Knight of Cups: The Champion / Dependent

offer love in support of another

Knights take action + Cups represent our emotional lives and how we relate to others

from the Deck of the Bastard, by Tarot by Seven

Where the Page brought the water element inward to explore, the Knight’s external nature expresses it outward. Peaceful and charming, diplomatic and chivalrous, the quest of this Knight is to bring out the best in others by supporting and cheerleading, making amends and offering gifts. It’s almost as if the cup he is holding contains within it the encouragement that is needed at any given time. Who provides that for you? The champion acts on behalf of others because they believe in them. What part of you encourages and supports others in their endeavors? Ready to gallop in and save anyone, they are the only Knight in the Smith-Waite deck without gloves, a sign of their open and outwardly giving nature.

This Knight always seems to be labeled as a romantic lover, but to me that’s too superficial and limiting of the nature of a court whose role is to take action in an element of compassion and in relationship to supporting others. All of the Cups courts — even the introspective ones — consider those outside of themselves.

In fact, borrowing from personality typing, all of the Cups are NFs (iNtuitive Feeling), and the ENFP is the inspirer who tends to bring out the best in others. They’re affirming, loyal, and optimistic with a good sense of humor, but they are driven to meet the needs of others.

In resistance, they rely on the affirmation of others and may become dependent — or co-dependent, enabling another’s addiction, emotional dysfunction, or irresponsibility.

In excess, their attentions or loyalty may be smothering. A darker side of this type may be manipulative — and quite good at it, as they understand the needs of others.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this court comes up include

  • In dark times, who can you count on to lift you up?
  • What part of you is supportive of others? Is this from a genuine desire for their well-being or the need of their favor, attention, or affirmation?
  • Do others tell you they need some space?
  • Do you become involved in causes or cases for others’ gratitude or indebtedness? What need or internal part does this serve?
  • Do you enable another’s self-sabotaging behavior?

What else? Court cards are complex and can be seen in many different ways, and you may have other insights. Who is this Knight in your life?

Knight of Wands: The Doer / Thrill-seeker

just do it

Knights take action + Wands represent the spark that drives our actions and our identities

from The Medieval Scapini Tarot

Where the Page was an eager and hopeful beginner, the Knight is more confident. Where the Page embarks on self-exploration or self-development, the Knight is now self-motivated as they direct this energy outward — and the Knight of Wands is motivated to act with the confidence of someone who is comfortable in their identity, the role(s) they’ve chosen for themselves and present to the world in their own style and with all the panache they choose. They are the pioneers; active, vigorous, impatient, passionate, competitive, daring, adventurous, and enthusiastic as they pursue adventure (be it creative or sexual or other), take risks, or compete with others. While those who apply esoteric systems to the cards and assign double elements to the courts usually correlate knights with air, I think that knights take action and the nature of fire is all about action. It’s hot, it’s moving. In this regard, the Knight of Wands is fire of fire. Just do it.

Looking to personality typing, ESTPs live in a world of action. Outgoing, blunt straight-shooters, they’re risk-takers who will plunge right in and get the job done (rules be damned — they are merely guidelines). They look at the facts, decide what to do, take the required action, and move on. Fast-moving fast-talkers, they’re usually a few steps ahead of the rest of us, making it up as they go. With a strong flair for drama and style (even flamboyant — which of course is rooted in the word flame), they love to have fun and are fun to be around. Because their focus is in getting things done, they need to keep moving and will avoid scenarios in which they are restricted or confined.

In resistance, they doubt their actions or feel shame in their identity, denying it or holding back from expressing themselves fully.

In excess, their risk-taking taken to extremes, they’re thrill-seekers drawn to reckless behaviors. (When throwing caution to the wind, keep in mind that air feeds fire!) They may take their showy nature to the extent of being a show-off, or exaggeration to the point of hysteria, out of fear that they’re not measuring up. What do they need to prove? And to whom?

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • Does fear or doubt hold you back from taking the action you truly desire?
  • Have you jumped the gun on something? Why did you feel compelled to move so fast?
  • What are you impatient about? Does this present as anger? What fear drives that?
  • Are you uncomfortable expressing the true you? How have you been wounded in doing so?
  • Do you tend to throw caution to the wind? How is that working out for you?

What else? There are many other questions we can ask. We all know a Knight of Wands — who is this person in your life or part in your psyche?

