A Simple Method for Interpreting Two Court Cards

by Douglas Gibb on January 6, 2010

Throughout the course of this blog, I’ve recommended interpreting the Court Cards primarily as individual people, and not as a reference to psychological states. Although I still think this is absolutely the best way to learn, I want to share with you a very simple approach to interpreting two Court Cards in a Tarot spread.

This is a method that I use all the time, and I’ve found it to be enormously helpful, especially when the combination of other cards makes it difficult to figure out the overall story behind a reading.

In order to make this article as helpful as possible, I want to present the information as a quick tip. In order to do that, I’m going to describe a common scenario for which I’d use this method.

Example Tarot Reading

Imagine that the client is a male, in his thirties, and he’s enquiring after his love life. That’s all we know. We don’t know what state his relationship is in, even if he has one, or what his sexual orientation is. We know nothing beyond the fact that he is a male, and he’s asking after his love life.

Now, imagine that none of the cards make much sense to you, and that the only cards that are grabbing your attention, are Court Cards; unfortunately, the Court Cards don’t tell us much, except that that there are potentially other people involved (always a good sign in a relationship reading).

Let’s say that there are two Court Cards involved in this reading; one of them is the Knight (or Prince) of Disks, and the other is the Knight (or Prince) of Cups. Normally, I would advice that you interpret them as two separate people (or at the very least, as representing the client and one other unique person); or as events that are either approaching or departing. However, because we don’t actually understand what the other cards are indicating, that assessment could end up being a mistake.

Solution

Under these sorts of conditions, I’ll interpret both the Court cards, in this particular example, as belonging to the client. I would (and do so often) make a leap of faith, and state that the client is already with someone (Knight of Disks) but wants to be with someone else (Knight of Cups).

Caution: Only use this technique when your intuition is telling you that this is the most likely scenario. There’s no way to be absolutely certain, it’s not an exact science.

Next, I would then look to the other cards to see if I could find collaborating evidence. For instance, perhaps the Hierophant is present within the reading. In this case, I might conclude that he’s actually married (Knight of Disks), that he’s a traditional kind of guy, but has developed romantic feelings (Knight of Cups) for someone else.

Conclusion – Final Thoughts

Naturally, if I couldn’t support this method of interpretation with the other cards, even loosely, then I’d abandon this method. However, nine out of ten times, I’ve found this method of interpreting Court Cards to be extremely helpful.

Do you use something similar? Is there a system that you use which helps you to confidently predict when Court cards represent the client, or other people? Did you agree, or disagree with my approach? I’d love to hear other peoples thoughts on this. I’ll see you in the comments :D

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20 comments… Let's discuss

Lori January 6, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Hi Doug,
Some good, helpful points there. Most readings, I find, are about relationships so every idea helps and I agree that it’s important to take into account the other, surrounding cards in a reading.
Thank you.

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Douglas Gibb January 6, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Hi Lori,

I’m glad you found this tip helpful.

I also do a lot of relationship based readings, and simple techniques like these sure do help to make life easier :D

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Paul Yeung January 6, 2010 at 4:53 pm

long awaited, Doug! :D

Again this is a problem I run into most of the time… I couldnt quite decide whether a court card is representing an individual, a psychological state or an event (that rarely happens but it does!), I can’t decide whether a Prince of Cups is indicating a libran-scorpion who is entering the querent’s life, or whether the querent himself/herself is displaying qualities represented by the Prince of Cups. It is especially confusing when I got up to 4,5 court cards in a Celtic Cross spread. Usually I would look for the astrological correspondence first, then describe the characters of the court cards, and ask the querents whether they think the court cards are representing an aspect of themselves or someone who is influencing their lives in whatever matter right now. Usually they could identify the court cards fairly quickly, (“Oh, that must be my crush! yes he’s been a workaholic all the time….”) but I found this to be less than helpful though coz it seems like I’m throwing the ball back to the querent… I’m still experimenting different ways to decide on the court cards. But it seems to me the court cards are fairly frequently representing states of mind or behaviors too.

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Douglas Gibb January 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Hi Paul,

Interpreting Court Cards in a Tarot reading can be tough, especially if we aren’t sure what the surrounding cards are indicating … or in your case, if we get more than 4 Court Cards in a single reading!

Simple approaches tend to work best … or leaps of faith (risks)!

…but I found this to be less than helpful though coz it seems like I’m throwing the ball back to the querent

I know what you mean.

In cases like these, I like to take a risk … or, alternatively I apply a reinterpretation approach. I’ll interpret the Prince of Cups (for example) as a romantic man about to enter the client’s life; I’ll then reinterpret it (but use the new information to form a sub-plot of the reading) as a man she already knows. Finally, I’ll reinterpret it to represent an aspect of her.

