In relating the archetypes of Tarot to our common experience it used to be that readers would rely on well known people or figures from mythology and folklore to illustrate a point. Nowadays our references can come from a vast array of resources. I like to sometimes illustrate a card’s meaning through what we know of famous people or things found in popular culture, like music, characters and situations found in books, film or other forms of media.
Part of what makes some characters, art or other forms of expression popular is our ability to relate to these things, what they speak to in our common experience and Tarot is partly a reassuring sense that others have encountered these things as well. All of our experiences are individual and unique, but there is a resonance and an ability to relate these things to what others have moved through.
When a court card is describing someone in the querant’s life, I have to point out that the description is that person in relation to the querant. It is often the case that we are getting a message not only about the other person but also about what we have been seeking or needing to interact with in that situation.
Kings in Tarot seem to suggest people in a position of responsibility or authority, sometimes a predominance of kings can show that we, ourselves, are ready to take our place in that sense of responsibility. I often see a court card not just as a description of an external influence in the querant’s life but also as a kind of “modality” that we are operating in. In this vein Pages are our own childlike sense of wonder and curiosity, Knights are our questing nature, relationships that have a sense of teamwork or a task/lesson oriented quality, often with a transitional (not necessarily transient or impermanent quality -some quests can be a lifelong adventure). Queens are sometimes situations that require nurture, the development or creative aspect with a transformative effect not just within but environmentally. These are just some of the associations that can be drawn.
So we have the opportunity to look at this sort of exchange when a court card comes up. When the signs around it, as well as the intuitive feel of the card suggests a positive exchange, it’s like we are on the right wavelength with the person in question, we see results in growth, learning and contentment. Even an adversarial or opposing influence can be positive when we see what it is we are looking for and working with, but what about those exchanges that are troublesome, where something seems to be kicking up a fuss or causing discontent? this is when a card seems to be “ill aspected” or reversed. Please note that this is not so much about the card actually being physically upside down, sometimes that’s just how it falls. What I am talking about here is the very definite sense of something being out of whack.
A good illustration of this is the experience of encountering the King Of Wands reversed. An enigmatic leader, someone with a lot of drive, but somewhat driven. An achiever (or at least he gives that appearance). Someone with a lot going for him but it’s not very clear where it’s all going. We tend to give this figure a lot of attention and sometimes the lesson is about giving up our own power. When we choose the most distracting person in the room it begs the question “what is it we are needing to be distracted from?” What is sitting in our own blind spot of worth or our own misplaced elements that cause us to be drawn into what can turn out o be a trap?
The key lies in the element itself. Wands are the suit that has to do with our sense of DOING, our goals, our constructiveness, our passionate drives to achieve but also to find contentment in the doing itself. When we look at the egoic side of it, wands can be a need for status, competitive or comparative unhealthy standing. A healthy King Of Wands is like a good natured athlete who cares about the sport, the team and the love of the game, he instills in others a love of the game and good sportsmanship, He isn’t always having to be the star player and enjoys mentoring and encouraging others.
The unhealthy emanation is the sort of “big man on campus” who has to cut others down, someone invested in the trophies but not the game. Often with a narrow vision and a great concern about appearances.
In the drama of life, it would be pretty dull if people like this didn’t show up from time to time, like all people, we can learn from “good bad examples”. If we aren’t secure in ourselves though, this can be a tough learning experience.
Carly Simon wrote a song in the 1970s about her disenchanting experiences around this sort of thing called “You’re So Vain“. No one knows for sure who it is about, there’s been speculation about everyone from Mick Jagger and Nick Nolte to the front runner Warren Beatty (who has insisted it’s about himself). Here is a link of her singing this (and by the way it is a more current version and she looks fabulously flawless and joyful decades later).
I think the following lines in the song are quite telling; “you had me several years ago, when I was still quite naive” and “all of the girls dreamed that they’d be your partner”, speak to our feelings of self uncertainty and the comparative worth we (briefly) feel in being someone that is wanted by someone that other people want. There IS hope though for all of us, the King included. I have worked with a lot of fellow men who have been through the brokenness of this kind of ego trap and have righted the reversal. We can start looking at our own stuff instead of being victims or villains. We don’t have to buy into being something for others, but rather what we can be with them (a related post on this is “Discerning true worth” ). In Warren’s case, maybe he got Carly’s message, maybe a really strong Annette Bening helped or his enlightened sister Shirley Maclaine (both of whom embody strong and constructive Queen of Wands characteristics). He seems to have settled down. I have found that part of the lesson is If you’re going to take on a King (reversed or upright), be ready to look at where that energy sits within yourself.