People will always tell you that the Court Cards are the hardest part of the tarot deck to learn. Well, believe me, they are the hardest part to teach too. Why? Because they can mean so many different things in a reading. Explaining the many ways that a court card can be read is no mean feat. Is the Knight of Cups your suitor, a romantic aspect of yourself, or a trip over water? He could represent one of these … or all three.
Determining what message a court is delivering is something you will have to decide in a reading for yourself; no book can do that for you. However, when looking at them as people in a querents life, the courts can be an extremely fun (and telling) part of any reading. Take the Cups-tribe as an example.
All of the members of this suit are situated alongside their element, water, and each holds a cup. However, the way in which each holds both their cup and them self can reveal a lot about their personality.
The Page draws back in awe. Situated on the rocky edge of the water, his emotions are raw and as unpredictable as the fish that jumps out of his cup and into the air.
The Knight is focused on his cup. His emotions have a desired destination. In the same way that the beacon of light from the lighthouse guides the lost, it is love which shows him the way forward.
The Queen is consumed by her cup. She holds it close, so much so that she can smell its aroma. With her eyes closed, she allows the fragrance to take her out of herself.
Standing on a jetty, the King elegantly holds his cup. He is motivated by his emotions, but not controlled by them like the others in his court.
But what happens when they join forces?
When the King and Queen of Cups find each other, they are nearly always a good fit. I have read for women in the past, signified by the Queen, who can easily locate their lover or emotional other-half when this King is in a reading.
This couple love love as much as they love each other. It is his scent which the Queen can detect rising from her cup. With the moon surrounding her, the King is as entranced by her mystery and beauty as he was on the day they met. Facing each other (as they also will in the Rider Waite), they create a good match; so much so that they may be accustomed to shutting others out or will unconsciously make others uncomfortable and feel like a gooseberry in their company.
In pairs, courts can tell different stories, depending on where they sit. Look at the King and Queen now. They are back to back and are no longer complimentary. Something has happened to create a barrier between them.
One of the few difficulties with this couple is that there is just too much water in their relationship. This might lead to a lack of grounding. You may have heard that relationships can live on love alone. Maybe some can, but for this twosome, the honeymoon is over. The King of Cups is attached to the element of air (as all Kings are) as well as water. The Queen of Cups is pure water (since all Queens are attached to water through rank). This may cause him to become frustrated by her inability to live in the real world or for her to say ‘You’re not the man I married’.
The Queen of Cups may find emotional satisfaction and compatibility in the Knight of Cups. Since his focus is on the heart, her overflowing-cup might become an object of interest and obsession. Because he does not have the airy qualities of the King, he will have trouble offering her any kind of stability, but his youthful expectation and goals will satisfy her dreamy desires for a bit. You can expect a heady love-affair or a holiday romance when these two pair up.
The Knight could very well be a younger lover or admirer. He might be the young man who develops an overwhelming crush on his teacher or a long-lost-love which has passed into the memory-bank of the whimsical Queen. In some readings, he might represent the Queen’s son, who displays similar emotionally-charged characteristics to his mother. For some, this pairing might represent a Mummy’s Boy.
In the same way, we could see similar relationships forming when the King of Cups meets the Page. The figure in the illustration for the latter is actually male, but is androgynous, so could signify a girl if your intuition leans that way. Whether male or female, if not the King’s own offspring, maybe a romantic union is developing between the two. The age-gap between this couple is larger than between the Queen and the Knight so you might expect a scandal when these cards pair up in a love reading. This Page is naive and playful. The King is mature. Standing with the city behind him, is he taking advantage of the young Page’s immaturity or is he innocently reliving his own youth?
The Cup cards do not always signify romantic relationships. They may describe people brought together by similar values or mutual understanding. Cups-people (Pisces, Scorpio, Cancer) are often associated with spirituality and their imagination, so the King of Cups could easily become a mentor for a younger person on a similar path. In this pairing, perhaps the King is helping him steady his cup, so to speak, and begin to understand his emotions.
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014
Illustrations by Steven Bright