Page of Pentacles: The Apprentice / Lackey

explore your soul’s work with a hands-on approach

Pages explore, striving to understand their suit + Pentacles show us as spirits navigating the physical world

from Herbcrafter’s Tarot

The Page of Pentacles learns about the sensual world through a hands-on approach, bringing the ideas or plans in previous suits to form. Bored by the theoretical, they roll up their sleeves and develop skills in an apprenticeship or other manual learning or work opportunity which allows them to explore their soul’s Work and to feel more rooted in purpose. The speed of everything slows down in the Pentacles (quite an evolution from the sparky Wands!) as we learn to trust time and process, and this includes the qualities of being grounded, practical, steadfast, patient, and loyal.

In resistance, they lack the drive to plan for their future and take the real-world steps to manifest it, perhaps becoming servile, complacent in doing the work of others in a subservient manner, or pursuing the work that someone else wants for him.

In excess, they push their ambitions to riskier behaviors (such as gambling).

Questions we may be prompted to consider when this Page comes up include

  • Is there a skill you’d like to learn but haven’t? What holds you back?
  • Are you subserviently taking on the work of others? Do you resent it?
  • Are you comfortable in your body? Do you ignore your body’s needs? Why?
  • Conversely, do you work out excessively?
  • Do you deny yourself sensual pleasure? Does this stem from shame and where does that come from?
  • Do you seek the thrill of physical danger or risking material instability? What part(s) do you think drives that behavior?

What else? There are so many ways to interpret the Pages, and you may have other wisdom. How has it come up for you?

Page of Swords: The Thinker / Follower

explore new info to find your own truths

Pages strive to understand + Swords relate to the conscious rational mind and the expression of its belief systems

from Touchstone Tarot

The precocious student content to live inside their own heads contemplating new theories, beliefs, questions, concepts, they’re inquisitive and articulate with a restless mind and a bit to say; but before we can speak our truth, we must know our truth. They differ from the Pages of Wands and Cups in that they’re more serious. The fiery Page of Wands explores his inner spark with an energetic joie de vivre and the watery/dreamy Page of Cups is off frolicking with faeries while the Page of Swords is reading and ruminating. Their airy energy is quick-witted but often unconcerned with social cues or popularity contests, and may appear socially detached.

In resistance, they’re closed-minded. Lacking interest in exploring new ideas and discerning truths, they’re content to believe what they’re told.

Too lazy to compose their own words, they plagiarize those of others.

In excess, they’re absent-minded, so focused in their own thoughts that they’re oblivious to their environment, and real-world responsibilities go unheeded.

Questions we may be prompted to consider when this Page appears include

  • Do you find yourself doing more talking or more listening?
  • Are you often so focused in your own head that the outside world goes unnoticed?
  • Do you adhere tightly to your beliefs without actually thinking about them objectively?
  • When others question you, can you back it up with facts or do you get defensive and dig in your heels?

Page of Cups: The Dreamer / Puer

explore the inner and unseen realms with a playful heart

Pages strive to understand + Cups deal with our inner realms and how we relate to others

from the Hirajeta Tarot

Where the Page of Wands explores their passions, the Page of Cups explores their inner realms. They are reflecting, dreaming, imagining, curious about their own emotional capacity, unconscious depths, or esoteric topics. They are innocent, playful, and trusting. Creative, they’re fond of books, art, and music — and the ethereal places their imagination can take them. They go with the flow, easygoing and lighthearted, and make friends easily (and are the most likely to talk with animals and befriend faeries). Prone to sensitivity, they feel vulnerable and avoid any sort of discord or conflict.

This page corresponds perfectly to the INFP, and I haven’t seen a system of corresponding the types to tarot courts that doesn’t assign it here. INFPs are idealists and dreamers, curious, and loyal. They seek to understand others but can be less accepting of those who threaten their core values. Their primary goal is to find their meaning in life; how they can best serve humanity. As both idealists and perfectionists, they can be hard on themselves in their pursuit of the goals that they’ve identified for themselves. Considerate of others, they will go to great lengths to avoid conflict but when faced with it, will approach it from the perspective of their feelings rather than who is right and wrong; and they intuitively understand others’ perspectives and feelings, and genuinely want to help them. They’re flexible until one of their values is violated, and they may become aggressive defenders. As perfectionists with high standards, they can be very hard on themselves. INFPs who can’t balance their high ideals with the requirements of daily life will never be happy with themselves, and may become paralyzed about what to do with their lives.*

In resistance, they fear vulnerability and rejection. Riddled with self-doubt or illusion, they’re too insecure to act on their dreams and unwilling to take risks in matters of the heart.

In excess, they are slow to mature and leave their safe little worlds; perhaps the puer, refusing to grow up and accept the responsibilities of life.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • Do relationships frighten you due to a fear of being hurt?
  • Do you withdraw into fantasy in order to escape the stresses of life?
  • Have you abandoned a rich inner life because you were told it wasn’t real?

