • losing groundedness



Jean Dodal, Lyons c.1701
Knight of Wands - Jean Dodal Tarot

Knight of Wands (Fire & Fire): The Wands is the suit that has

Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Knight of Wands - Rider Waite

indications of the fire element (ambition, career, creativity, sexuality, competition, rivalry); the Knight represents the fire element (relationships, love, partnership, devotion, romance, emotions)

  • preoccupation with desires

  • impulse

  • hesitation to move forward for a moment to reflect on goals

  • taste for the finer things in life

  • self-expression

  • creative energy

  • ability to self-reflect and correct mistakes

on the other hand:

  • lack of direction

  • obsessiveness with romance, falling in love quickly and deeply

  • compulsiveness

  • lack of direction - no plan

  • lack of self-awareness and a tendency to hurt others (narcissism)



Jean Dodal, Lyon c.1701
Knight of Coins - Jean Dodal Tarot

Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Knight of Coins - Rider Waite

Knight of Coins/Pentacles (Fire & Earth): The suit of coins/pentacles has indications of the earth element (grounding, skills, resources, home, physical health, mental health, healing, finances, family, social status); the Knight represents the fire element (relationships, love, partnership, devotion, romance, emotions)

  • devotion to one's plans

  • material goals

  • using creativity to achieve success

  • managing self-expression

  • short term gains

On the other hand:

  • view may be too short-sighted to plan for the long term

  • desire for wealth leads to impulsive actions that are not well thought out

  • one feels that one can never have enough material wealth and so one is never satisfied

  • instability


The Queen

Rank: Achievement and protector and has nurtured projects to realise product/goal

Energy: maintaining status, nurturing, defensive, cautious, suspicious, serious, stable, conscious, bearing fruit, achievement, preservation, conservative, maternal instinct

Element: Water


The Queen in each suit is seated on a throne with her crown. In one hand she holds the symbol of the suit she is representing and in the other, a scepter is held against her upper body, or a hand is placed on her belly, or a hand is placed firmly on the armrest as she sits on her throne. The suit symbol (coin, wand, sword, or cup) is held in one hand indicating that the Queen intends to hold onto her status and achievements. If she is holding a scepter, she means to remind you of her status. If a hand is on her belly intends to remind us of her nurturing ways and on the other hand, her life suffacating ways. She is someone to be reckoned with whether she represents a person in our life or represents an aspect of our personality. The Queen is often kind and polite, but that doesn't you can mess with her!


The cup is covered in many decks to suggest that the Queen keeps her feelings to herself and is guarded

The club or wand is quite large and appears to be made just for her. The bottom tip is held at the pelvis to indicate she knows how to use her sexual appeal. She is also protective of what is hers.

The sword is held in such a way that she will use it at a moment's notice and this indicates her sharpness and wit

The coins or pentacles - the coin appears is held in front of her to remind us that she is a woman of accomplishments



Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Queen of Cups - Rider Waite
Jean Dodal, Lyon c.1701
Queen of Cups -Jean Dodal Tarot

The Queen of Cups (Water & Water): The Suit of Cups is of the water element (emotions, intuitions, feelings, relationships, love); the Queen indicates the water element (relationships, love, partnership, devotion, romance, emotions)

  • desire for control of emotions and relations (closed cup indicates she controls her emotions and the heavy crown on her head represents keen awareness

  • self-control

  • intellectual

  • generous

  • nurturing

  • emotionally content

  • present

On the other hand:

  • blocked emotionally - may indicate past traumas

  • the past affects the present - one can not forgive and move on

  • defensive and suspicious

  • difficulty with trust and opening up


Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Queen of Swords - Rider Waite Tarot


Jean Tarot, Lyon c.1701
Quenn of Swords - Jean Dodal MarseilleTarot

The Queen of Swords (Water & Air): The suit of swords is of the air element (communication, education, institutions, learning, conflicts, intellect, and legal issues); the Queen has indications of the water element (relationships, love, partnership, devotion, romance, emotions)

  • justice

  • thinker

  • respects confidentiality

  • protective

  • worried about past

  • maintaining status or position

  • suspicious

  • caution

On the other hand:

  • avoids risks that can block progress

  • may use psychological control on others by using brainwashing techniques, and manipulation to maintain status and respect

  • uncompromising



Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Queen of Wands - Rider Waite Tarot

Jean Dodal , Lyon c.1701
Queen of Wands- Jean Dodal Marseille Tarot

The Queen of Wands (Fire & Air): the Wands is the suit that has indications of the fire element (ambition, career, creativity, sexuality, competition, rivalry); the Queen has indications of the water element (relationships, love, partnership, devotion, romance, emotions)

  • power and ambition - a very strong personality

  • sensuality, passion

  • fertility and growth

  • creativity and sexuality

  • confidence

  • intuitive

  • beauty, friendliness, generosity

  • kind and warm-hearted

On the other hand:

  • hurtful

  • uses beauty and sexuality to gain power

  • territorial



Jean Dodal, Lyon c.1701
Queen of Coins - Jean Dodal Tarot

Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
Queen of Pentacles -Rider Waite

The Queen of Coins/Pentacles (Water & Earth): The suit of coins/pentacles has indications of the earth element (grounding, skills, resources, home, physical health, mental health, healing, finances, family, social status); the Queen has indications of the water element (relationships, love, partnership, devotion, romance, emotions)

  • Past achievements

  • Knows what and how much resources to work with

  • Knows potential, opportunistic

  • stability and groundedness

  • very practical - maintains current material status (conservative)

