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How to Read the Court Cards

How to read the Court Cards in Tarot. Part four: Swords

It’s the final instalment in the Court Cards series, and we finish with Swords. If you’ve landed here to learn all about the Court Cards, I’d recommend you hop backwards and begin with Part 1: Cups.

The Page, Knight, Queen and King of Swords tarot cards
Deck: Rider Smith Waite tarot

Swords are associated with the mind. They represent our thoughts, how we communicate, our logic and intellect. Swords reflect the element of Air, an element we cannot see, but can most certainly feel.

Close your eyes and picture a windy day, how gusts buffet your face and clothes. In its gentlest form, Air can be barely perceptible, but when it’s wild and free, it can bring great destruction.

So too can our words. They’re invisible, just like a summer breeze, but can soften or shatter a heart, bring hope or despair. When Air is balanced, our thinking and communication flows. We have clarity and foresight. But when stifled, or allowed to blow without restraint, Air brings disharmony, frustration, anger, and often, chaos. The suit of Swords is regarded as the prickliest in the deck. It carries messages of conflict, betrayal, loss, hurt, and skulduggery. But it also holds the ‘nap’ card (4 of Swords) and one of my personal favourites, the 6, which represents a transformative journey.

When Swords appear in a tarot reading, look at whether thought is creating distance or connection, inspiration or destruction, or, co-operation or conflict.

Although a reading with an abundance of Swords can point to trouble, a closer look might reveal a few swings of blade will bring resolution. The Courts in Swords are a sharp lot with their keen intellect, straightforward logic and whiplash tongues. They’re certainly not as touchy-feely as the Cups, or as sensible as the Pentacles. But their decisive ways are often just as valuable as the drive and passion of Wands, or the grounded, practical nature of Pentacles.

A quick reminder of the foundations of Court Cards: They represent people, traits, and personalities. Unlike the other cards within the deck, they don’t relate to events or life lessons.

As discussed in Part 1, it helps to frame the Court Cards as a family, with the King representing the father, the Queen, the mother, the Knight, a teenager or young adult, and the Page, a child or pre-teen. Gender is flexible with the Court Cards. We all possess both masculine and feminine qualities, so a female querent can take on aspects of a king, or a male the qualities of a queen. The same applies to age. Remember, too, that while the cards represent age, gender, and personality traits, they’re not set in stone, especially if intuition tells you otherwise.

When interpreting Courts Cards, consider first what the card represents by ascertaining if the card holds a literal or figurative translation.

A literal interpretation means the card represents an actual person in the querent’s life. Clues to that person’s identity will be visible in the card.

Figurative means a symbolic representation, for example, an aspect of the client themselves, or the energy encompassed by the card influencing the querent’s situation. Upright Court Cards typically represent the influence is a positive or active one, reversed cards indicate a more positive or latent effect.

The Swords Court Cards

Literal translations of the Swords

Physical Attributes

While a loose guide, typically, Swords attributes are a fair and pale skin tone, blue eyes, and dark or black hair.

Personality Traits

Page: Fired by ambition, the page is a curious soul, often with a unique way of thinking. Although they take an analytical approach, their ambitious nature can lead them to rush in with a little too much self-confidence.

Knight: A domineering figure, much like the Page, the Knight tends to act first and think later. They want action, and they want it now! The Knight is also fearless. Logic is his go-to weapon, and he wields it to cut through the bull. But at times, that bluntness can be rude!

Queen: An astute individual, the Queen tolerates no nonsense or wishy-washy thinking. Her intellect makes her almost impossible to fool, and like the Knight, will sharply put an end to foolishness. With her witty mind, she often delivers perfectly timed one-liners. But get on the Queen’s bad side, and you’ll get a lash of her whiplash tongue. Her nurturing nature comes to the fore when she sees logic and strong potential behind ideas.

King: The King is an analytical and stern figure. He’s a wise counsellor, always open to giving advice. He plays by the rules, is ethical, and expects those around him to do the same. A great intellectual, the King enthrals with great story-telling, typically with a moral woven through. When the you-know-what hits the fan, there’s no better person than the King of Swords to take charge.

Here are a few fictional characters who embody Swords energy. Can you add to the list, or do you know family/friends/colleagues that display Swords energy?

