As I mentioned in a previous post, the Minor Arcana is comprised of 56 cards divided into four suits of Wands, Cups, Pentacles (or Coins) and Swords. Each suit has 10 cards labeled 1 through 10 and four court cards, the King, Queen, Knight and Page.
Most tarot books usually start talking in detail about the Major Arcana and that’s because they’re usually the bigger deal of the tarot deck. In a reading or a spread, if you get a lot of Major Arcana cards, that tends to mean there’s a lot of energy going on in your life that’s going to be long-term, it’s going to be deep and it’s going to be strong, both in a positive or negative sense.
When using the tarot for writing, Major Arcana cards are good for coming up with ideas like the theme of your story,or its meaning or purpose. They’re also good for coming up with goals and motivations. There are only 22 Major Arcana cards. However there are 56 Minor Arcana cards and chances are if you’re drawing cards randomly a lot more Minor Arcana cards are going to appear than the Major cards. And yet, I bet even if you’re not familiar with the tarot, you’ve seen more Major Arcana cards featured in movies and television than the minor. That’s because the Major Arcana is so imbued with meaning.
The Death Card? Oh, yeah, that should send a shiver down your spine.
The Lovers? Oh, yeah, that should send a shiver….well through a different part of your anatomy.
The Devil? Shudder. That can’t be good.
Oh, by the way, notice the similarities between the Lovers and the Devil cards. The man and woman are in the same positions, but in the Lovers they’re being blessed by an Angel, while in the Devil they’re ensnared and cursed by a Demon.
The Minor Cards, unlike the more symbolic Major cards, are about day-to-day to stuff in your life or the lives of your characters.. Depending on the deck you’re using the Minor cards can seem almost downright homey. Not all of them, of course. Check out the Ten of Swords, for example. Probably one of the most violent cards in the entire tarot deck. There’s a lot of versatility in the Minor Cards, especially the numbered cards. But I’ll talk about them in a later post.
Today I’m going to speak briefly about the Court Cards. There are 16 court cards and they are the cards I like to use when I’m creating characters.
The court cards are divided up somewhat like students are at Hogwarts.
At Hogwarts you had four houses: Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw. Each of the Hogwarts houses not only has its own sigil, but there are also certain traits that go along with being a member of a certain house as the image below shows.
With the Court Cards, not only are there certain characteristics associated with being a Queen of Wands as opposed to being a Queen of Cups, but there are differences also within each suit. The King of Cups is different in many respects from a Page of Cups.
Also, keep in mind there are 16 court cards. The same number of personality types in the Myers-Briggs personality system. If you’re familiar with it, you’ll know what I mean when I say I’m an INFP. If you don’t know what I mean by that, you can learn all about it here.
I use the Myers-Briggs personality types A LOT when I create characters. I even wrote a post about it awhile back. And there’s a link back to the post I wrote comparing the Court Cards of the Swords suit to the Lannisters in Game of Thrones.
I’m going to quote from Joan Bunning’s excellent Learning the Tarot as I think it’s the best introduction to the tarot you can get your hot little hands on.
Bunning calls the court cards the personality types of the tarot. In a traditional reading if a court card comes up in a spread, it usually represents the querent himself or someone in that person’s life. Kings meant mature men, queens, mature women, knights, young people of either sex and pages children of either sex. Also, each suit was attributed to a particular coloring of an individual. Pentacles represented people with dark hair, eyes or skin and cups fair-haired people with pale skin.
I don’t use the tarot that way when I create characters, however. At least not in that strict of a manner. Kings are the active, creative, inspiring force of any suit, while queens are just as active, just as inspiring but their energy is focused more inwardly than outwardly.
Now, having said that, I could just as well see a queen card as being a male character as a king card as a female. It’s the personality traits I’m looking at and what they represent for each card as opposed to limiting myself to any particular gender, or age for that matter. A nine year old kid could just as well be a King if he or she displays those qualities and someone ninety years old a Page.
Knights are extremists. They express the maximum of whatever suit they’re in. So a Knight of Cups isn’t just going to be loving or emotional or dreamy, he (or she) is going to be the epitome of those traits.
Pages are like children in that they represent the qualities of the suit at the beginning. A Page of Wands, for example, is eager to go out and start something new. She (or he) gets really excited about beginning some new project and is really gung-ho about it, even if she doesn’t have a clue what to do. They don’t yet have the strength of a Knight, the wisdom of a Queen or the maturity of a King, but they’re certainly eager.
This website has an excellent analysis of the correlations between the court cards and the Myers-Briggs personality types if you’re interested in exploring that more.