These are my personal reflections on age, race, and gender in the tarot so please enjoy what resonates with you and feel free to disregard the rest. This is by no means a thorough examination of this subject, but I wanted to touch on it before the first court card description in my “78 Ways to Heal with Tarot” series.
As we have approached our first set of court cards in this tarot series, I wanted to briefly acknowledge the fact that most of the older, traditional tarot decks that we know and love have problematic elements in our modern society. To begin with, the majority of us have limited emotional connection to royalty, so for many readers and seekers, when the court cards show up in a reading there is potential for confusion or detachment from the reading.
The larger issue is that most of the characters we see in the decks are cisnormative, white, enable-bodied humans which hardly reflects the beautiful range of people we encounter in our daily lives. This is problematic throughout the deck but tends to stand out in the Court Cards.
When studying the tarot, many traditional resources will suggest using the court cards (generally labeled Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings) to represent the person seeking the reading and/or people in their lives. This often extends to a suggestion of the appearance and age of the person. As an example, it is common to see suggestions like this:
Pages = children under 14
Knights = teenagers, unmarried young adults
Kings & Queens = older (or wiser) people, married (or partnered)
The descriptions for each of the court cards are often quite detailed, such as: “The Queen of Pentacles has a dark complexion and her hair and eyes are often dark brown.”
While there may be a place for using the court cards this way, I find it too limiting and it supports assumptions that I am not comfortable with.
My personal approach to these cards is that the energies may be inherently masculine (active) or feminine (receptive) and that the ages suggested by the court cards reflect maturity and experience. This is a broad generalization but the idea is that for me these cards often embody certain qualities rather than physical appearances. While these cards may represent the querent or people in the querent’s lives, it can also be personality traits in the seeker that are being called in.
For example, I have met individuals in their early 20s who had wisdom far beyond their years and could easily fit into the Queen/ King territory. Similarly, I have known adults in their late 70’s who seemed to have halted their expansion in the “Pages” timeline. By opening up the way we use the court cards, we allow possibilities to further tap into our intuition and best serve our clients. Within the court cards, as in all tarot cards, we can find rich symbolism and correspondences which can be a bit overwhelming at first.
The wonderful thing is that there is a huge shift in tarot card designs and approaches towards the issues mentioned here. There are some lovely decks featuring people of color, non-binary individuals, differently-abled people and all manners in-between.* Many modern readers wish to honour the diversity in their lives. While there is so much rich dialogue to be had around this topic, I will take my leave here for now.
*While it is important to support artists who are creating diverse decks, it is worth a bit of research to ensure that the artist profiting has not directly appropriated a culture that they do not belong to. This is tricky territory…or tarot-tory 😉
Until our paths cross again…