AUTHOR’S NOTE: The ideas and practices described here are updated from those presented in at least one earlier post on the subject.
It has always struck me that the court cards of a tarot deck have a fairly narrow range of usefulness in a reading (not to mention that they are often a source of interpretive head-scratching). They are represented in none-too-specific language as: 1) other people of a particular gender, age, rank and elemental predisposition who may have a stake in the matter; 2) behaviors and/or attitudes the Querent should consider either embracing or forswearing in the situation; or 3) universal elemental forces at work in the life of the Querent that are likely to impinge upon the circumstances of the question (for example, the fiery Knight of Wands might urge an imprudent rashness that must be moderated before it gets out of hand).
I personally prefer the concept of “agency” – the authority and ability to act on behalf of an interested party in a particular way to either advance or impede the Querents’ progress in the matter at hand (if the Querent is intentionally handing off responsibility to someone else, we might call it “proxy”). The ideas of posture and motion are central to the interpretation of the court cards. The mounted Knights are “action personified” since it is what they do best (and may be the only thing they know); the standing Pages are thinking about it but have yet to act; and the seated Kings and Queens are deliberate and slow to act as befits their maturity and wisdom, a hesitancy that may be either good or bad for the Querent’s well-being. As the title of this post infers, court cards are best-suited to show “who has the ball” (other than the Querent, of course) at the time of the reading, and not whether they’re actually going to score a goal with it. Their metier is “potency,” an untapped potential that should either be discharged wholeheartedly to the Querent’s advantage or handled gingerly to mitigate any imbalance they might introduce if activated (think of the aphorism “Let sleeping dogs lie,” among others).
In a reading, I always leave their specific form of involvement up to the Querent’s judgment. I will ask first whether the sitter recognizes the card as someone who is a current party to the situation. There is seldom any reluctance to do this since it might offer an opportunity to shift some or all of the blame for any unfortunate circumstances. If there is no such presence, I will move on to the “behaviors and attitudes” premise to see if anything resonates there; this is often where the reading takes off because almost everyone loves to talk about themselves from a psychological perspective. Finally, when all else fails, I will talk in much more general terms about what is going on in the Querent’s life that may have no obvious source or reason, to see if the court card has anything to say from an elemental perspective. This is where the hidden implications of someone else’s covert participation often surface as we discuss causal factors, often much to the Querent’s surprise. I love hearing them say “Aha!” as they recognize the truth of it.
Random Notes: “Soap Opera Tarot”
While writing this essay I hit upon the notion of “Soap Opera Tarot.” I’ll bet there is plenty of interpersonal drama and associated histrionics we could invent from court-card interaction (and it might be an intriguing way to sharpen our understanding of them). Here we have “Two alpha males vying for the (willing) Queen’s favor while her alcoholic husband, the King, looks on impotently.” (Others have said maybe he’s toasting them and wishing them luck. My own alternate take – because this Queen can be a such a “man-eater” – is that he’s mocking them with “For those about to die, I salute you!”) The central thought here is that much has been made in the literature of the Queen of Wands having her legs spread “invitingly.”