tarot blog hop

Lammas Blog Hop: The Ill-Dignified Court



A blog hop is a Tarot Round Robin that happens eight times a year.
AKA blog collaboration. AKA Variety ftw!!
*use the links at the top and bottom of this post to navigate the Hop.

This year for the Midsummer/Lammas blog hop, Aisling the Bard challenged us with the topic of “a union of opposites,” and gave us a choice between two focuses. One of which was just geeky enough for me to choose it right away:

Find a card that represents, to you, more than one of the four elemental energies, specifically two which might be thought of as “opposites”… is there a case that could be made for a single card being both?

When I hear elements, I can’t help but think elemental dignities.
I went super-literal. I thought of cards with two opposite elemental associations, in particular, a subset of court cards – the ones I’m calling “the ill-dignified courts,” even though that isn’t a thing, and also I’m pretty sure they aren’t really ill-dignified. At least I don’t think so. Totally call me out in the comments if I’m mistaken!

Even the best posts about court cards sometimes melt my brain.
Instead of handling the courts in-depth, I’m going to talk about the elements associated with some of them, the “ill-dignified” ones.  The fact that the courts even have elemental associations of their own is why for years I just skipped over memorizing them. “I’ll get to those later…” I wrote this post wondering: how shall I talk about courts without melting brains? One thing led to another, and I made a graphic. Click the picture below to take a peek. I make no claims of clarity or usefulness.

tarot blog hop

Most know that each of the suits has an element.
But each of the ranks of the court cards also has an element and a modality. Modality as in astrology and stuff. Queens are cardinal, kings fixed, knights mutable, and the pages throw in a monkey wrench representing the combination of the other three as earth and the seasons. I took a course from the Tarot School and it filled in some of the blanks I had about modalities for years. (Finally!)

Before I went all graphic-crazy,
I pulled out a couple of decks and compared the court cards that represent the opposing elements: queen of wands, king of cups, knight of pentacles and page of swords; respectively representing water of fire, fire of water, air of earth, and earth of air.

tarot blog hop

The Mary-El Tarot Schiffer 2012

At first nothing too inspiring showed up. Other than the deck art itself. I love the Mary-El Tarot. And for no logical reason, I kept comparing these four cards in multiple decks.

Here, I felt a bit unsettled. Why are they all staring at the sword page? I figured perhaps I was defensive because it’s one of my favorite court cards. I wrote it off as being a ME thing and didn’t notice a pattern until the third deck.

No really.

Why are they all looking at the page?!! Does anyone know?? ← Not rhetorical. I pulled out all the courts and tried, probably for longer than sensible, to rearrange them according to different things – wheel of the year, zodiac, element, clothes. None of the rest matches up like this. It’s probably a coincidence but in the Mary El, they all seem to look forward while the page of sword’s face is hidden and also seems to be looking back to the past.

It totally derailed me.
Here I was supposed to be explaining my woefully unclear graphic (It really is, I’m going to redo it this week for another post about the court cards.) and instead I’m stuck on their faces.

What’s missing in the graphic (well one of several things) is the relationships between the elements. That’s the part that explains why they are ill-dignified because of having a weak relationship. Luckily I’ve posted those relationships in a previous hop.

To sum up, the queen of wands, king of cups, knight of pentacles and page of swords each have two elements that weaken each other according to elemental dignities. This is why I chose them to represent the union of opposites. For excellent resources on elemental dignities (that won’t melt your brain) check out Catherine Chapman of Tarot Elements.

HERE’S a closer look at this elemental cheatsheet
FOLLOW ME to get notified when I post round II
(and attempt to explain the thing)

anyone have any idea why they are all looking at the page?
comment below



 – BIO –

tarotSiobhan is a NYC-born writer and spiritual ally living in central Texas. She contributes a column at littleredtarot.com and wrangles a monthly collaborative tarotscope featuring a kaleidoscope of readers – variety ftw!

You should probably sign up to contribute a tarotscope (because it’s fun) or read them (because it’s fun and they’re freakishly accurate).

Featured Decks:
The Mary-El Tarot Schiffer 2012
The CBD Marseille 2010
Centennial Smith – Waite US Games 2013

12 thoughts on “Lammas Blog Hop: The Ill-Dignified Court

  1. Aisling the Bard says:

    Now my head is spinning and I am getting out 30 of my 110 decks and doing some comparisons…you’ve got me really thinking here, Siobhan—thank you!

  2. Joy Vernon says:

    Wow! I love your insight on everyone facing toward the Page! Very cool!

    As to your Dignity Primer, I’d like to give you some direction on this, so if you don’t want any advice, please skip the rest of this comment!

    You’re conflating two different systems–which is giving you some good insights, but I think it may be beneficial to untangle the systems, then when it’s all straightened out, if you’d like to braid it together again nice and neat, go for it!

    You’ve overlapped the astrological and qabalistic correspondences, which sometimes match and sometimes don’t. One of the axioms of qabalah is that if A = B and A = C, B does not necessarily equal C.

    So, let’s start with what’s right in your graphic (and the graphic is beautifully done, btw, I wish I could make nice images like that!). Suits and elements–check. You’ve used the Golden Dawn correspondences which will carry you through to making these other connections. Modalities–check. Cardinal starts, fixed stays, mutable synths–very nicely put.

    But, Modalities to elements–not check. There is no standard for this, as far as I’ve found, I can check with my astrology group to confirm if you like. So if you’d like to take a stab at making something up, that’s great. But cardinal, which initiates, doesn’t seem very watery to me. I say that cardinal is fire, fixed is earth, and mutable is air, but I’ve seen other authors make other correspondences (I think I saw fixed as water recently). As I said, you can make up your own, but you’ll have to provide a good argument for why you chose them.