What else? This is a complex card and your insight may differ. How has it come up for you?

* from

Page of Wands: The Explorer / Dilettante

explore your inner fire

Pages strive to understand + Wands as the inner fire that sparks our actions and identities

from Tarot of the Holy Light

Pages are not outwardly focused but turn their attention toward their (suited) interest, and the Page of Wands examines his wand as if asking where it can take him. In the centered aspect of the card, we are curious, eager, energetic, creative, hopeful, intrigued, inspired, uninhibited, embarking on a new path, exploring a budding interest, pursuing adventure. It shows a quickening of spirit, a joie de vivre. We don’t need to take life so seriously. This is self-growth through following our inner spark.

If we borrow from personality typing, the ISTP is adaptable and spontaneous, busy and adventuresome, and therefore easily bored. Creative doers, they’re often risk-takers, thriving on variety and new experiences. They live in the present and are the independent sort, wary of structure and commitment. They need to do their own thing.

The Tarot of the Holy Light (pictured) depicts the Page of Wands as the Light Bringer and assigns it the Spring Equinox, welcoming longer days. The Light Bringer is unique and highly individuated; not one to copy but instead more Bohemian and independent, perhaps non-conformist. His specialty is finding simple solutions to complex problems.

In resistance, we have no interest in trying new things or identities. Held back by fear of failure or shame or societal expectations, we resist exploring our interest or making a fresh start.

In excess, we are always sampling, never committing. This is the jack of all trades, master of none. There may be a chameleon-like quality, quick to change for each new setting. We may be unpredictable or indiscrimate in our actions or projects. Here, we’re reminded that the H in ADHD may be either hyperfocus or hyperactivity.

Questions we may be prompted to explore when this card comes up include

  • What interest keeps calling you? Why haven’t you answered it?
  • Is there a role you want to step into or try on? What prevents you?
  • Does a fear of failure play a key role in how you express yourself?
  • Have you ever been ridiculed or shamed into abandoning something that inspired you?
  • What did you love to do as a kid but no longer make the time for? Why not?

What else? There are many ways to interpret courts and your insights may differ. What famous or fictional character does this remind you of? How has this card come up for you?

Establishing a Framework for the Court Cards

Part of the reason that tarot has endured these last 500 years is that it reflects life as fully as we can experience it, mirroring our day-to-day existence complete with its events and relationships and work and joys and sorrows and philosophical quandaries and spiritual questions and so on. If we think of the deck in three parts (pips, courts, and trumps), it’s helpful to give some structure to better understand how they relate to each other within this framework. Perhaps the best analogy to help understand each in reference to the whole is the theatre: the trumps as the set – the larger setting with overarching collective conditions such as climate or weather which give a sense of the more archetypal issues at play; the pips as the scenes, with their individual circumstances and actions and dialogue; and the courts as the cast, their different characters influencing and animating and personifying the scenes portrayed.

As such, the courts are without doubt the most complex part of the tarot. Are they the querent? Parts of the querent? Other people? Qualities to embody? Adding to their complexity is that they can be any and all of the above. Confounding this further are the many various ways or systems in which they can be named and categorized and compartmentalized. Are they ages, astrological signs (and if so, which?), personality types (again, there is no agreement on which is which!), or something else, entirely?

I still have the notes from my first tarot class, where I sat in Regina Russell’s Tea Room in the early 90s, learning how Wand courts are fire signs, very fair in their complexion, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Pentacles, on the other hand, are earth signs with “a sallow or swarthy complexion and dark hair & eyes.” This is a more traditional method of reading courts, carried over from a time when if women didn’t bear children, it was only because they were unable (reversed Queen of Swords). Granted, this was 30 years ago and the tea room had its roots in playing card cartomancy, but the examples show how meanings evolve over time as cultural shifts alter our lens. It also shows that no reading method is wrong. The teacher of this class was an amazingly good reader, and the meanings that she used for her cards reflected info back to her in the way that she chose and made sense for her to translate.

I, personally, abandoned the complexion and hair color method ages ago, and even the astrological assignments. Sure, Wands are fiery and Cups are emotional and so on, so they do correlate to the properties of fire signs and water signs, respectively; but sun sign alone is such a limited determinant of our persona within the scope of an entire chart, is it not? But let’s give it a fair shake, shall we? There are 12 astrological signs and 16 court cards. Well, okay, we can assign another property to one of the ranks. The four pages can be the four seasons. Or, wait- should that be the kings? Let’s worry about that later.

