Court Card Characters


I was curious -- does anyone have a comprehensive list of which characters the court cards of the medieval tarot (obviously not the earlier, persian versions) were generally taken to represent?

They're in a book I have, but there's not an actual <i>list</i> -- they're kind of spread out throughout the book.


Hello Anathematically,

Can you give us a bit more to go on. I'm not aware of the Tarot court cards representing characters but perhaps someone can correct me on this.

Which book did you read this in.


During the Middle Ages, the court cards were identified with certain characters from european legend, such as various nights of the round table, Charlemagne, and others.

This kind of symbolism is seen in several other places in tarot -- in particular, the Female Pope (or the High Priestess, if you prefer the deck that caters to the whims of the Vatican), the card that is said to represent Pope Joan.

The book I got this from was The Mystical Origins of the Tarot, by Paul Huson.

The book itself is extremely good, especially if you're interested in the objective, historic origins of tarot. A lot of what he says goes contrary to "main stream" tarot ideas (for example, he postulates the idea that the Tarot-to-French conversion of the suits is more appropriates Batons->Diamonds, not Coins/Pentacles->Diamonds -- the reason being in the ancient Persian roots of the Tarot).


Hi Anathematically. I have the same book. You're right it is excellent. But does he not make the point that for a period of time the artists and great families in Italy had the cards painted to order and therefore shewed pictures based on their own fantasies? A list, if one existed, would of necessity be incomplete since not all tarots have survived. Besides, to gain a proper meaning you'd have to understand the contexts the artists and Houses saw these figures in. Not impossible but worthy of a book in itself methinks. :)


Moderator Note

Just to inform you all, (since you are still online) that I will move this to the Historical Research forum in a few minutes.




Yeah, that makes sense. I think a lot of it though depends on your personal ways of viewing the tarot cards.

For myself, I never felt that the meanings were dependant on the illustrations -- I've always felt that the numerlogical associations were the powerful part, as well as the total story that the cards themselves, as a whole, created.


I'm not going to do it tonight, but over the next couple days I'm going to compile a list of common characters that were allegedly associated with different court cards.

As Dulcimer said, I think it could be a very interesting topic in and of itself.


Court Cards in the Sola Busca deck

The Sola Busca deck is a late XV century deck in which many historical characters are represented in the majors and in the court cards.
On Tarotpedia, you can find some detail about this:

There is an intersection with the characters presented in the very interesting page suggested by Fulgor: in particular Alexander the Great and Pallas. But they are not associated to the same suites!



Hi Anathematically- I take flights of fancy with the Courts- but I decided sometime ago to try and list the courts to the suits by who was famous in Medieval times. I mean Royally famous; although I agree that there is classical myth and Biblical personages represented. Here is my correspondances as the Cardinal directions as well
Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitane and their two sons Richard I and John.
Established common Law system and admin. reforms. Had great fights with the RC Church.

Alfonso II of Aragon 'The Chaste Troubadour and his infanta wife Sancha of Castille. Their's was a love affair- but two sons were PeterII of Aragon and Alfonso who was also a famous Troubadour.

Frederick I 'Barbarossa' (redbeard) and Beatrice. Barbarossa was supposed to have the 'Spear of Destiny' The KNight of Wands is their son Henry VI and the Page is Grandson FrederickII.

Philip IV 'The Fair' (fair Hair) and Jean of Navarre (they where known for their great spending) and their two sons Louis X and Charles IV.

I can also associate the suits to the four regions of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
I prefer to think of the Courts as almost cartoon characters of the times Medieval. It seems like it may have been 'Streetcopy' for the card playing man.
Have fun with your list- I do! ~Rosanne :laugh:


As a matter of side interest, it is still common enough in France to obtain (and they are in print) playing cards with the names of the allocated historical or mythical figure imprinted on the court (eg: King David).

What is of more disputable claim is whether this was common in very early times, and whether the listing(s) were the same across regions.

For example, these early cards (thanks le pendu for the link) - though undoubtedly not tarot - have figures that could indeed have become associated with well known figures... but none are so named.

For most people, at any rate, it makes for a more interesting rapport with the cards, and for a means to tell (or be reminded of) stories.

The links given to and the "Names on French playing cards" thread already give some lists... and others are available, from memory, from past publications of the IPCS.