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People in the Pictures: the Court Cards

The court cards are the usually unnumbered cards, from three to five per suit, commonly bearing titles of a royal court. There should be the same number of court cards in a suit as there are suits in the minor arcana of the deck. The court cards represent the human embodiment of the elements of the suits.

Traditional titles are King, Queen, Knight, Jack, Prince, Princess, and Page. These titles are somewhat archaic, no longer having their traditional meanings. In nineteenth century Europe the word "king" would bring up internal images of a ruler, probably by birthright and raised for the role. Today the word "king" usually brings thoughts of Elvis or places that sell fast food. The words simply no longer mean the same thing. New words must be found which have the same or similar memory associations as the original words used for tarot titles. Personal decks are increasingly exhibiting titles such as Father, Mother, Son and Daughter, with Child added for five suit decks. Many practitioners are now calling the court cards Family Cards. Like the suits, these cards correspond to the elements with Father for Fire, Mother for Water, Son for Air, Daughter for Earth, and Child for Life.

Family cards each represent an aspect of an element. Each element is said to embody all the others. Viewed in this way the elements become more specific, indicating subtler differences of being. In the family cards supporting or opposing interactions of the elements are not apparent. These interactions only occur within a spread not within individual cards.

In a reading Mothers and Sons often indicate people involved in the matter being divined. Fathers often indicate beginnings or endings. Daughters indicate ideas and thoughts. Child cards indicate directions of action. Any family card may indicate a specific person who may be identified by the personality characteristics in common with the meaning of the card. A large number of family cards indicates meetings in society or that many people are involved.

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This page last updated 9 November, 1997 by Bev Thornton

Copyright © 1997 Bev Thornton, All Rights Reserved.