Page: Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)

Knight: Sirius Black (Harry Potter)

Queen: Miranda Hobbes (Sex & the City) or Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)

King: Dr Spock, Gandalf, Jack Reacher

A zodiac wheel

Astrological Attributes

Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius are the astrological signs associated with the Swords element of Air. Gemini operates from an energy of ‘I think’, Libra from ‘We are’, and Aquarius from ‘I know’, reflecting their combined traits of logical thinkers, intelligence, rational-mindedness, curious seekers, and free-spirited natures.

Figurative Translations of the Swords cards

When reading, if applying any of the above literal translations to Court Cards doesn’t intuitively sit right with you, then consider the figurative interpretations. While Court Cards typically reflect a person in the querent’s life, they can sometimes take on a symbolic meaning, or represent an aspect challenging the querent. Always take the surrounding cards into consideration and listen to your intuition.

Symbolic Representations

Page of Swords: News or a message relating to intellectual matters, communication, contracts, or ambition.

Knight of Swords: Action or progress relating to intellectual matters, communication, contracts, or ambition.

Queen of Swords: Positive nurturing or development of intellectual matters, communication, contracts, or ambition.

King of Swords: Effective management and expansion of intellectual matters, communication, contracts, or ambition.

In terms of energetic representations, I like to apply the following aspects to the Court Cards:

Pages: The spark

Knights: The action

Queens: The nurturing

Kings: The culmination

If, for example, the client has a queen appearing in their reading, it can reflect the client focussing on progression and nurturing. In the case of a page, it indicates ideas and drive to begin a a new project or the drive to enhance skills. An absence of court cards can be just as informative. For example; if the client is seeking business guidance and has a page and king, but no knight or queen within their spread, consider if the client is leaping ahead without nurturing their goals or doing the necessary grunt work first.

Traditional Meanings

While the above are all important when getting to know the Court Cards, we’ve also got the traditional meanings to consider. You can open any tarot book to dive deeper into each card, but here are a few keywords for further understanding of the overall meaning of the Swords:

Page: Curious, ambitious, scholarly, an analytical mind, but prone to biting off more than they can chew.

Knight: Domineering, aggressive, blunt. Knights are masters of sarcasm. They also love a hearty challenge.

Queen: Clever, nurturing, but a no-nonsense kinda gal. Shrewd thinker, hates pretence. Typically, with a Queen of Wands, what you see is what you get.

King: A stern but devoted leader. Ethical, law-abiding, logical. Always calm, and rarely emotional. Good manners and respect will take you far with a King of Swords.

Reversed Court Cards in the suit of Swords

Reversed Swords

When Court Cards appear reversed, there are two aspects to consider. First, a simple reversal of the card’s traditional meanings detailed here:

Page: A troublemaker; someone who purposely provokes. Lacking in ethics or morals. Gets their kicks from risk-taking, and never learns their lesson when it backfires.

Knight: Restraint, lack of courage, resistance to change. Reversed, the Knight can also indicate a foul-tempered individual, a liar and manipulator with zero sensitivity.

Queen: Cold, heartless, loves drama and being the centre of attention, but only so she can bring others down. A reversed Queen shoves emotion down and lashes out without care.

King: A bully, manipulator, and overall criminal mastermind. Will achieve their goal no matter the cost. Secretive, emotionless, and unsympathetic.

When it comes to literal translation of a reversed Court Card, the same personality, age, and physical attributes apply, but the overall suggestion is that their influence on the querent or situation is a negative one. Therefore, an upright king could represent a positive, active influence on the querent, but reversed, could indicate a negative, latent influence. Again, listen to intuition and take into consideration the surrounding cards. Read reversals on a case-by-case basis. There are no hard and fast rules.


The Court Cards in Tarot

We’ve reached the end of the Court Card series, and I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know the weird and wonderful family of the tarot! Now that you’re fully armed with traits, keywords, and attributes, settle in and spend more time with the group as a whole. Examine common themes, imagery, or traits. Consider who you’d like in your corner during both positive and negative times. Which Court Card shares your personality traits, and is there one or more you instinctively shy away from? Imagine all sixteen squashed in a mountain cabin and how they might interact with each other. Who would you want to hang out with the most?

As always, I recommend journaling your thoughts. There’s an article here on journaling if you’re new to the practice or looking for inspiration, and if the idea of tailored, affordable tarot tuition piques your interest, check out Tarot Tuition here.

I love a natter about tarot, so if you’ve something to say, you can find me at Likewise if there’s a topic you’d like to see discussed on the blog. Just let me know!

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