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Tarot Talk

Comparing The Knight of Pentacles & The Knight of Swords



For this month’s comparison we are going back to the Court Cards. Let us examine a Tarot “Royal” pair by getting to know the Knights via the Knight of Pentacles and the Knight of Swords. Just in case this is the first time you are reading my column, we will first review some basic information.

A Tarot deck has 78 cards. There are 22 Major Arcana cards dealing with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. There are 56 Minor Arcana cards that are customarily grouped into four categories or suits that represent the four elements dealing with day-to-day issues.

The Court Cards are a part of the Minor Arcana, acting as a representation of the family unit (“families” of all kinds) and individually representing particular personality traits of people, places and events in our lives. These cards can also tell us about our own personality and how it is perceived by others. Thinking of Tarot cards as people, with each card having an individual personality, is particularly appropriate for the Court Cards, as they are the most human of all the cards in a Tarot deck. Even the illustrations for the Court Cards show humans in the majority of Tarot decks.

Instead of numbers, Court Cards have rank. The lowest ranking Court Card is usually called the Page, the messenger or intern or apprentice who is still learning of life and living, but who is also good at dealing with the unexpected. Next comes the Knight, the card we are talking about this month, who is the representation of strong, focused and even excessive manifestations of his suit.

Both the Queen and the King represent mature adults. The Queen manifests her suit in a feminine or yin or inner way, and the King manifests his suit in a masculine or yang or outer way. This manifestation does not necessarily correspond to gender; a man can be represented by a Tarot Queen if he has a strong inner focus, and a woman can be represented by a Tarot King if she projects a strong sense of authority. Some decks change the names around, but the meanings in the hierarchy of the Tarot Court are pretty standard.

We are talking about the Knights, and we already know that our Knights will manifest their suits with strength and focus, even to the point of being excessive. Like his King, our Knights are concerned with results, but unlike his King, each Knight is not responsible for also caring for his people, only for obtaining those results.

The traditional image on the Knight of Pentacles shows an armored Knight holding a Pentacle in one hand, sitting on a powerful dark warhorse that is standing still and steady with all four hooves on the ground. The sky is golden like the late afternoon, the ground beneath the horse is green; in the nearby background are rolling farmlands, plowed rows visible, with a few mountains in the distance. Some decks show the Knight kneeling or standing beside his horse. There is little movement to be found in the image, but lots of strength, stability, and awareness of surroundings.

The traditional image on the Knight of Swords also shows an armored Knight holding his symbol, a Sword, in one hand, but this Knight is on a white warhorse that is jumping full-speed forward, with the Knight holding his Sword upright and a menacing and focused look on his face as his red cloak streams behind him. The sky behind him is blue, with clouds appearing to be blown by the wind. The ground below him is gold and brown and a bit uneven; even the trees appear to be wind-blown. Of course, our Knight is leaping forward against that wind.

Both of our Knights are mounted on horses, and thus they can be seen as always moving or acting or questing. They are both goal-oriented and mercenary, and their job is to make things happen. From the images alone, we can see that our Knight of Pentacles is slow but unstoppable, and our Knight of Swords will be the first one to jump in and attempt to save the day.

The suits we are working with this month are Pentacles and Swords.

The suit of Pentacles/Disks/Coins corresponds with the playing card suit of Diamonds, the cardinal direction of north, and the element of Earth. Earth energies are tangible, stable, and practical, and they are slow to change, but they are also steady and strong. The cards of this suit are about the physical, earthly world, our physical bodies, and everything we need in order to maintain our earthly world and those physical bodies, including health and exercise. Pentacles cards talk about fertility, prosperity, and the wealth that can bring both physical shelter and mental and emotional pleasure. Pentacles cards can show a possible outcome or end result of our efforts, the product of our labors; they can give information about material manifestations of all kinds. These cards can represent discipline and diligence, and an interest in quality rather than quantity, but they can also indicate the influence of greed and avarice, and the lack of an ability to access or be aware of resources.

The suit of Swords, which corresponds with the element of Air, the Spades of playing cards, the direction of East and the color of yellow, often has some discomfort associated with it. Maybe the tendency for discomfort has to do with the fact that Swords usually tell of some focused intent to bring forth a manifestation of some kind, or they tell of a struggle and then an outcome. Swords cards are about purposeful actions and the thoughts, intentions or beliefs behind them; these actions are different from the other Minor Arcana cards because they are deliberate, rather than as a response to random effects presented to us by the elements around us. Simply put, the effects of the Swords cards are sourced from within us; we are the main catalyst that creates the manifestation of a Swords card. In many ways the Swords cards represent our attempt to manifest our chosen reality, and they tell us that we might be causing the very challenges we are trying to prevent. The Swords cards also represent an opportunity to feel more empowered; think of how you feel when you solve a problem by thinking your way through it.

In the Tarot Court, the suit of the card has an elemental correspondence, and the rank of the card has an elemental correspondence. Kings correspond with either Air or Fire (depending on the deck), Queens correspond with Water, Pages correspond with Earth, and Knights correspond with either Air or Fire (depending on the deck). For this column, we will assign the element of Fire to our Knight, making our Knight of Pentacles representing Fire of Earth, and our Knight of Swords representing Fire of Air.

In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire transforms everything in our world. Fire can sanitize or cleanse, and it can destroy everything in its path; Fire can warm us and keep us safe, or it can kill us. The element of Fire can be seen as kinetic, or even electric. It has the power to create greatness (when we are inspired to be better than we think we can be), or destruction (when we believe we are greater than we actually are). Fire fuels innovation, but an imbalance or lack of Fire can bring austerity.

