Interpreting Tarot Court Cards: Person or Not?

Great question! The Court cards are challenging, especially for those just starting out. I know I hated getting court cards at first. As I once heard the lament, “I’m looking for an answer, not a person!” But the Court can be strong allies in your reading once you get to know the family a little, you know?

A court card generally points to 1 of these 3 options:

  • An actual person
  • An aspect of the questioners’ personality
  • A quality, energy or approach in the situation

Your first clue is context! What exactly, did you ask? What position is the card in? If I saw the Queen of Wands come up for advice, I’d probably suggest remaining strong, determined or even stubborn. No flinching! The Page of Pentacles could suggest clear communication, whereas the King of Cups may lead me to suggest acting on feelings. In the past position in a relationship spread, it may well be an ex-partner making an appearance. In an outcome position, the court could represent what qualities you can expect to manifest as a result of the energies in play. Context and the position of the card together tell the story.

Look at the surrounding cards. What came before and after the card? Stings of cards present as part of an ongoing dialog, each rubbing elbows with those nearby. What interpretation best fits into the narrative of the surrounding cards?

Personal Associations. If you have a special association forĀ  a particular royal, that card can show up to draw your attention to something related. Say the Knight of Wands always makes you think of your brother. Does he show up in a reading to refer to the questioner’s brother, or suggest an approach your brother would take, or maybe just reveal some other parallel between your brother and the question itself?

The card itself. Look for details that seem to “pop” at you, whatever seems bigger or brighter or catches your eye. That will often show you the most relevant features of a card. So if you notice the face, perhaps we’re talking about person. If you notice a detail of the background, maybe the card speaks to the background of a situation. Or maybe it’s just showing up to give you a single idea to convey. Listen to your inner voice, whether or not the interpretation is standard.

It’s always about the Questioner. Even if the court card shows up to talk about somebody or something else, the argument can be made that every situation in an individual’s life–and the people in it–is an expression, direct or indirect–of that individual’s energy. So even if the card talks about another person, or an approach to a situation, or whatever, it’s always kind of always about the questioner as well.

As far as telling the difference, if you stay in the flow of the reading and have your radar full-throttle on, you’ll be able to just go with what you get in that flow without over-thinking. It’s that second-guessing tendency that leaves us feeling confused. Your first impulse on reading a court will normally be the best. But if you find the card nagging at you after you’ve moved past it, return to see if there is more. A card can sometimes have multiple interpretations, more than one meaning or layer to add. Just follow the vibe.

Hope that helps!

How do you do with court cards?

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