Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Zodiac And the Tarot Courts

This post came about as a result of a question I encountered a while ago- is there a correspondence between the Tarot court cards and the signs of the Zodiac? The answer I came up with is yes, but it's not an exact one. The same problem as drawing parallels between the Tarot and Runes comes up- you're really comparing apples to radial tires in a lot of ways. This is not to say one is superior to the other- not at all. That would be like saying the black keys on the piano are superior to the white keys. Each one has a different focus, and each one can be an invaluable tool for self understanding and learning. Having said that, what issues are there in trying to compare your Sun sign (the most commonly used Zodiac aspect- where the Sun was at the time of your birth) and what Tarot court you fall under. There is a system that uses the date of your birth to calculate which Court card you fall under, and this can also be done with your Sun sign.
However, there are 12 Zodiac signs, and 16 Tarot courts, so some of them do double up- more than one Court can apply to a Sun sign. Before we get too deep into it, there are a couple aspects of the Zodiac signs to take into account. These are reflected likewise in the Courts. The Zodiac is comprised of four elements, and three aspects to those elements. The four elements are the same between the two systems- Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Under the Zodiac, where that element falls can likewise determine what characteristics it takes on. There are cardinal signs, which act to initiate change, fixed signs, which sustain, and mutable signs, which tend to be acted upon rather than to act, as the cardinal signs do. So, to break it down by sign, we get the following:
Aries- Cardinal Fire
Taurus- Fixed Earth
Gemini- Mutable Air
Cancer- Cardinal Water
Leo- Fixed Fire
Virgo- Mutable Earth
Libra- Cardinal Air
Scorpio- Fixed Water
Sagittarius- Mutable Fire
Capricorn- Cardinal Earth
Aquarius- Fixed Air
Pisces- Mutable Water

However, this is really only a partial picture- what about the other planets in your chart? Your natal chart describes where the planets were at the moment of your birth, relative to your position on the face of the Earth, and takes into account time and location. In many ways knowing this can provide a significant amount of information as to what your Tarot Court card is likely to be. Some readers use what is called a Significator- a card from the Courts that is used to indicate the person the reading is for. Again, in some cases (not all, there are other methods) this is based on that very same Sun sign. In both cases, generalizations are made- and there is something of a challenge unique to the Tarot court cards that I'll come to in a minute. First, let's consider the Tarot courts- each one has two aspects, much like the Zodiac signs. These two aspects come from first, the card's position in that particular Court- (Page, Knight, Queen or King) and the suit of that card (Wands, Cups, Swords or Pentacles). Each position, as well as each suit, is assigned a particular element. To break it down this way, the following characteristics are obtained. The position dictates one element, and is common across courts- the suit dictates a second, and is specific to that suit:

Page of Wands- Earth of Fire
Page of Cups- Earth of Water
Page of Swords- Earth of Air
Page of Pentacles- Earth of Earth

Knight of Wands- Air of Fire
Knight of Cups- Air of Water
Knight of Swords- Air of Air
Knight of Pentacles- Air of Earth

Queen of Wands- Water of Fire
Queen of Cups- Water of Water
Queen of Swords-Water of Air
Queen of Pentacles- Water of Earth

King of Wands- Fire of Fire
King of Cups- Fire of Water
King of Swords- Fire of Air
King of Pentacles- Fire of Earth

So, if we take Fire to indicate a Cardinal energy, Air to indicate a Fixed energy, and Water to indicate a Mutable energy, we're still left with Earth. Should we call it a prima materia, the building blocks for the other suits? Consider the aspects of Earth- malleable, subject to influence, yet steady and unchanging. This was a challenge I also ran into, where to put Earth? Water likewise can be a powerful force, but can also be very flexible, mutable and subtle. And look again at the Court cards- Water of Fire, the Queen of Wands, can be flexible and emotionally responsive (as well as emotionally susceptible to the world around her). And it's important to keep in mind too that the Zodiac has this in common with the Tarot- they do predisposition you to certain characteristics or decisions, but do not compel you- they influence, but do not dictate. The choice, as always, is yours.
A rough approximation, however, is possible. Here are the Tarot courts by their respective Zodiac signs:
Aries-King of Wands
Taurus-King of Pentacles, Knight of Pentacles
Gemini-King of Swords
Cancer- King of Cups
Leo- Queen of Wands, Knight of Wands
Virgo-Queen of Pentacles
Libra-Queen of Swords, Knight of Swords
Scorpio- Queen of Cups, Knight of Cups
Sagittarius- Knight of Wands, Page of Wands
Capricorn-Knight of Pentacles,  Page of Pentacles
Aquarius- Knight of Swords, Page of Swords

Pisces- Knight of Cups, Page of Cups

So where does this doubling up come from? Notice that only some of the Zodiac signs have one Court, while others have two. This is due to the fact that the Courts are divided by elements, not by the characteristics of cardinal, fixed or mutable. The assignments of the Courts here reflects what their commonly accepted characteristics are- how they work, in other words, and how this is similar to the elements and how they likewise operate. 
Confused yet? Hopefully not. But like I said, here we have two different systems. They share common characteristics, but do not dovetail exactly. One interesting aspect is that the Zodiac operates on a fixed system- the stars and planets are more or less able to be calculated in terms of their position, and move through fixed orbits. The Tarot courts have as their focus the individual person, and well, that's a whole other can of worms. People can change, and can occupy multiple roles at a given point in time. 

See what I mean? 

One of the most notable changes is maturity- in many cases a Page is considered a less mature person, a Knight somewhat more so, until finally that person moves through the course of their life to arrive at a King or Queen. This too is consistent with the characteristics of the elements of these cards, though in the Zodiac these signs do not change. The positions of the planets (relative to the Earth, that is) do change, and in many ways we could consider this a parallel path to the evolution we see in the Tarot courts. It's important to note also that the Tarot court card that applies to you in any given situation can and does change- starting a new job or beginning a college career may put you in a very Page frame of mind- successes, hard work and dedication, riding high on a recent victory can likewise put you in a Kingly state of mind, or a Queenly one. People change from day to day, and the situation you are in may emphasize a particular characteristic, or particular set of strengths and personality characteristics you may have. It's certainly possible to occupy multiple Courts at the same time- you may rule the roost as a Queen of Pentacles, but your drive and determination at your job as you press on for that promotion puts you squarely in Knight of Swords territory. What card is you? They both are. We all contain aspects of these cards, to a greater or lesser extent, in the unique mix and combination that makes us who we are. Sounds familiar? It sounds a good deal like an astrological natal chart to me. What influences come together to make you who you are?
To tie it all together, there are similarities between the two systems, perhaps because once again we see the common factors in human experience. However, there is a different method and different focus here. Astrology points to external influences on a person, in this case where the planetary bodies are relative to where you started from. The Tarot brings environmental factors into it as well, as well as mental factors. Again, one system is not necessarily better than another, but does have a different focus. Which one works best? That depends on the question, and what you're looking to learn. We are surrounded by influences, and some of these can be much more persuasive than others, while different factors can be compelling on one person and completely overlooked by another. We live in the midst of a vast, complicated system of interaction and influences, and in the middle sits us- on a journey to understanding and enlightenment. Let your light shine, fellow seekers!

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