Try using that technique the next time you have difficulties with Court Cards :D

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Paul Yeung January 6, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I don’t quite follow the reinterpretation approach. So the Prince of Cups in the example can both represent someone in the client’s life and an aspect of the client herself?

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Douglas Gibb January 6, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Exactly!

This technique is a good way to practice the Tarot. It helps to separate our literal understanding from our my imaginative or creative ability to make connections.

Consider it this way: the Court Cards have different roles or functions. The Prince of Cups, can represent many different things – some of them contradictory. However, life itself is contradictory. Sometimes one card can represent contradictory meanings within the one reading. The Prince of Cups is a great card to get if you’re looking for love. However, when interpreted to represent the character of the person the client will fall in love with – not so good. The Prince of Cups can be ruthless, and act without regards to the feelings of others.

In life, the Prince of Cups can both represent a romantic individual entering the clients life, as well as describing the kind of person he is – warts and all! It’s not uncommon for people to fall in love with someone they felt was completely romantic in the beginning, but turned out to be obsessed with work – and ruthless with his goals – to the exclusion of the other person involved.

It’s a strange concept to start with, but it will soon help your ability to see the Court Cards in different ways!

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Paul Yeung January 6, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Oh yes!! I see what you mean! A reading can be multi-layered, so on one level a court card may represent an individual (perhaps when intepretated alone) but on another level, depending on the interaction with the surrounding cards, it may also point out the querent’s attitude to a certain question! Yes that makes perfect sense! And it definitely help answering why a Prince but not a Knight came up in the reading or vice versa!

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Douglas Gibb January 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Exactly! It’s a really awesome approach once you start using it. Let me know how you get on with it :D

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Kat January 7, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Douglas – You speak about Princes and Knights interchangeably. But based on Paul’s last reply, it seems he uses Prince and Page interchangeably. Confused me a bit.

I thank you for your post, and wonder if and how this method can be used for other topics not relating to love.

For example:
I am entering an interesting work relationship now with a gentleman I don’t really know. I pulled some cards in a self-made spread, and asked what I should know of his thoughts. I got 3 cards: 7 of Cups, King of Cups, Queen of Cups. So in my head that’s a pretty clear sign he’s not just looking to do work here.

In this situation, say I pulled the 7 of Cups and the King and Queen of Disks or Staffs, for example, that, I imagine would imply a different thing.

I find myself reading into the INTENTIONS of others based on which court card they come out as in that given reading, as I’ve had the same person show up as all 4 different Kings at any given time.

Does that make sense? Since personality traits vary depending on the moment.

Thanks!
Kat

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Douglas Gibb January 11, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Hi Kat,

In the Thoth deck, the Court Cards are named differently from the Rider-Waite style decks. A King in the Rider-Waite style decks is actually a Knight in the Thoth decks and a Knight in the Rider-Waite style decks is actually a Prince in the Thoth decks.

In this particular article, a Prince from the Thoth deck, is the same as a Knight from a Rider-Waite style deck.

Hope that helps to clear up any confusion :D

In your example, you asked:

what I should know of his thoughts. I got 3 cards: 7 of Cups, King of Cups, Queen of Cups.

Then you looked to contrast that with different Court Cards:

In this situation, say I pulled the 7 of Cups and the King and Queen of Disks or Staffs, for example, that, I imagine would imply a different thing.

If I’ve understood you’re question correctly, then I would agree with you that different Court Cards imply different things. Looking at your first three cards, this tells us that:

  1. He’s Emotionally involved
  2. Unlikely to act on it in any obvious way (at this time)
  3. Enjoying a connection with you – The King and Queen reflect each other and are in sync
  4. The 7 of Cups is the musing over what’s possible

If we then contrast that with the other set of Court cards then we get something rather different. These different Court cards indicate:

  1. There is a distinction between emotional fantasy and reality (the difference between Disks and Cups)
  2. There is a distinction between what he feels is possible (cups) and what he believes to be real (disks).
  3. He sees his relationship with you as dependable, solid, predictable and so on.
  4. Although he fantasies about the relationship existing differently (cups) he is not a risk taker – or the time for risks is for the future.

Overall, the two sets of readings that you describe hinge upon the 7 of Cups – possibility (but can it ever be reality)?

This would (and the Tarot so often works in this way) answer your question, but leave you with so many more :D

Hope that illustrates how different Court Cards imply different things – and how one card (the 7 of Cups) can provide the focal point for the others. If not, let me know and I’ll do my best to help :)

Theresa January 6, 2010 at 10:22 pm

The Court Cards are always a challenge to interpret – but your method makes so much sense. As always, thanks for sharing!

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Douglas Gibb January 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Hey Theresa,

Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you liked the post :D

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Helen January 7, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Interesting method Doug, one I shall keep in mind, thanks for sharing it. :)

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Douglas Gibb January 11, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Hi Helen,

Glad you liked it :D

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Ginger January 19, 2010 at 2:19 am

Doug I know this is probably a rather naive question but do you always interprete the Court cards as gender specific….I mean males as males and females as females or ???