    And then that gets you off with your ill-dignified court (which I do love, so I hope you take this all in good humor and continue developing it!).

    However, I think I see what you’ve done. On the Tree of Life, the Tetragrammaton fits onto the Tree a couple different ways, and one of those ways then also assigns the court cards to the Tree. So, the Tetragrammaton commonly is assigned: Yod to (2) Chokmah, Heh to (3) Binah, Vav to (6) Tiphareth, and Final Heh to (10) Malkuth. And so the Kings go to Chokmah, Queens to Binah, Knights (Princes) to Tiphareth, and Pages (Princesses) to Malkuth. And the standard elemental attributions for the Tetragrammaton is Yod=fire, Heh=water, Vav=air, Final Heh= earth (see this post: http://joyvernon.com/Blog/introduction-to-tarot-and-qabalah/). So, that makes the Kings fire, the Queens water, the Princes air, and the Pages earth.

    Here’s the annoying thing. Sometimes the Kings, like in the RWS deck, are seated in thrones. Sometimes the Kings, the highest ranked cards, are on horses, like in the Golden Dawn decks or the Thoth deck, and are called Knights. It becomes much easier to just toss out the names Kings and Knights and just think of the Mounted Kings (on horseback) and the Throned Kings (seated on a throne or in a chariot). And woe be to all deck creators that don’t give us some dudes riding something and some dudes sitting down!

    So, applying our knowledge of correspondences, if the dude is riding (a horse, fantasy animal, wild animal, motorcycle, etc) then he is in more control of his motion, so he is mutable. If he’s on a throne or in a chariot, where he’s one step removed from being connected to the moving animal, then he’s fixed. So the Kings and Princes–the Throned Kings, even though they are of different hierarchical rank, are both considered fixed, whereas the Knights–the Mounted Kings, whether they are top dog or serving the King, are mutable. Ok, this might seem like a tangent, but you need to know this because:

    Qabalah is based on rank, whereas astrology is based on the movement quotient.

    So the top rank–whether it’s Kings or Knights in your deck–is given to Chokmah, which is fire. (That’s it. Doesn’t matter if they are on a throne, in a chariot, on a horse, whatever, if they are top dog, they are fire.)

    Then the Queens are Binah, water.

    The lower rank, whether it’s Knights or Princes, are air.

    And the Pages are earth.

    So, what you’ve done is take the qabalistic correspondences and then equated them to the astrological. You said that Queens are cardinal and Queens are water, therefore cardinal is water. (And B doesn’t necessarily equal C!) I think, because then you also say that Queens are fire and I’m not sure where that’s coming from (not in any tradition I know, so you simply need to explain what tradition you’re following).

    So then, when you get to your Ill-Dignified court, you say that the Queen of Wands is fire in water because she’s cardinal (water) fire (wands). This is where you’re off (or maybe I’m just really not following, in which case your system just needs a little more explanation)—The Queen of Wands is qabalistically Water of Fire—Queen (=Heh=water) of Wands (fire). The Water of Fire doesn’t have to do with the astrology.

    So you have King of Cups is fixed water, Scorpio. Yes, true. But the Fire of Water is actually due to the qabalah again—King (top rank=Yod=fire) of Cups (water).

    And so on with the other cards.

    I love the idea of the Ill-Dignified Court—I’m a Queen of Wands myself, and have always found it intriguing that she is Water of Fire. So working with the elemental opposites is fascinating here. But I just wanted to get you on track with where the info comes from. I hope that it also makes more sense this way.

    Again, sorry if this is too much info or unwanted advice. This is one of my favorite topics, so I get really excited by it! Totally ignore me if you’re not as excited as I am. 🙂 On the other hand, if you’re interested but have some questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

    I look forward to your Part 2. I’d love to see where you take this!

    <3 Joy

  3. Siobhan says:

    Well first, to be clear, I haven’t done much of anything except loosely collate what I’ve learned from the Amberstones over at The Tarot School. This is where I’ve gotten my kabbalistic correspondences of Mem with Queens, Shin with Kings, Aleph with Knights. Wald mentioned in the course that there would be other perspectives about the attributions. I had no qualms with his because I am new to both astrology and kabbalah let alone astrology IN tarot. I just absorbed what he said to the best of my ability. It may be confusing the matter further that I arbitrarily took photos of the courts out of order according to his attributions. That was an accident and force of habit.

    Also, Wald never associated the zodiac signs with the modalities in the course, and I didn’t intend to either. I positioned the elemental associations alongside the zodiac by chance in an attempt to keep the design symmetrical. I hadn’t thought about the fact that they’d look directly related when presented that way. (Whoops!) Thanks for pointing this out and the info! Although I still haven’t internalized so much when it comes to Kabbalah, I do find it fascinating and little by little I am learning. Well, trying anyway!

  4. Alison says:

    Wow! The things we notice – or don’t notice 🙂 Thanks for sharing – and for perhaps starting a new rage in Court Card comparisons…

  5. Joy Vernon says:

    Well, maybe all those court cards looking at the page are all the people who will be looking to you for guidance! You are on the start of a fascinating journey and I’m sure you will love uncovering all there is to know about astrology, qabalah and tarot! I’ve never taken any of Wald’s classes, but I know he knows his stuff!


  6. Boglarka Kiss says:

    🙂 This was my favorite article during this Blog Hop, do not ask me why. But now I feel like checking in all the Court Cards in all my decks. 🙂 Thank you for this posting, Siobhan!

  7. Chloe says:

    That Page of Swords thing is very curious! If you’d asked me without looking, I’d have said the Page of Swords is always trying to see what’s coming up, forward-thinking. Yet, the image suggests otherwise. It’s not like he’s got a ton of experience to be looking back on… Perhaps, though, it’s because as a student he is learning from past masters! 😀

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