Tuesday, September 4, 2012
The Hermetic Tarot And the Courts
Each Court card has two aspects, that of the common suit of that position, (i.e. Kings correspond to Fire, Queens to Water, and so on.) and the corresponding element of that suit, (i.e. Pentacles correspond to Earth, Cups to Water, and so on). As a quick reference, here are the correspondences between the sixteen Court cards:
King of Wands- Fire of Fire
King of Swords- Fire of Air
King of Cups- Fire of Water
King of Pentacles- Fire of Earth
Queen of Wands- Water of Fire
Queen of Swords- Water of Air
Queen of Cups- Water of Water
Queen of Pentacles- Water of Earth
Knight of Wands- Air of Fire
Knight of Swords- Air of Air
Knight of Cups- Air of Water
Knight of Pentacles- Air of Earth
Page of Wands- Earth of Fire
Page of Swords- Earth of Air
Page of Cups- Earth of Water
Page of Pentacles- Earth of Earth
These two factors will combine to define traits of the person, and as we ourselves learn and develop as time goes on, so do we sometimes move from Court card to Court card. There is also an interesting correspondence between the Court cards and the Sephiroth- this comes to us from the Kabalah, and is a model of development from a source through the development of thought, into actual manifestation.
King of Wands- Prince of the Chariot of Fire
King of Swords- Prince of the Chariots of the Winds
King of Cups- Prince of the Chariot of Waters
King of Pentacles- Prince of the Chariot of Earth
Here, the Kings represent Fire as their common element, that one assigned to their position in the Courts. Kings use their mastery of that element to create, guide and shape. COnsider also the symbol of the Chariot used in these definitions also- a chariot requires guidance, skill and direction. In their most positive sense, the Kings are the masters of their elements; they know those elements, and how to put them to use.
On the model of the Sephiroth above, the Kings fall at the intersection called Chokmah- this translates as Wisdom, and represents the creative and shaping energy that gives structure and direction to potential.
Moving on to the Queens, we find that the Hermetic definitions are as follows-
Queen of Wands- Queen of the Thrones of Flame
Queen of Swords- Queen of the Thrones of Air
Queen of Cups- Queen of the Thrones of Waters
Queen of Pentacles- Queen of the Thrones of Earth
The Queens have as their common element Water, forming in some ways an opposite to the Kings. Whereas the Kings give structure, the Queens give expansion and sustainment. A throne is likewise stationary, perhaps passive, whereas the shaping principle of the Kings is active. The thrones are also a symbol of leadership and support, perhaps a symbol to rally behind, and a symbol of both reigning over and serving the people.
In the Sephiroth, the Queens occupy the position of Binah, which translates as Forming- here representing the expansive force, and potential. Without this expansion, the guiding force of the Kings has nothing to guide, and without the guiding force of the Kings, the expansiveness the Queens represent can tend towards random expansion and chaos. Think of a tree- the tree has structure and grows in a direction, but without the sustainment of water, it will die, leaving only a shell.
The Knights have as their common element Air, representing understanding and logical thought; they represent knowledge and analytical reasoning. The Knights are the kids who are always pestering others with tons of questions, or taking things apart to see how they work. What they learn also tends to make them idealistic; they may wonder why the world is not the perfect place they imagine it could be. In the Hermetic definitions we find:
Knight of Wands- Lord of Flame and Lightning
Knight of Swords- Lord of the Winds and Breezes
Knight of Cups- Lord of Waves and Waters
Knight of Pentacles- Lord of the Wild and Fertile Lands
In some ways similar to the Kings, the Knights also represent knowledge and dominion, yet differ in terms of focus. Whereas the Kings are more practical and experienced, and can better take into account the concerns and factors coming from the world, the Knights tend to be more "book smart", understanding principles in more black and white terms.
In the Sephiroth, the Knights fall under the position of Tiphareth, translating as Beauty. Here the term is more in the sense of Plato's use of it; beauty would be a pure manifestation. And in this way the Knights represent thought, uncorrupted and at the same time untouched by the practical concerns of the world.
Finally, the Pages have as their common element Earth- though Earth is the least changing and most inflexible of the elements, this is not the focus here. The focus is instead potential, and the ability to be shaped and utilized, much as the ground has the potential to grow plants from it, and stone holds the potential to be sculpted and changed into something else. The Pages as people represent students, eager to learn and develop, yet also being in need of guidance and instruction. The potential of their gifts is there, but they will need to be shown and directed in terms of how to use those gifts and abilities.
Again, in the Hermetic definitions we find the Pages (here identified as Princesses, which is a substitution we find on occasion in some Tarot decks) defined as follows:
Page of Wands- Princess of the Shining Flame
Page of Swords- Princess of the Rushing Winds
Page of Cups- Princess of the Palace of the Floods
Page of Pentacles- Princess of the Echoing Hills
The Princesses, or Pages, are the most malleable and least experienced members of the Courts, and tend to be perhaps not so much naive as they are inexperienced; they will tend towards impressionability and will learn from experience. Again, a stone can be used to make a weapon, or it can be used to grind flour- the stone itself is neither a weapon nor a tool, it depends on how it is shaped and to what ends it is used.
In the Sephiroth above, the Pages occupy the position of Malkuth- this translates as Kingdom, which is, curiously, located at the lowest point of the Tree, representing actual manifestation. At first glance, this might seem like an odd point to put a symbol of potential, but the manifestation represents the development from pure abstraction to actual appearance. What we do with this manifestation again becomes guided by the design of thought, and its development requires that Queen-like sustainment. What direction this takes is up to the designer, and to the one who constructs that end. The Tens and Aces are, in this regard, fairly similar, in that they represent a starting point; from this, development moves onwards, and the Tens and Pages are placed on the same point on the Tree.
Of course, these assignments are not meant to be an all-encompassing designations of the cards, but rather do provide an interesting take on the Courts and how they may manifest, either in ourselves or in others around us. What position in these Courts we occupy can and does change as life goes on. We occupy many different roles, and may be many different things to many different people.