Recognize Your Power with the Tarot Kings
The Kings have been stalking me in my personal readings. All of the Kings—Pentacles, Swords, Wands and Cups. As I began to meditate on these mighty court cards I began to see that a message regarding my relationship to my own power was trying to come through.
I often thought that if I was to design a Tarot deck of my own that I would rename the court cards, removing the monarchical AND patriarchal associations. Many modern decks rename the Kings as Fathers and the Queens as Mothers, and though this is more applicable to our modern culture, it still imbues the court cards with a heavy dose of prescribed gender roles.
Why should power and authority (traits common among all the Kings) be labeled as a solely masculine trait?
Perhaps I would adapt a system similar to the one in the Motherpeace Tarot deck, where Queens are Priestesses and Kings are Shamans. But, the problem with this system is that it changes the meanings of the cards all together.
What I have learned is that we cannot escape patriarchy—it surrounds us. And Tarot must reflect the real world. What we can do is be cognizant of this imperfect world where the balance of power is still skewed towards men, and use it as a lens to interpret the most powerful men in the Tarot—the Kings.
(I might add that it is particularly skewed towards white men—just look at all four representatives in the Fountain Tarot deck above—but that is a topic for another post.)
All of the court cards are heavily split into gendered traits with passivity and receptivity labeled feminine, and proactivity and authority labeled masculine. The Kings represent the epitome of action and power of each of the four suits:
Swords in knowledge and speech; Cups in relationships and emotions; Wands in charisma, planning and foresight; and Pentacles in finance and family.
When Women Receive a King in a Reading…
The assumption that most readers will jump to is that this King represents a powerful man in her life. Perhaps a husband, father, boyfriend or boss. (And, yes, I do this, too.)
But it would be a major oversight for all Tarot readers to reserve these most powerful traits for only male clients, and assume a King card in a reading is always another person.
We need to also consider the possibility that this King may represent her own masculine-labeled traits. She may be in need of calling on her own well of power, and recognizing that the aspects she may idealize in another (her husband, her father, etc) may also be nurtured and activated within.
Consider a 54-year-old heterosexual woman who has just gone through a divorce and has found herself on her own for the first time in 28 years! All the responsibilities that her husband took care of regarding their finances and home maintenance she must now learn to take on herself. To do so she must take ownership of her capacity to lead. She must access and activate her power, voice and authority.
Women sometimes have a difficult time taking ownership of their power, and learning how to access it. We are taught it isn’t “nice” to take charge. Women who do take full ownership of their power are labeled “Bitch.” Just look at all the hateful comments Hilary Clinton has received over the years.
The Kings of the Tarot can help women develop a new relationship to their power. Since those Kings have been stalking me, I have been digging deep to discover how I have been inadvertently shutting down my authority and how I might change my self-perceptions to foster its growth.
When Men Receive a King in a Reading…
As readers, we look at whether that King represents another person in his life or an aspect of his own personality. If we determine that it is, in fact, an aspect of the client, it is important to also look at how our client is using his power.
Just as women tend to underestimate their access to power, men sometimes overestimate it, and may abuse, mishandle or misdirect their authority.
We must look at the Kings through the cultural lens that privileges the voice, actions, knowledge, and ideas of men. If men feel entitled to their power and authority, then it is very likely that sometimes this power may be used to disempower others.
It would be an oversight to assume that our male clients are using their authority for pure intentions. No one is perfect; we all absorb the cultural beliefs that surround us. As Tarot readers, we have a responsibility to help our male clients gain perspective over their assumed power and to channel it wisely and consciously.
Want to learn more about court cards? Read about my short-cut system here.