The Kings (Knights)
If we look at the Tarot through Paul Huson's historical lens of European feudal life, the Majors are representative of the popular themes and teachings of the Church, especially through public events such as morality plays and festival theater. In this way, the Majors are associated with more "divine" provenience and social order--principles like Temperance, Fortitude, and Mercy. Even the human figures are larger-than-life and set apart by their divinity, such as the divinely-chosen Emperor and Pope, or the Hermit/Time on his solitary quest. The exception to this are the Fool and Magician, both associated with entertainers and commoners, yet even these are still set apart from the majority of commoners as they play a particular role in line with a sort of Trickster mytheme.
The more apparent worldly powers to the commoners were the nobility, represented by the Court cards. These are the people who actually made things happen in the commoner's lives, even if following or inspired by some sort of "divine directive". Viewed through this lens, the Court cards can be seen as the Minors that are active movers in a querent's life. These "movers" may be events or actual people that have the qualities represented by a particular card. In the Golden Dawn system, the qualities are primarily elemental (a quaternity--four elements, four court cards), then astrological.
As the Court cards are related to elemental qualities, they share some kinship with the Aces, which are the "root" or pure element of each suit. Rather than potentials (as the Aces are), however, the court cards are active forces in play with a personality. While I generally read all cards as having a personality, the court cards are closer to a human personality that we may recognize in ourselves or those around us. They may literally be a person connected to the reading, or an aspect of personality of the querent, or a quality describing a situation or event.
The Kings are associated with elemental Fire, energy, initiation, and creation. The Kings may be seen as the ones who direct Will or Intention, the most basic of which is Being itself -- the light from darkness, the act of creation. Kings channel the divine spark in a variety of ways. In a reading, they may point out a creative act, something getting started, or they may give direction to other cards.
Keep in mind that in the Thoth deck, the Kings have been labeled "Knights" (with the Knights labeled "Princes"), which may easily cause confusion when comparing the Waite-Smith with Thoth.
- Elemental: Fire of Fire
- Astrological: 20° Scorpio (♏︎) to 19° Sagittarius (♐︎)
The King of Wands has abundant energy akin to the Ace of Wands, but is manifest in the world. He brings the light of Sagittarius out of the dark depths of Scorpio in preparation for the turning of winter. If his energy is directed properly, he can assure success; if not, it may lead to much destruction.
- Elemental: Fire of Water
- Astrological: 20° Aquarius (♒︎) to 19° Pisces (♓︎)
The poet and seer, the King of Cups brings the gift of ecstatic mysticism from the perspective of the divine order. He may speak in riddles, but his words contain insight and inspiration.
- Elemental: Fire of Air
- Astrological: 20° Taurus (♉︎) to 19° Gemini (♊︎)
A law-giver, The King of Swords is rooted in worldly affairs yet balances multiple points of view. He has a mind and eye to sustain existing order, or create a new order. The King of Swords can provide counsel in legal matters, or initiate a quest for an ideal.
- Elemental: Fire of Earth
- Astrological: 20° Leo (♌︎) to 19° Virgo (♍︎)
The King of Disks is ripe with the energy of embodied life itself. He is the fruits of the earth and the will to grow. He is a process that might take time, but will come to fruition. His softer light can be warm and nourishing.