How To Finally Conquer The Tarot Court Cards

For many years I was troubled by the Tarot Court Cards. I had trouble remembering them, their personalities and attributes. The bigger picture was missing for me, not to mention the finer details! I tried many methods in an effort to assist in my learning and remembering of them, but I had one fairly large hurdle to overcome – my memory! It’s just not up to speed, it doesn’t matter which way I look at it – I have a flaw!

All joking aside though, it has hindered me somewhat; though learning and memorising the rest of my tarot decks was easier for a couple of reasons:

  • I was using the Rider Waite-Smith Tarot deck to learn Tarot, and as you’re no doubt aware, the Minor Arcana is illustrated – problem solved! I could free associate to my hearts content, read the symbols, use my intuition and still get it right, perfect.
  • The Crowley Thoth contains keywords on its Tarot cards, another great visual aid that worked for the rest of the deck.

Those techniques were less effect for me with the Court Cards though, even trying to apply the elemental associations to them didn’t help at that early stage, and they continued to haunt me until I bought the Quest Tarot. It’s very close to the Thoth in that it has a different Court structure to the Rider Waite-Smith; the Quest Tarot keeps the female to male ratio of the Thoth, but takes things a little further by making the Court Cards into a regular family, complete with Father, Mother, Son and Daughter. It even has keywords on the Court Cards too – an immense help.

Tarot Court Family

That’s when the magic happened – right before my eyes with a light bulb flashing on and off in my head – I had the answer to finally understand and remember the Tarot Court Cards!

So what was the light bulb moment? The Quest Tarot shows a family – and I have one of those! I realised I could find the Father of Stones (King of Pentacles) in my own father – I actually knew enough people to link or associate them with a corresponding Tarot Court Card! This was getting easier by the minute and the more I thought about it, the more I kicked myself for not getting this sooner!

How To Remember The Tarot Court Cards

Court Card personalities are made up of many attributes, and they can get confusing. Once I put a face I recognised to a Tarot Court Card, I had begun to animate them in a way that brought them to life for me. The nuances between the attributes became less cloudy too, and to be honest, less important.

Tarot Court Family KingsFor example, my father is a Gemini sun, so he’s an Air sign, aligning him to the King of Swords. Only for me, my father is the King of Pentacles. He is a builder, and creator; he’s very much the patriarch of our family, taking care of each one of us in a very practical, pragmatic way. Yes, he’s a thinker and analyser, those Air traits are there to see, but the core of who he is belongs to Earth. Now I had something to measure the King of Pentacles by, I broadened my horizons and found it was easy to look at the people in my life, family and friends, and analyse them and decide which Tarot Court Card they were.

All of the Court Cards came to life for me in this way, even down to the Pages of the Rider Waite-Smith deck as I know plenty of youngsters. I also found Thoth Princes and Princesses amongst the people I knew – exploring the Tarot Court Cards was now becoming a fun exercise instead of a laborious one!

Finding Your Own Tarot Court Card Family

Look at your immediate family first. Presuming you have the traditional family set up, assess your own father and decide which king he represents to you. You now know one of those kings intimately. Repeat this for your mother and siblings, being the people closest to you, their personalities will be very familiar to you and before you know it, you will have your own Tarot Court Card family, up close and personal.

Once you’re happy with assigning Tarot Court Cards to your nearest and dearest, progress the exercise to your extended family and friends. You’ll be surprised to discover how many people you actually know and before long you’ll be seeing Tarot Court Cards walking around everywhere! I even look at the general public now and assess what Tarot Court Card I think they represent.

Contradictory Attributes and Assessments

Earlier I told you that I see my father as the King of Pentacles and yet astrologically he’s an Air sign, Gemini, which should technically make him the King of Swords instead. In reality, he’s both of those kings, but because I have the benefit of knowing him, I can tip the scales in favour of the King of Pentacles.

My mother is no doubt the Queen of Pentacles, but she is also very Watery, and so she could easily be represented by the Queen of Cups and her Pisces sun sign confirms this, but she is also the epitome of a home maker, baking bread, making school play costumes, tending to home and garden in a way that comes so naturally and easily to her. I can also tip the scales in favour of the Queen of Pentacles because I know her so intimately and personally.

You wouldn’t have such a luxury during a Tarot reading. So how do we overcome this apparent contradiction?

In many ways we don’t. My father is still an Air sign and if I was doing a Tarot reading for him, or one that he showed up in, I might expect to see him as either King. The simple fact is that his astrological sun sign is only one element that makes up his personality. After all, your natal chart consists of more than your sun sign. So the King that turns up to represent a male in a Tarot reading can initially be assessed by the astrological sign associated with it. Depending on the spread, you may be able to glean more information about him from the surrounding cards. You could also pull separate, independent Tarot cards to enquire about his personality more deeply.

The point is you don’t need to worry about that at this time. The most important apsect is bringing the Tarot Court Cards to life in a way that you can relate to and understand. Rather like making a photographic collage consisting of The Tarot Court Cards and your family – once you can see what your Tarot Court Card family look like, you’ll be quickly on your way to knowing them personally, easily and with a lot more fun that sweating over correspondences and attributes that will slot into place a lot quicker once you can put a face to the name.

Tarot Court Family Queens SWYou can also explore the different personality types with one person. If we look at the example at my mother again, I concluded she is the Queen of Pentacles, but could also be the Queen of Cups. She is also very intelligent, with a quick mind – sound like the Queen of Swords? She is also hugely creative, with an energy unrivaled when fired up – the Queen of Wands? The fact is she can be all of those queens, so can I and so can you. Exploring her personality and comparing her with the Tarot Queens has enabled me to see at first hand, the attributes associated with them in a way I can relate to, bringing them and the rest of the Tarot Court Cards to life.