  • financially intuitive

  • husbandry - harvester of goods, nurturer (in matters that deal with farming, earth, animals)

  • content with a home and family

On the other hand:

  • resistance to changing ways

  • resistance to progress

  • materialistic

  • hoarding in extreme cases

  • everything is analysed from a cost/benefit analysis and may miss out on the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional value


The King

Rank: the wisdom and experience. The advisor in work, family or a project. A time for a change in direction when the "old ways" no longer work

Energy: leadership, advisor, controller, wise, sternness order authority

Element: Air


The King in each suit sits on a throne. He wears a crown or a wide-brimmed hat that shows his status. In one hand he holds the symbol that he represents and the other hand rests firmly on the armrest of the throne or held firmly on his waist. His eyes are focused, and his face is calm, but his body shows that he is ready to get off his chair. His pose is dynamic and his upper body gives the energy of calm and ready to listen to whatever the situation is at hand, but the lower portion of the King's body seems like he will leap into action if someone gets out of line. The King gives advice and shares his experience, but he can also be domineering, controlling, and brutal when his dark side shows.


The cup is held in one hand but the King is often not looking at the cup. In some cards the opening of the cup is narrow. These are indications of King's control over his emotions and his measured approach to advancing his goals


The club or wand is quite large and has a point that is rather sharp and looks as though the King should be careful that he doesn't stab himself. In other King of Wands cards, the bottom of the wand or club is held close to one foot. This indicates a reminder for him not to be too hasty in his decisions.


The sword is held in one hand and upright. It doesn't threaten but reminds others of the King's authority


The coins or pentacles - the coin is held in one hand and appears as though the King is offering his generosity to others.

Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
King of Cups -Rider Waite Tarot

The King of Cups (Air & Water): The Suit of Cups is of the water element (emotions, intuitions,

Jean Dodal, Lyon c. 1701
King of Cups - Jean Dodal Tarot

feelings, relationships, love); the King has indications of the air element (communication, journalling, wisdom, conflict, discord, institution, academics)

  • Charisma

  • Intuitive

  • Wise

  • Art

  • Sociable

  • Kind advise

  • Open to new ideas

  • maturity

On the other hand

  • Control

  • Domineering

  • Emothionally abusive

  • Aggression comes from past hurts and trauma

  • uncommunicative

  • addiction issues




Jean Dodal, Lyon c.1701
King of Swords - Jean Dodal Marseille Tarot

The King of Swords (Air & Air): The suit of swords is of the air element (communication, education, institutions, learning, conflicts, intellect, and legal issues);  the King has indications of the air element (communication, journalling, wisdom, conflict, discord, institution, academics)


Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
King of Swords - Rider Waite

  • Teacher, Professor, writer, leader of institutions

  • open to possibilities

  • decisive

  • measured - control over emotions

  • wisdom

  • willpower and perseverance

on the other hand:

  • vain or too proud for one's good

  • argumentative

  • forceful

  • destructive when it comes to institutions

  • oppressive

  • severe punishment


The King of Wands (Fire & Air): the Wands is the suit that has indications of the fire element (ambition, career, creativity, sexuality, competition, rivalry); the King has indications of the air

Jean Dodal, Lyon c.1701
King of Wands - Jean Dodal Marseille Tarot

element (communication, journalling, wisdom, conflict, discord, institution, academics)

Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
King of Wands - Rider Waite
  • creativity energy that is measured; prudence; self-discipline

  • foresight

  • look for ways to improve and progress

  • optimistic

  • make use of contacts for advancement

  • maturity

  • self-reflective

  • investor

on the other hand:

  • impulsive

  • making moves too fast; making changes without much thought

  • restrictive

  • pushes too hard on others

  • bully, selfish, stubborn, physically harsh

  • make situation complicated



Jean Dodal, lyon c.1701
King of Coins - Jean Dodal Marseille Tarot

The King of Coins/Pentacles (Air & Earth): The suit of coins/pentacles has indications of the earth element (grounding, skills, resources, home, physical health, mental health, healing, finances, family, social status); King has indications of the air element (communication, journalling, wisdom, conflict, discord, institution, academics)

Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite
King of Coins - Rider Waite
  • visionary

  • foresight

  • optimistic yet practical

  • contentment

  • discipline in financial matters

  • reliable

  • balance

thoroughly examines the situation before acting

On the other hand:

  • never having enough; greed

  • unable to move forward from losses

  • pessimistic

  • untrustworthy

  • corruption

  • gambler

  • fraud


Whether I am reading the tarot using cards of the Rider Waite system or the Marseille system (my favourite), I use the elements to describe the energy of the card and then the overall energy of the spread. Some tarot readers who use the Marseille tarot may argue that the Marseille system wasn't designed to use the earth, water, fire, and air elements, and therefore, assigning these elements to the cards in a reading is incorrect. However, using the four elements in the reading resonates with me and gives another "layer" of information to my clients.


Things to keep in mind when reading Court Cards:

  • Look at the gaze; what direction is the figure looking

  • What are the cards surrounding the court card

  • The expression on the figure's face

  • Does the figure in the court card remind you of a particular person, type of person or an aspect of the querent (person seeking a reading)

  • What personalities do you see in the court cards?

  • The posture of the figure in the card

  • Jean Dodal, Tarot de Marseille -restoration by Jean-Claude Flornoy

  • Rider Waite Tarot Deck - Designed by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur E.Waite



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