The court cards are often said to represent people or aspects of our self, but they are also elements combining with other elements. Naturally, just like every other aspect of the cards, each deck’s artist or designer may have a different interpretation than the tradition.
The Golden Dawn, a bunch of stuffy old white men in pointy hats, use a system that many consider to be Law. Kings are the element of fire, queens are water, knights or princes are air, and the page or princess is the earth. But, there are always rebels and madmen, so some systems use air for kings and fire for knights, and some say that seated kings or knights are air, and those on a horseback or chariot are fire.
Because knights are the teenagers of the family, I picture them all full of hormonal rage and spunk with the idealism of youth, so I use fire. Likewise, the air element seems to reflect the maturity of the calm and authoritative strategist, so it seems to fit kings more.
Court cards can represent people or a type of energy present strumming in the background of a situation, an influence. They can also represent our own selves at different stages of mastery or skill.
Pages are children or initiates. They represent study. Knights are teenagers, rushing forth into situations, sometimes seen as travel over and through the element they represent (I’ve heard the Knight of Pentacles reversed interpreted as car trouble). The Queens as mothers are rulers in their own right, but are receptive and internal for the most part. Kings are the rulers of their element, full of action and mastery.
These levels of age and mastery then combine with the elements, which are all associated with their own gender. Air and fire are masculine, water and earth are feminine.
Kings are air, and therefore full of knowledge, strategy, and masculine action. Queens represent the feminine water element, so they are the internal and the reflective aspect of whatever element they represent. Knights are masculine fire, the passion of the teenager, and pages are feminine earth, representing their study for growth and the seeds of mastery planted in childhood.
This is what is reflected in your deck’s interpretation of that card, but good instructions will include the dual nature of each personality. Queen of Swords, the element of air ruling over the element of water, or intellect over emotion, is often called a cold-hearted bitch. It’s a matter of perspective, many are afraid of a cunning woman full of wit, with the intelligence to see through manipulation. She’s all internalized strategy. The emotion is there, it is up to her whether or not to show it.
The King of Pentacles, with the mastery of the earth element, is the mature prosperous man and often a grandfatherly figure. A Santa Claus type King of Winter, full of generous action. Santa Claus has a dark history though, rooted in the Norse myth of the wild hunt, as is fitting the lord of the element of death. Usually though, decks just show the king’s dark side as over indulgence from all that feasting, or the hollow well of greed.
That gives you an idea of how the elements combine into personalities (or influencing energies). Once you get a feel for the four elements (and basic numerology), the tarot is a breeze. There’s a little more to reading the cards, but not much.
Tarot For Writers And Skeptics * Why Tarot Speaks To Us * Grab A Deck * The Fool’s Journey * Elements And Alchemy * Numerology And The Tarot * Court Cards * Seeds For Stories * Tarot Story List