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Tarot Reflections

February 15, 2005

Down the Tarot Rabbit Hole
Tracy Hite, ATA Treasurer, Networks Manager

Tracy began her own Tarot journey while recovering from her first son's birth on New Year's Eve, 1996. She tried to study on her own for nearly a year, picking up what she could from books and websites, but she had a lot of trouble piecing everything together. Through membership in  the American Tarot Association, she met the contacts and gained the expertise needed to gain her certification as a Certified Tarot Master.

Tracy is honored to serve as Manager for both the Free Reading Network and the Free Tarot Network. She also volunteers as Treasurer of the ATA and webmaster of the Comparative Tarot site.


Are you “curiouser and curiouser” about tarot? Then follow me down the Tarot rabbit hole each month in my new series. Whether you’re a long-time reader or you’ve never even seen a deck, I’m happy to share my tarot knowledge with you. I may not always be able to answer your questions, and ask you not to substitute my opinions for your own, but I’ll do my best to help. Let’s explore together, shall we?

I’ve heard a Princess is the same thing as a Page and a Prince is a Knight, but my deck has a Prince AND a Knight! Which one’s which?

Different decks use different names for their cards; Sister, Brother, Sibyl, Sage, and a host of others. It sounds like you have Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot or one of its variants, in which the Courts appear as Knight, Queen, Prince and Princess. A.E. Waite chose the names King, Queen, Knight and Page for his court cards. When comparing these two deck styles, Crowley’s Knight is most similar to Waite’s King, while the Prince is closer to Waite’s Knight.

It may help to think of each deck’s Court cards as families of four, with each suit having a mature couple and their younger counterparts (perhaps their children). Once you figure out which pair of Court cards is which, it’s easier to find their equivalents in a more familiar deck.

Some decks talk about court cards as Air of Fire or Fire of Water or something like that. What’s that mean?

It’s pretty common for a deck’s creator to equate each suit with one of the four ancient Elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The same can often be done with the four Court card ranks. Which suit or rank belongs with each Element depends on how the creator sees his deck … and on how you interpret their vision.

Here’s one possible system for assigning the elements:

Element Trait Rank Suit
Air Logic King Swords
Water Emotion Queen Cups
Fire Action Knight Wands
Earth Reality Page Pentacles

In this case the Page of Wands becomes Earth of Fire, reality of action. This brings to mind an active toddler, learning about the world by touching and doing. The Knight of Swords, action of logic, might be a young adult active in a number of civic causes. A court’s rank energy often overshadows its suit, so this Fire of Air may tend to act without thinking things through first.

When both rank and suit share the same element, the essence of that trait is strongest. The Queen of Cups, Water of Water, is a depth of emotion, while Earth of Earth is a solid reliable sort. The Knight of Wands, always on the go, might enjoy active sports like lacrosse or skateboarding.

Those with opposite elements, on the other hand, tend to balance each other out. The Knight of Cups’ energy turns toward the pursuit of love, something which can’t really be rushed. Air of Earth is probably a successful businessman but may only see his self-worth in his stock portfolio.

Each deck creator – and each reader – has his or her own ideas on how the different court cards express these Elemental traits. When dealing with an unfamiliar deck, thinking in these terms can help you better understand it’s unique take on these confusing cards.

Please send your questions to for consideration for future articles. Unless you prefer to remain anonymous, please include your first name and last initial, along with your location (state or country).


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