How to Read Court Cards

by Douglas Gibb on May 26, 2009

This is a short introduction on how to read Court Cards. The methods I use are tried and tested and do work.

The first thing to do is look to see how many Court Cards there are. The second is to search out some obvious patters. This could be an excess of an Element or Character, i.e. a Queen, or any other unusual combination of things.

Finally, decide on the level of influence these Court cards have on the client and which Court, if any, represents the client themselves.

I’ll say straight away that I never really see the Court cards as representing some inner psychology. I always view the Court cards as other people, but there can be exceptions. Occasionally, if the other cards within the spread direct me, I might view them as events (how to read court cards as events or institutions).

However, under most conditions I’ll start by exploring how the Elements of the Court cards reflect the perception the Client has of the people in her/his life, as well as, determining what effect these people have on the Client’s life.

I do not have a long description for the Court cards either. Rather, I just keep to a couple of keywords and allow the influence of the other cards to mold and shape my interpretation of what they might mean in relation to the person I’m reading for.

Why do I make a point of counting the number of Court cards in any give spread? The number of Court cards indicates to me several useful pieces of information.

  1. How active the client’s social scene is and, more subtlety, how much value is placed upon this social scene.
  2. A majority of Court cards can indicate the client is under the influence of others, or that negotiating with others is the only way that his/her goals or aims can be realised.
  3. If a character is represented as a Page at the start of a reading and is elevated to a King, then I can determine that this person’s importance will increase for the Client as time goes by. This can be used to determine subtle changes in perception.
  4. What level of politics is at play within the clients life – this could be friends, family or office politics.

Understanding the relation of Elements is very important as well as looking for other patterns. This is where your imagination kicks in – have fun with your narrative. Nine out of ten times you will be surprised at how accurate you can be if you just have a little fun with it.

Determining what card represents the client can be solved if you use a Significator. Personally, I don’t use this option.

Positional based spreads, such as the Celtic Cross spread also makes this relatively easy. If, on the other hand, you use a spread like the Opening of the Key (a string of cards as opposed to positional based) then use this very simple device; the Gender of the Court itself.

  1. Determine the Gender of the client and match that to the Court cards.
  2. The nature of the Question.
  3. Instinct (Yup…a Tarot reading is essentially an irrational process to undertake, so being irrational is the only game in town). Using a random selection of cards to predict the future is very irrational!

This is simply a process of elimination. To clarify what I mean by the above explanation: don’t be fixed in how you approach the Court cards. Let the Tarot guide you.

I said earlier that I don’t use descriptions of the Court cards to guide me in a reading. Let me explain what I mean further.

Let’s take an example Court Card like the King of Wands. The only thing I know about this card is that he is male. That’s the first thing I would think in a live reading. The second thing is to determine what his relationship is to the other cards; and finally I would add the keywords I know for the King of Wands (as well as for all the other cards in the spread).

The King of Wands

I would do this very quickly (while I’m dealing out the cards). I would then take all that information we gathered, using the techniques in the last paragraph, to help make my story.

The King of Wands is traditionally seen as an established, active and generous man. Let’s see what happens when we place the King of Wands next to the 6 of Cups.

The first thing I would say is, this is a man who is obsessed with the past. I would say that he was unreliable and inconsistent and may even suffer from manic depression.

I got that information, not from the King of Wands, but from the relationship he was now in with the 6 of Cups. The Elements are Fire and Water. They are enemies of each other. At the very least I would expect mood swings. The 6 of Cups is traditionally associated with the past and with the Elements of Fire and Water colliding, our King of Wands would be obsessed with the past.

I used my imagination with this combination; I allowed myself to have a little bit of fun exploring this characters relation to the client.

Ultimately the next time the King of Wands appears in another reading, I would read him differently because the circumstance in which I’m reading would be unique and separate from the previous one.

Court Cards are not hard to read when you remember that ridged rules don’t work when it comes to these 16 special and unique cards.

Above all, use your imagination. If you see a Court Card next to the 2 of Swords; and you think the two swords remind you of scissors – have fun and say that this character is about to have a hair cut!

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11 comments… Let's discuss

AJ September 29, 2009 at 6:08 am

I like how we can associate the court cards with people. Sometimes court cards are so hard to read but this is a good tip. Thanks.

I have a question, what if you draw two court cards in a spread?


Douglas September 29, 2009 at 10:52 am

Hi AJ,

If you draw more than one Court card in a spread there are different approaches you can take. If you think they are representing two different people, ask yourself:

Are they friends>
Are they enemies
Do they know each other or will they know each other in the future?
How do they know each other? Is it through work, their social network or something else?
Is this a sign of a conspiracy against your client?

If you think they represent aspects of the client then ask yourself if these different aspects support or weaken the environment the client is in.

If you think it represents a message, institution or some new event approaching or leaving, ask yourself, how does this effect the client.

Hope that helps :)


AJ October 9, 2009 at 12:43 am

Hi. Today, I got 2 court cards in my reading. And I recognized them today, it’s a friend of mine and his mom… lol. It’s a page of wands and queen of wands.


Douglas October 9, 2009 at 12:48 am

Hi AJ,

That’s awesome, great interpretation.

Its sounds like you made that connection effortlessly? :)


Sheri March 13, 2010 at 5:37 am

Hi Douglas,

When I was doing a reading for a man I got two kings next to each other. The King of Pent was in the self position and the King Cups was in the environment. Do I read them as the man is a loving but moody & controlling man?




Douglas Gibb March 17, 2010 at 11:09 am

Hi Sheri,

That all depends on the nature of the other cards. It comes down to intuition whether or not we choose to view two Court cards as the same person. However, imagining that they are the same person, then I really like your interpretation :)

We could also say that this is someone who isn’t the most wildly unpredictable person in the world; they’re dependable, practical, selfish and, depending on the right circumstances, capable of being a good listener. It all depends on the other cards.


Colin April 25, 2010 at 8:32 am

Thanks Douglas just what I have been searching for cour cards ar definatley hard to look at in a read.. But with this things should be a lot easier, funny enough do assosiate the court cards with people as well as I read this some where else… but I feel it a naturaal event to do this..


maureen stocker June 6, 2010 at 9:23 am

a very informative page. thank you mareen


Wendy April 24, 2011 at 3:10 am

I always seem to have a hard time when a court card shows up in a reading. Thanks for the information. It has helped. :)


Inger April 2, 2014 at 4:58 am

Here is a guide to what each court cards mean as a final card in a tarot reading. My golden rule is a cout card denotes a person, a personality and situation wrapped up in one. I’ve explained it in detail here:


Mel July 27, 2014 at 2:18 am

When a court card comes up in the 10th position in a Celtic Cross Spread how does that tie in to the final out come? Especially, if the question refers to if something is going to come out good or not? I have noticed when a court card does lands in the 10th position it is usually a no out come. Thanks


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