Thursday, December 3, 2015

Court Cards: Kings and Queens

Aquarian Tarot,
In order to understand the Court Cards of Tarot, here is a brief historical perspective on the rulers of monarchy of the past. To see where we are today, Tarot Court Cards can help us do that. Why are Kings and Queens included in the Tarot? What role do they play in relation to a reading or the game of Tarots? Most Tarot buffs interpret them now as symbolic archetypes and talk about someone having reached maturity in judgement, wisdom, and actions, and who can express Fatherhood and Motherhood qualities seen in the best light. 

Playing with Tarot cards was a very popular pastime in the courts of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, enjoyed by real kings and queens. In history, at least since the Egyptian pharaohs in 4,000 B.C., the King’s will was law and he owned all the land where masses of people were mostly laborers and slaves.There have been queens also. Around 1490 B.C. Queen Hatshepsut took the throne upon the death of her husband, the pharaoh Thut-moses II. She became a pharaoh herself. In the biblical stories of Samuel, the Israelites wanted a king like the other countries around-Palestine, Syria, Lebanon. (1Sam. 8:1-22) They thought the king would take care of them, fight their battles and run the country. Instead, the kings took their sons for soldiers, a 10th of their grain; took their servants, cattle and donkeys, and their land. In Medieval Europe, kings and princes controlled the land, including the peasant farmers, and vassals/knights. Farmers paid tribute to the lords in goods and foodstuffs in exchange for use of the land. From the 9th to the 15th century, feudalism was predominant in Europe where lords owned most of the land. An aristocratic hierarchy of kings, princes, lords, presided over vassals, knights, fiefs, farmer tenants and wage-laborers.

In discussing the Court Cards of Tarot, two main points come up immediately: power and leadership. Who is going to lead and what will they do with power? (Sounds like our situation in USA today.) Contemporary interpretations of the Court Cards in Tarot no longer have a medieval or feudal sense, and now, a King’s card represents anyone who is a mature leader; one who takes charge of government and leads the community or a family. In centuries past, kings and queens were the ruling power in most countries in the world. We still have a few monarchies left, but they have little power- Queen of the United Kingdom and the King of Norway, for example. Kingdoms in Europe from the 15th through the 17th century were in a constant state of upheaval resulting in disastrous wars such as the “Thirty years War” on German soil where great numbers of people were killed in the 16th century. We can hardly fathom the enormity of that except perhaps in the current struggles of the Middle East today.  In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Hapsburg dynasty and the French Kings were bent on destroying each other. Renaissance humanism and the protestant reformation brought an end to the medieval world after many devastating upheavals.  Authority was questioned in government, religion, and in laws of rulership. Rebellion and revolution was rampant, including our American revolt from British King George in 1776.

Queen of Pentacles
Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness
In today’s American democratic society, power is supposed to be in the hands of the people and the elected officials.The people choose who is going to lead by election. With kings and queens, rulership was hereditary. If you’ve been watching Downton Abbey, we see the rigid hierarchical order that dominated England for centuries collapsing - a monumental collapse, including loss of land and leadership of  communities. The collapse occurred sooner in France and, about the same time in Russia through a revolution of the people. The King of France and Tsar of Russia were overthrown.
The authors of a book about the Visconti Tarot have this to say about the court cards, the Queen of Pentacles in particular: 

“The affirmation of one’s own individuality is not the final goal but actually the departure point for a new internal transformation that brings one to more profound knowledge about oneself"             
                                                           (Giordano Berti, Tiberio Gonard, Visconti Tarots,
                                                            Lo Scarabeo, 2002, P.157)

Here is a rough sketch and summary of meanings for the Queens and Kings in a Tarot deck. These traits can apply to either men or women in a reading.

Queens represent the principle of formation, of creativity. They generally symbolize an older mature, mothering nature, or grandmotherly person.

The Queen of Pentacles (earth element, coins) relates to all living things in nature on a material plane. She is usually wealthy, generous, organized, gardens, cooks, gives alms to the poor, cares for the needy. When badly aspected, one can be cantankerous, stingy, and crave power. 

The Queen of Swords main emphasis is on justice. (Air element, sword) She has a strong personality and keen intellect; is able to distinguish between right action and wrong doing. She has high moral values. When reversed, one should watch being too judgmental and work to avoid scandal.

The Queen of Cups is usually a sweetheart. (water element, vessel) She is sensitive with innate wisdom and is helpful and uplifting to others. She is sensitive to what her intuition is telling her. When reversed or badly aspected, watch being bigoted and pecuniary, selfish and isolated.

The Queen of Wands (fire element, energy) She is usually known for her new ideas and inspiration. She is a source of knowledge and a good spiritual guide. When badly aspected she can be suspicious and mistrustful, stuck in a rut.

Kings represent power and leadership and the ability to provide inspiration to his followers. He sparks new ideas and inventions as a influential motivator. 

The King of Pentacles (earth element, coins) represents resourcefulness. He is a strong influence and demonstrates steadfast use of power and leadership. He can be wealthy, influential and successful, yet shares his abundance with others. When badly aspected he can be miserly and and corrupt. 

The King of Swords (air element, sword) can be a strong forceful leader; a warrior king exercising his worldly power. He can detect truthfulness from lies. 
When reversed, he has to watch being over-bearing, demanding, bullying, and having a malign influence over others.

The King of Cups (water element, vessel) is warm-hearted, a generous Father-figure. He is sympathetic to others needs and difficulties.
When reversed, he has to watch being antagonistic, grumpy, moody, and selfish. 

The King of Wands (fire element, energy) is full of energy and new ideas of how things should be. He leads others on new adventures and tries out new things. 
When reversed, this means he might be weak and lack-luster. He could do nothing and just be a lie-about and cheater.