“Embrace those parts of yourself that you’ve skillfully avoided until now. That’s your true adventure.” – Gina Greenlee
The tarot deck contains three types of cards, each symbolizing a different aspect of ourselves and our lives. In previous posts, I’ve explored the significance of the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. In this article we’ll look at the third type, the Court Cards.
They have a reputation for being more challenging to connect with than the others, which was the case for me when I first learned to work with tarot. In time and with plenty of practice, though, I’ve found a way of approaching this set of cards that makes them very easy to understand and work with. If you struggle with the “courts”, please don’t be discouraged. They offer an incredible opportunity to strengthen your tarot work and appreciate many different sides of yourself.
The 16 Court Cards illustrate different parts of our personality. A way to think of this is to imagine that within the “whole you” are 16 different “parts of you”. A few of these parts will dominate most of the time, but each one has its time and place. Court Cards make us aware of the different parts of ourselves, so we can discover just how complex we really are! We can then integrate these parts into the whole.
The 4 Types of Court Cards represent Stages of Development
Each of us is more fully developed in some ways and in the process of developing in other ways. Think about it: aren’t there times you behave more maturely than other times? At times you are the responsible parent or manager at work; other times you act out impulsively and perhaps notice you weren’t “yourself”; still other times you allow yourself to have fun on the weekends or when engaged with something you enjoy. The Court Cards reflect these different levels of development of our selves. There are four types of Court Cards, one for each of the four suits. Each of these four types are a representation of our level of development within that element of our personality.
How could we best grasp this idea of personal development? Think of children, teenagers, and adults. Children are energetic and filled with potential; teenagers are developing and often unpredictable; and adults are generally mature and more evolved. With the Court Cards, we see that we have four sets of children, teenagers, adult women, and adult men living within ourselves.
In reality, none of us is fully developed. We are all in the continual process of growing and maturing our entire lives. We might say that the child, teenager, and adult parts of us spring up, based on the specific circumstances at the time. Each of these can be reflected by the 16 Court Cards.
Remember that tarot cards represent symbolic archetypes. Therefore, Court Cards don’t show us how developed we are overall; they illustrate how developed we are in a specific area of our lives, in a given situation. When we draw a Court Card, we have the opportunity to see 1 out of 16 different sides of ourselves. We can learn a lot about ourselves in this way!
No one Court Card is inherently better than any other. It’s tempting to think that being more fully developed and mature is preferable, but that’s not always the case. With the Court Cards, we’re best served to release harsh judgments of ourselves and assumptions that maturity is always preferable to youth. Each of these sides of us serve their purpose, and all 16 of the Court Cards have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s healthy to embrace the child within us sometimes, or the idealistic teenager. Working with tarot allows us to do this in a mindful way, with awareness and intention. Remember, too, that these cards never reflect who are in totality; just that one out of 16 parts of ourselves, in a specific circumstance, in the moment we drew that card.
Two of the Court Card types represent our young and developing selves. The Page is the most youthful part of ourselves. When we think of children, we think of enthusiasm, potential, and innocence. Each of us retains these parts of personality throughout our lives. The Knights are the developing aspects of ourselves, similar to teenagers. When we think of adolescents, we are reminded of energy, impulsiveness, and inconsistency. They are less naïve, but far from mature. We have these parts of our personality throughout life as well.
Queens and Kings represent the adult, developed parts of our personalities. They are differentiated from each other by representing either internal or external command. The Queens are the ways we have mastered our internal states: self-awareness, creativity and understanding. The Kings are the parts of ourselves that have power, authority and the ability to accomplish in the world.
“But how am I a Queen?”
Keep in mind, these cards have nothing to do with the gender of the tarot user. Both men and women have equal King and Queen parts of their personality. Carl Jung referred to these parts as the anima and animus; they are the sacred feminine and masculine that dwells within all of us. Men will more naturally connect with the Kings and Women the Queens. But within us all is the the other gender, and to self-actualize is to discover and embrace that other gender inside of us.
It took me a while to identify with the Queens in the deck. When it appeared I would inevitably say to myself, “Queen of Cups? What does this have to do with me?” By engaging with with the cards and becoming increasingly aware of myself and my life, I’ve become adept at recognizing the Queen of Cups within me. And by doing so, over time, I’ve developed that side of my personality. This has made me a much more well-rounded and integrated person. Of course I’m very much a work in progress, but learning to recognize the Queen of Cups in myself has done wonders for my sense of personal empowerment. I see the loving, empathetic, self-aware, healing side of me that the Queen of Cups represents. What a breakthrough, made in the quiet spaces of my own psyche.
The same is true for other Court Cards. I didn’t even realize they were parts of my personality. In addition to all the Queens, the Page of Cups and Knight of Pentacles really challenged me to understand early on. But by seeing them and engaging with them through my daily tarot work I’ve discovered so many hidden aspects of myself. This has given me the opportunity to develop and integrate the 16 different “parts of me” into the “whole me”. This is incredibly healthy and deeply satisfying.
Within each of us are 16 basic personality types, and they each correspond to a Court Card in the tarot deck. Regardless of your age or your gender, you have the temperament of each of the following:
- Page: Youthful, simplicity, purity, beginnings, potential of that element
- Knight: Developing, impulsive, inconsistent, idealistic, extremes of that element
- Queen: Self-awareness, creativity, wisdom, understanding, internal command of that element
- King: Power, authority, leadership, accomplishment, external command of that element
As you get to know these 16 Court Cards very well, you will get to know the 16 distinct sides of your personality as well. You are likely to identify very easily with some of these cards right away, while others will seem foreign to you. Over time, the Court Cards that were once difficult to grasp will be more easily identified, both as we work with the cards, and in our daily lives.
The most effective means of deepening your understanding of the Court Cards and use them to grow is to relate them to yourself. Learn to see and appreciate the 16 different parts of you. As you do, you’ll develop and empower them all into the integrated Whole You.