The signs are divided into 3 qualities: cardinal, mutable, and fixed; so we can assign each to a court rank. Cardinal is active, assertive, and initiatory, so that would be knights, right? Or maybe pages. Mutable is adaptive and flowing, so obviously the queens. But it’s also exploratory and evolving what already exists, which is pagey… Fixed is stable with a clear purpose, but determined and stubborn. Sounds like kings? Could be knights. To gain a little clarity, I consulted three different sources and got… three different allocations.

Hmmm. Well, then let’s look at how the ranks are correlated with the elemental systems that so many use. Each suit represents an element, but many assign each court rank an element, too. The only one that remains consistent through the various perspectives is queens as water. So, for example, the Queen of Pentacles would be water of earth. Its opposite would be earth of water (Cups), but which court rank is associated with earth? Many say the pages. So, Page of Cups? But aren’t pages messengers, curious, and learning? Wouldn’t that be more airy? Air of Water? Knights are definitely action-oriented, so they’re fire, right? Oh- Golden Dawn system uses air for knights.

Let’s put the esoteric lens away for a bit, in favor of a much simpler approach. Many readers use ages, as in a family. Pages are children, knights are adolescents, and queens and kings are established adults respective to their gender. This, too, feels a whole lot of outdated, right? Are women not strong leaders? Should we continue the thinking that men do not go in the ‘soft and nurturing’ category? Gender is evolving and now widely understood to be more fluid than the binary of X and Y. OK, so we could use more yin or receptive qualities for queens and more yang or outward qualities for kings. But what about those who don’t have kids or teens in their lives? And if there are kids, why not elders? Surely there is a better, more universal way.

Wait- there are 16 court cards and 16 personality types! It’s genderless, it’s ageless… Eureka! OK, lets examine this: there are four Jungian functions, which fit neatly into the four suits as

Wands = Intuitive (creative, imagines possibilities)

Cups = Feeling (empathetic, values harmony and how their actions affect others)

Swords = Thinking (logical, seeks justice and objective truth)

Pentacles = Sensing (practical, experiences the world through the five senses)

And then we have Introverted / Extraverted, which can easily be correlated to the more introspective Pages and Queens as Is and Knights and Kings as the more outward Es. Simple.

Finally, Perceiving (more adaptive, con-committal, and spontaneous) and Judging (prefers detailed, set plans and deadlines) easily correspond to the more exploratory Pages and Knights as Ps and the more established Queens & Kings as Js. So, let’s plug them in on a grid with the suits and functions going across the top, and the ranks with I/E and P/J going down the left column. Most of the resulting personality types describe the popular court descriptions to a T! ENTJ as King of Wands is spot on – right down to the more complexed aspects of narcissism and dictatorial style of leadership. And you can’t get a better description of the Page of Cups than a write-up on INFP. The Wands and Swords Pages could be switched. Same for those Knights …and there really isn’t any good fit for the Knight of Pentacles, least of all his assigned ESFP (which is the Performer!). Queen of Wands as INTJ? Meh. Not really. The thing is, if you do a web search for “tarot court cards personality types,” you’ll get almost as many variations on the type assignments as there are search results. Don’t get me wrong – if you find one that works for you, super!

I’m enjoying a little light-hearted poke at all of these methods as I chronicle my own journey; but seriously, all systems are valid — especially if they work for the reader using them. Still, let’s just scrap all of them for now and build one from scratch that makes sense with the conventional meanings. I would actually keep the Jungian functions as how they approach their worlds, simply because they augment the elemental descriptives. So, as they pertain to the court cards,

Wands correspond to our inner fire and the ways in which this is expressed through our identities. NT types are creative and imagine possibilities.

Cups correspond with the inner realm of the psyche and how we relate to others. NF types are empathetic, valuing harmony and how their actions affect others.

Swords correspond with the conscious, rational mind and its belief systems. ST types are logical, seeking justice and objective truth.

Pentacles correspond with the material world and the senses that we as spirits use to navigate it. SF types are practical, establishing security and experiencing the world through the five senses.

Under the influence of their suits, the court ranks can then be viewed as:

Pages strive to understand their elements. Eager to learn but only just starting the journey, they explore their realm with the curiosity and innocence of a child. As such, they can also represent the parts of us holding childhood memories and wounds.

Knights take action, moving through the world with the intent of their element. As warriors, they can also represent the parts of us protecting against fear and shame by distracting us through impulsive and/or inappropriate behaviors.

Queens nurture the magic of the suit within, reflecting it outward. In their nurturing roles, queens may represent the parts of us that manage the environment for our more vulnerable parts.

Kings exercise maturity and leadership. Possessing a certain level of mastery in the element and sharing it with the community, kings often indicate that it’s time to share our gifts with others. As internal parts, they may represent managers securing the environment for our more vulnerable parts.

With that framework in mind, let’s begin to explore them each individually….