The Knights and the Empress: Fealty and Favor

Some writers make much of the fact that the court cards are unnumbered and therefore can’t be used in any way associated with numerology. Personally, I consider them to be part of the suit sequence and to have an implied numeration, 11 through 14. I’ve been having some fun linking them through numerical correspondence to the “higher court” represented by the “noble” trump cards, the Hierophant, the Emperor, the Empress and the High Priestess. This is the third example.


In medieval times, the knights of the realm often participated in tournaments that included jousting matches. In romantic fiction, these events featured a “festival queen” or patroness who bestowed a token of favor upon the puissant competitor who became “champion of the lists.” In other settings, knights formed a “queen’s guard” responsible for her safety and sworn to fealty. Then, of course, there is the tale of Lancelot and Guinevere.

In the tarot, the Knights are the twelfth suit card, which by numerological reduction (1+2 = 3) relates them to the third trump, the Empress. As noted above, the knights had a special relationship with the feminine branch of monarchy, and were often called upon to do her bidding by offering both a strong sword arm and a stalwart defense of her virtue; if the romantic stories are to be believed, the queen sometimes took advantage of this closeness in other ways. The fact that the knights must wait on the pleasure of the royal matron also hints at the connection of the number 12 to the Hanged Man.

The tarot knights stand in stark contrast to the Empress; they are eminently active as befits their questing nature, while she is resolutely passive and receptive. But as an expression of Venus she still has imperial desires, and the knights are ideally situated to serve her in pursuing them. When the Emperor is otherwise engaged in warfare or matters of state, the knights of her inner circle are there to see to her needs. In ideal circumstances, they are honorable standard-bearers for the loftier aims of the Empress.

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