Tarot Court Cards + Masculine/Feminine Archetypes

A few years ago, I read King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine (Robert L. Moore, Douglas Gillette, 1990) on a recommendation from a friend who shares my love of Jungian archetypes.

I’m of the opinion that we all benefit from being curious about one another’s worlds, so if you’re wondering why a woman would want to read about male archetypes — there’s your answer. I feel the same way about religions I don’t practice and politics I don’t agree with. It may not be part of me (or it might be!), but if it’s part of you, that’s enough for me to be (at least initially) interested.

Of course, when I got into the archetypal world of tarot reading, I had to revisit these constructs, which represent the masculine psyche using the King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. These are paired with the young masculine archetypes of Divine Child, Hero, Precocious Child, and Oedipal Child, respectively. I won’t go into the hyperactive and hypoactive immature types for the sake of time. If you’re interested, a quick Google search will do the trick.

Naturally, people responded with various systems of feminine archetypes, including Queen, Mother, Wise Woman, and Lover, but there are others that have 7 types and a recent 5-archetype system that breaks with tradition: Femella, Potens, Creatrix, Sapientia, and Antiqua from Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality (LaSara Firefox Allen, 2016).

Creating a System

As I began forming my own understanding of the archetypes, I played around with a lot of different ideas, including the idea of the Warrior Father and Warrior Mother. After having a child, both my partner and I felt this strongly, due to the fact that Warriors defend against death to the point of sacrifice, as do parents.

So it went that I had the following system:

King, Warrior-Father, Magician, Lover

Queen, Warrior-Mother, Wise Woman, Lover

But, this felt too simplistic, outdated, and a bit off-balance all at once. Truly, I felt that the mother and father energy was in the other three archetypes as well, not separate. Kings, Wise Women, and Lovers all ward off death in their own ways.

When I began reading tarot, I discovered many of the traits of these archetypes in the four suits and began exploring and expanding my system. The mother and father traits appear throughout the four suits the way the Empress and Emperor can be paired with a court card.

I began to use the tarot suits as my structure for an archetypal system until I reached a settled point in my exploration. Though I still included a masculine and feminine dichotomy, the labels are flexible enough to be applied to a spectrum of identities. Just as the Queen cards in tarot do not necessarily denote someone who identifies as a woman, the mature and youthful masculine and mature and youthful feminine do not necessarily translate directly to the unique complexities of individual people. Instead, they can be seen as energies or human aspects we all share. We all draw upon these active and passive energies whether or not they “match” our prescribed identities.

Some see the Knight as a Messenger, and I can see both the youthful masculine and feminine cards as Messengers in all of the suits:

The Knight, the Active Messenger: the Worldly/Material Messenger, the Mortal Messenger, and the Messenger Without

The Page, the Passive Messenger, the Supernatural/Immaterial Messenger, the Divine Messenger, and the Messenger Within

Knight of Wands and Page of Pentacles Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

Let’s begin! Follow the links below for the different parts in this series:

The Suit of Pentacles & the Power of Legacy

The Suit of Swords & the Power of Strategy

The Suit of Cups & the Power of Creativity

The Suit of Wands & the Power of Curiosity


Featured Image Credit: MAAT Tarot by Julia Cuccia-Watts (Left to Right: King of Swords, Queen of Coins, Prince of Wands, and Princess of Cups)

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