The Court or Face Cards

The tarot’s cast of characters

Firstly, to be clear, the 16 ‘face’ (generally called court) cards of the tarot – that is the pages, knights, kings and queens (or whatever they are called in your deck – there are many different names) are part of the minor arcana.

They get their own section in this library because they follow their own system within the four suits. They don’t so much lead into or follow on from the ‘pips’ (the ace-through-ten cards) – it’s more like they show us each suit’s energy within the hands of different people.

Think of these cards as representing different stages. They may be ‘life stages’, with the pages as curious children, the knights as gung-ho teens or younger adults, the kings as fully-grown, highly skilled adults, and the queens as older and wiser figures who understand life on a deep level.

Or these stages may be a person working through any kind of journey. A self-development goal, a community project, an artwork, a course of study – anything that has early stages, a middle, and an end point. As I said, many decks use alternate names for these stages. The Collective Tarot, for example, calls pages ‘Seekers’, knights ‘Apprentices’, queens ‘Artists’ and kings ‘Mentors’. You can see how these different titles for the cards changes the way we might read them.

Further reading: Beyond Kings and Queens: Renaming the tarot’s court cards. A look at a number of different decks who choose different names from the traditional page/knight/king/queen system. There’s a lot to be learned from these decks.

Structure and hierarchy

Most decks and books will place the king at the head of each suit, suggesting that each king represents the ultimate level of maturity within that sphere. I disagree. Working with my cards, I’ve come to feel that the queen, who deeply internalises the lessons of their suit and uses those lessons to personally grow, represents the true culmination of a suit’s story. The king, meanwhile, is adept at using the suit’s qualities for external means, in a more social context.

In real-life terms, there is no hierarchy here – both expressions are equally valid and important when it comes to building just, stable societies. I call the queen the ‘culmination’ because I feel that the queen’s skills are the hardest to attain and practice. We will see this as we work through the court cards.

I haven’t divided these card interpretations the way I did with previous cards. Where before it was helpful to gain a broad understanding of the cards’ themes before looking at how they might manifest in a reading, here, there is no distinction to make.

Each card is a character. They highlight your skills, approaches, mindset, feelings. As such, they embody their own meaning, and they encourage you to do the same, or else look at how you are already doing this.