ASTROLOGICAL ASSOCIATIONS FOR THE COURT CARDS
Many tarot decks relate astrological signs to the court cards, either on an elemental basis or more specifically to each card using modalities or the Golden Dawn system. This chapter describes a variety of systems that can be used to associate court cards with astrological signs, and how to use these associations to explore our birth charts and personalities.
On an elemental basis, the court cards can be assigned as follows:
Wands: Fire signs, including Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius
Pentacles: Earth signs, including Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn
Swords: Air signs, including Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius
Cups: Water signs, including Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces
Not all decks use the same elemental attributions – for example, many decks use Wands as Air and Swords as Fire. In these cases, simply switch the astrological signs to the suit that matches their elemental association.
Court card ranks also have secondary elemental associations, frequently, but not always, as follows:
Again, in your deck there may be variations from the scheme above. For example, if Wands and Swords are switched to Air and Fire, respectively, then typically the Kings and Knights are also switched. Another tarot reader recently mentioned to me that she associates Queens more with Earth (which makes sense if you think of Queens being associated with the Empress) and Pages as having more Water qualities. This approach just felt more right to her, elementally speaking – she thinks of Queens as being more grounded, mature, and fertile, and Pages as being more open, adaptable, and emotional in their approach to learning and growing. Use whatever elemental associations you are comfortable with, either those you have developed or those used in your deck.
The combination of the rank and suit gives two elemental associations for each court card, a primary one determined by the suit, and a secondary one determined by the rank. For example, the Queen of Wands can be considered to have a mix of fiery traits influenced by watery traits.
Some decks associate specific court cards with each of the 12 astrological signs, using only the Knights, Queens, and Kings. In this system, Pages or Princesses are assigned the basic elemental energy, which could be considered unformed or immature. The choice of specific sign for each court card is often related to the modality of the sign and an association of each modality with a court card rank. As described in Chapter 1, there are three modalities of astrological signs, Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable, and these correspond to the three signs in each of the four elements. Each astrological sign is a unique combination of modality and element. The modalities and their corresponding signs are:
Cardinal: Forwardly directed energy, makes things happen, initiates movement in one direction. These signs are located at the beginning of the four quadrants of the chart – Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn.
Fixed: Consolidating, solidifying, stabilizing and concentrated energy. These signs are located in the middle of each quadrant – Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius.
Mutable: Flexible and adaptable energy. Variable and adjustable, constant change. These signs are located at the end of each quadrant – Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces.
The modalities can be assigned to the three ranks in order to determine which astrological sign goes with which card. For example, in the Spiral tarot deck, the Fixed modality is assigned to Kings, Cardinal to Queens, and Mutable to Knights. This would result in the following assignment:
Aries (cardinal Fire) – Queen of Wands
However, you may decide that a different assignment of modalities to the ranks is more logical to you. For example, some people feel that the enterprising nature of the Knights is better suited to the Cardinal modality, with Mutable being more suited to Queens.
The approach developed by the Golden Dawn uses a variation of the modalities system above, in which Knights represent fixed signs, Queens cardinal signs, and Kings mutable signs. Each court card is not completely associated with a single astrological sign, to show that people are really combinations of more than one element. To reflect this idea, each court card encompasses 0° to 20° of its primary sign, along with 20° to 30° of the sign previous to it (as you will note, the elemental combinations this creates don’t match the widely used combinations above). This results in the following assignments:
Queen of Wands – 20 degrees Pisces to 20 degrees Aries
Exploring our Multi-Faceted Personalities
Sometimes aspects of your astrological chart other than your Sun sign play a strong role in your personality. Your Moon sign rules your emotional life, while your Rising Sign represents the image you project outwardly to others. Any planets you have in your 10 th or 6 th house governing career and work might have something to do with the way you are at work, while a planet in your 7 th house might reflect how you act with your spouse. One way to look at this is to use an astrological chart and corresponding court cards to map your personality.
If you already have a birth chart, take it out and review it – if not, you can have one made online, choose one shown in a book, or use one for someone you know. Make a list of each planet and the sign and house in which it is found. The planet and the sign both have elemental associations that can help you choose a court card created by the combination, or you can use one of the other systems described above. As noted in Chapter 1, planets in astrology are not really considered to have strong elemental associations of their own, but only secondary associations derived from the primary sign that they rule. Therefore, consider the sign that the planet is in as providing the primary element, and the planet’s natural elemental association as a secondary energy. Neptune in Leo would therefore be associated with the Queen of Wands.
Looking at which planets/court cards appear in each house of your chart can help you explore the different facets of your personality using both tarot and astrology. For example, the Moon in Cancer would be water + water, or the Queen of Cups. If the Moon in Cancer was in the Fourth house relating to home and motherhood, this might be what your mother was like, or how you are as a mother at home. If the Moon in Cancer is in your 11 th house of friendships, you might have a tendency to nurture your friends or have friends that are very spiritual or mystical. For each planet/sign combination, try reading an explanation of that combination in an astrology book, then supplement that information with what you know about that court card in tarot. The combination of the two can be very enlightening!
Illustrations from Universal Waite, Hanson-Roberts, Spiral, Ancestral Path, Herbal, Dragon, Halloween, Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg, Medieval Scapini, Crow's Magick and Tarot of Ceremonial Magick tarot decks reproduced by permission of US Games Systems Inc. Copyrights © 1990, 1998, 1999, 1996, 1990, 1996, 1996, 1996, 1985, 1998, 1995 respectively by US Games Systems, Stamford, CT.
Wheel of Change tarot cards © 1997 Alexandra Genetti