Earth is passive and feminine in nature; it is cool and dry. When amassed Earth has weight; it is able to bind together or shape the other elements. Fire is active and masculine in nature; it is warm and dry, and separates and shapes. Combine the health, fertility, prosperity, steadiness, and introverted nature of Earth with the intensity, transformation, energetic effects and gregarious nature of Fire, and you have a good picture of Fire of Earth, and of our Knight of Pentacles. Here we have a stimulating force where the will supports the senses and passion that manifests through the physical world.

Air is active and masculine in nature; it is hot and wet. Air is the medium of our voices, and it supports communications and sounds of all kinds; Air allows both expression (out from within us) and hearing (in from outside of us) to happen. Of course, words and communications are double-edged swords, and they can also heal or hurt. The element of Air corresponds with truth, clarity, and our capacity to analyze or apply logic; it represents the workings of our mind and our mental state – the beliefs we have, and actions we take in response to effects around us. Combine the ability to analyze and apply logic and the power to use intelligence and understanding that is the element of Air with the intensity, transformation, energetic effects and gregarious nature of Fire, and you have a good picture of Fire of Air, and of our Knight of Swords. Here we have an unstable force, where the enthusiasm, intensity and focus strengthen the intellect and logic.

Like the other cards of the Tarot, Court Cards have astrological correspondences. Our Knight of Pentacles corresponds with the cusp of Leo and Virgo.

The Sun sign of Leo is connected with the Lion (the king of the jungle), our Sun (the center of our solar system), and the element of Fire. This means that Leos are powerful and willful in all they do, often achieving more than expected. Of course, they can also be inflexible, rigid, stubborn, opinionated and single-minded. Leos are passionate and courageous; they can combine dignity and strength in order to be effective leaders who have a talent for inspiring others to also go above and beyond what is expected. They tend to plunge into a situation without a second glance, but since they thrive on risk and competitive situations, the end result is often good.

Virgo, the Virgin, is the sixth sun sign in the zodiac. Those born under this sign have a strong sense of service, and feel satisfied when helping others. They sometimes come off as cold or unemotional, but they are actually cautious, sizing things up. Virgos are meticulous, practical, intelligent, reliable, analytical and intelligent; of course, they are also over-critical, too conservative, and harsh. Virgos exist within the mind, appearing calm and collected on the outside, but lots going on inside. They are pure and honest, never malicious, and always trying to figure out how to improve things.

The Leo/Virgo cusp can be complicated. Leo corresponds with our Sun and Virgo corresponds with the planet Mercury, which means we are dealing with enthusiasm, ambition and the need to create, as well as speed, logic and an analytical mind focused on communicating. Practical, secretive and earthy, or intuitive, social and fiery; this combination can be either, or even both.

Our Knight of Swords represents the cusp of Taurus and Gemini.

Taurus, the second sign of the zodiac, is all about reward. Physical pleasures, material goods, and soothing surroundings are all important to a Taurus. Taurus is a fixed sign, and it represents steady persistence sometimes seen as stubbornness. Taurus is symbolized by the Bull, and Bulls are among the most practical and reliable members of the zodiac, happy to plod along slowly but surely toward a goal. Taurus is ruled by Venus, the Goddess of Love, Beauty and Pleasure, which is why harmony and beauty are a huge part of this sign’s personality. Taurus is a true-blue, loyal sign as well, and slow to anger; like the element of Earth, Taurus is about strength of body as well as strength of heart.

Gemini is about communication of all kinds, and about collecting information and stimulating the mind. Geminis are a mix of yin and yang, and they can easily see both sides of an issue. They are practical, adaptable and flexible but they can also tend toward being wishy-washy, and they are not always good at following through to the end of a project. Gemini is all about the intellect, the mind, and the thinking process. They think clearly and make use of logic, and they can be real good at seeing the big picture. Gemini rules the nervous system, and calmness is a quality they need to cultivate. They love to play, love to share their fun and their ideas with others, and they love adventures that stimulate the mind.

The Taurus/Gemini cusp is known as the “cusp of power” or the “cusp of energy” because these two signs provide the tenacity and strength necessary to meet whatever life throws at us. Taurus is about consistency and a conservative influence, and Gemini is about adaptability and communication. These energies create physical strength, expressiveness, cleverness, and an ability to get along with all kinds of people. This combination does tend to create Type A personalities, though, who sometimes don’t know when to stop.

Because they are Minor Arcana cards, Court Cards also correspond with a sephira on the Tree of Life. The Knights correspond with the sephira of Tiphareth, the hub of the creation process where energies harmonize and focus to illuminate and clarify. Tiphareth is the sixth sephira on the Tree and the second on the Pillar of Balance (the first being Kether at the top of the Tree). Tiphareth is the balance between active and passive, force and form, and it reminds us that karma is about evolution and not retribution, and that who we are is more important than what we do. This is a perfect description of the Knight cards and what they need to learn in order to be effective.

The Knights of the Tarot Court are about focused energy, not passive but rather expansive and powerful. The Knights are seen as messengers, mercenaries, defenders of Court and King, and the arm of the law for the kingdom. They are able to move in different directions as they accomplish their tasks because their purpose is focused only on the accomplishment of those tasks. They represent a mode of transportation, bringing us directly to the mission goal without distraction or side trips. Like the Pages, the Knights can be seen as a representation of youth, in this case, young masculinity. They could be understood through the eyes of a young noble who does not have much experience with governing and caring for his people, but because of his noble birth he has power and authority, even if he does not always understand the best ways to wield them.

Our Knight of Pentacles has endurance, and represents quality and patience, not speed. To him, strength and practicality are important. He uses his skills, knowledge and common sense to see a job through to the end.

Our Knight of Swords is about focused energy or action and quick judgement. He is the most active of the four Knights, the first to champion the downtrodden and lead a crusade that champions a cause.


About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding on Amazon