The Quest Tarot is used with kind permission of its creator Joseph Ernest Martin.

The Tarot Court Card Index

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Author: Catherine

I use tarot to help me navigate life and understand myself better. As well as tarot, I enjoy using aromatherapy & herbalism to improve my health & well being. My spiritual seeking lay with Gaia, the environment & what my senses engage around me.

21 thoughts

    1. Hi Jason,
      Thanks for your comment. I have always seen myself represented by more than one of the four queens at various points in my life and during readings, I don’t think that is so unusual. Though during an Opening of the Key spread for myself I did a while ago, it became apparent very quickly that all four queens who were present in that reading did in fact represent me! Looking at yourself and comparing them to a Tarot Court Card is a good exercise, if we can be totally honest with ourselves; it’s an even better exercise when we take ourselves out of the picture and examine one person through one Court card – it’s not subjective and it allows for greater exploration. I do it all the time now.
      Glad you enjoyed the post πŸ™‚

      Warm wishes,

      Catherine

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  1. I loved this post! How fascinating to realise that, simply by having had relationships with people, we already have more knowledge about court cards than could ever be contained in a book. Because I have a Mum, I’ve been studying tarot Queens in depth for over three decades… and I wasn’t even aware until you pointed it out just now! Thank you so much!

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    1. Hi Liani,

      Thanks for your comment. It seems like a no-brainer really – the Tarot Court Cards have been under our noses all this time, we just didn’t see them! It was applying this really simple method that made the Court Cards into real people for me so that I knew what the King of Swords might be really like, or the Queen of Pentacles. Not just that, but the layers of personality we all have – my mother for an example being both the Queen of Cups and the Queen of Pentacles; seeing both of those queens ‘in action’ over the years has enabled me to understand the nuances and interactions within her, and indeed myself, which in turn has enabled me to transfer that understanding to Tarot readings when ever a Court Card (or two?) is dealt.

      Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the post πŸ™‚

      Warm wishes,

      Catherine

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  2. This is a great concept! I think people struggle with the Court Cards almost more than any other – at least that has been my experience when teaching them. But relating them directly to people we know makes the connection more intimate – and that certainly can make them more memorable.

    Too bad my family is such a hot mess that I’ll have to look at the reversed meanings! LOL

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    1. Hi Theresa,

      Thank you for you kind words and of course your comment πŸ™‚ I struggled with the Tarot Court Cards for a long time until it dawned on me that I knew them all already! I do have to credit the Quest Tarot for showing me the idea of a family as the Court, it was integral to the concept and then the development of the idea.

      I think having a messy family is quite normal isn’t it?! Mine isn’t without its characters, events or shenanigans either; it just enriches the whole process I think, enables us to see the good side and the less attractive side to the Court Cards in real life. A kind of Discovery Channel special on HDTV right there in my living room!

      Glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for stopping by.

      Warm wishes,

      Catherine

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  3. A fantastic tip for those who are finding them difficult – I certainly did for a long time! My trick was to link them with mythological figures, but using people you know does really open them up.

    One thing I’ve noticed when reasing is that people often have 2 or 3 court cards that constantly come up, usually linked with their Sun, Moon and Rising signs. They are often represented by different ones in times of their lives when they are using the correspondign character traits of the planetary influences. I was really excited when I noticed this!

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  4. Wow – you have just helped me no end as I am new to this. I have always been drawn to the cards by their pictures. I had thought of this way of remembering the cards, and what they mean. I have a deck that was designed & created by artist Ciro Marchetti, they’re good for me as they tell different stories with the cards. I have the deck The JJ Swiss, they are good but hard to understand for a beginner but now I can make some advances with this a wonderful post. When I get more experienced I will go back to the other deck as well, when I understand more.

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    1. Hi Colin – I’m very pleased that you got such a lot from this post, and the Gilded Tarot. It’s a beautiful deck and a really nice one to familiar with all the characters in a deck. If you lay the Gilded out in any spread, but particularly a Celtic Cross Spread, and some Court Cards come out, you will be able to see first hand how ‘chatty’ this deck is. The characters look at each other, not just the Court Cards, but the Major Arcana too – it’s like peeking into a whole conversation they’re having πŸ™‚

      It’s also important when you’re beginning your journey into Tarot to remember to take it easy, not rush but mainly enjoy yourself. Let your cards speak to you, as they do to each other and you will find that you make some great connections to those cards in a way you never could if you just followed the accompanying book.

      Thank you for stopping by Colin, and welcome to Tarot Elements!

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  5. Great article, thank you!

    Another deck which uses the family motif is another of my favourites – the Haindl… I love those cards, just wish the actual physical cards were smaller and easier to handle!
    I’ve also found the Meyer/Briggs associations or attributes hugely helpful, but difficult to remember.. Also, elementary associations don’t easily yield enough information, but I would have to agree that the technique of finding the court personalities in the people in my life has been the most useful aspect of trying to remember what each card represents.

    Cheers!

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    1. HI Andrew,

      Interestingly, Hermann Haindl modelled his tarot deck on the Thoth, and Joseph Martin modelled the Quest on the Haindl – small world πŸ™‚

      I agree about the Meyer/Briggs, we have to be careful that we don’t over complicate things. The Golden Dawn’s double element system is decent for broad outline of court personalities but I agree it’s not sufficient for a more detailed look. Observing the people around me and recognising traits and attributes of the court cards in them really helped me create my own Tarot Court Family.

      Thank you for your comment, welcome to Tarot Elements.

      Catherine

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