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Multiple layers of meaning in the Court Cards in the Rider Waite Smith Tarot Deck

When Court cards show up in a Tarot Card Reading, they can have several different meanings, depending on the cards around them. A Court Card can represent one, or more, of the following:

  • YOU, if you are doing a reading for yourself or the person you are reading for. Traditionally a Court Card has been used as a “Significator” to indicate the person you are reading for. Often this has been done from either an Astrological sign or from the physical appearance of the person you are reading for. Used in this sense, the best way is the character traits, rather than a specific sign.

Character traits are divided up into four basic groups, which are the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. A court card can represent the basic personality.

  • YOU if the sense of how you are acting and behaving in this moment, which is likely to be a result of the situation.  This may be very different from your basic personality.
  • The Court card may be asking you to look at behaviour and ask yourself whether you need to bring the energies of that card into your actions or whether you are in fact displaying the negative aspects of that card and you need to tone down your actions. As an example, a King of Swords card may be telling you that you need to be logical and analytic in your approach, particularly if you are an emotional person, or it can be telling you that you are too cut off from your feelings and maybe you are being to cynical, sarcastic or inflexible.
  • OTHERS. Court cards will show other people around you, who are important in your life. These may be family or important friends or people you live or work with.  The Court Cards will show both their basic nature and their behaviour in this moment, particularly if the latter seems very out of character. Sometimes you see two court cards together, which seem to represent one person, where one card is the personality and the other is the current behaviour.
  • SITUATION. If a Court Card represents a situation, this can mean that the situation calls for the character traits that you would normally find in a person. As an example, a King of Swords is a logical, analytical, clear-thinking, straightforward person with little emotion. It may be that a situation calls for the people involved to act in that manner in order to resolve it.

The meaning will depend on who is doing a reading and for whom and on the other cards around a court card. If you are using a tarot card spread that has positions, then the meaning of a court card will depend on whether it has appeared in a position that relates to people or to a situation.


In isolation, Court cards can mean a plethora of things and the definition is really dependent on the subjective view of the reader and on the question that has been asked.

Amanda Goldston
Tarot Author and Coach
© 2010 Amanda Goldston

 

 

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