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Douglas Gibb January 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Hey Ginger,

Your question is actually very complicated; it’s a tricky area.

90% of the time, I’ll be gender specific. In fact, at the very start of a Tarot reading, that is usually my standard approach. Occasionally, and this is all down to intuition, I’ll see the Court cards as representing different approaches the client is taking to different areas of their lives – like the example in the post.

Another approach I use, as standard, is to reinterpret the Court cards as events.

After I’ve interpreted the Court cards in a gender specific way, I’ll then reinterpret (should the reading allow) the cards to represent events.

This is a complex question because I’ve often identified myself as being the Queen of Swords. However, this is a completely different context because I’m actually doing a reading for myself – as a meditation. Doing a reading for yourself as a meditation often demands a different approach to the cards.

To make this clearer, when I read for other people, I’m diving their future. In this context, I’ll interpret the Court cards as gender specific. If the context is different, such as a mediation, then I’ll often use a different, much more psychological approach to the cards.

Again, it all depends on the situation and this area of the Tarot is very complicated because a one-rule-fits-all approach rarely works.

I hope that’s helped answer your question. :D

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Allen770 March 1, 2010 at 10:00 am

I tend to stay with my “tried & true” correspondences, so, regarding Court Cards, I’ve always said: “If one appears it could imply the querant” or “If two arrive we’ve got a conversation” but “If three show-up it could well be an argument” yet “If four or more we’ve got ourselves a PARTY!!!”

I too utilize Elementals and with Court Cards it’s the G.:.D.:. system of:

Kings/Knights = “Fire”
Queens = “Water”
Knights/Princes = “Air”
Pages/Princesses = “Earth”

and;

Wands = “Fire”
Cups = “Water”
Swords = “Air”
Pens = “Earth”

so, then (using your Thoth Court cards), Elementally it’s:

Knight of Discs= “Fire” in “Earth”

and;

Knight of Cups = “Fire” in “Water”

I concur here, with you, Doug, that the querent is quite “over-heated” and possibly in “lust,” considering that (elementally) the Knight of Cups “cancels itself out,” while the Knight of Discs implies a very Dry Heat, indeed! (In fact, including the “extra” element of “Water,” it may become somewhat “Steamy,” here, too-boot!)

So, yes, Doug: I can clearly see a querent who’s run “dry” in his current relationship and is very eager to seek experiment & adventure outside this “dank and dreary” hell he’s come to know, so well!

–amm770 . . .

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Douglas Gibb March 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Hi Allen770,

I liked reading your “tried & true” correspondences. Do you find them to be accurate? :D

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Aaron May 2, 2011 at 2:37 am

hey Doug,
First time responder here, i have been silently plundering the online tarot community and I love your blog. I like the way you deliver information. It is direct and personalized. I like how you tell what you think/know (have found to be true for you), but always leave an air of “this is what works for me, now try it out and tell me how it works for you”. I eagerly am rummaging your archives and can’t wait to get caught up to current blog posts and interact.

As for my question, it kind of relates to the knights vs kings classification. While is still subscribe 100% to the “to each their own” persuasion, I have had a few feathers ruffled as i delve deeper into the “people” of the court. I have taken as my own system of understanding that the knights/princes would be ranked as FIRE, and that the kings/knights would be ranked as AIR. This makes sooo much since to me elementally. The young knights/princes are the passionate fire that consumes in the name of their element without much regard to what is left in their wake. And the Kings/Knights would be of Air, that precise and exacting (yet still active) expression of their individual suit.

The majority of my perusing around online follows the above correlations from what i can tell, but there is an undeniable portion that reverses this system. They see the younger (knight/prince) as air… and the more mature (king/knight) as fire…

Again, to each their own, and we all see connections in different ways… but what are your thoughts on this? Does the Thoth use the knight/prince=air, king/knight=fire system? I have the Thoth on my wish list, i have NO experience with it.

I hope this wasn’t too off topic, I’ve just been wondering this for a while, and this blog post finally gave me a voice to ask.

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Douglas Gibb May 8, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Hi Aaron,

Thank you for your kind words.

The Thoth uses the Knight/prince = air, King/Knight = fire system.

The Thoth has roots in the Golden Dawn system which allocates the elements to the Courts in the above manner. The reason they do this has a lot to do with the whole paradigm of the Golden Dawn – their system of the Tree-Of-Life, the formula of Tetragrammaton amongst other things.

As you said, it doesn’t really matter what system you use, as long as it makes sense to you. One thing that I would say is to choose a deck that reflects your own world view. If you don’t like the way the elements are assigned in the Thoth, for example, don’t use the Thoth. There are plenty of decks which are in sync with your outlook on the Kings being Air and the Knights being Fire.

Thanks again for your kind words and I hope you like the other posts :)

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