The Knights (Princes)
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 Knights present the element of Air - thought, vision, speech, differentiation, and analysis. Air can cut like a sword, separating things and making them more distinct to an individual than Watery intuition. This allows a more focused approach to action. The mobilization of the Knights on their horses/chariots is a representation of this - the movement of energy in a direction rather than resting in possibility as does Water and the Queens. The Knights are on a quest, seeking a goal much like the analytical mind seeks to understand its world by moving from one thing to the next. Each Knight has a different ideal, and a different treasure that they seek.
In the Golden Dawn system, the Knights/Princes are associated with the Sephirot Tiferet (Beauty). Being the mid-point on the Tree of Life and connected to the Sun, Tiferet is also associated with one's Holy Guardian Angel. From this perspective, the Knights may be seen as the Higher Self descending into the material realm on their quest for experience.
- Elemental: Air of Fire
- Astrological: 20° Cancer (♋︎) to 19° Leo (♌︎)
The Knight of Wands is inspired and goal-oriented. Fierce and often the center of attention, he may offer leadership but also stubbornness and single-mindedness. Others may admire or be inspired by his bravery (or audacity) when they see him in action. However, he ultimately works solo and will not accommodate any deviation from his path if trying to partner with him. He can be a potentially powerful ally if your visions align, or a challenging opponent.
- Elemental: Air of Water
- Astrological: 20° Libra (♎︎) to 19° Scorpio (♏︎)
The Knight of Cups rushes through the depths of Scorpio and the realm of Death to bring back the Holy Grail and the promise of Resurrection. He is fluid in thought and possibly a shape-changer, allowing his personality to adapt to what he perceives to be a dangerous world. He has very strong and intense feelings about what is right, but the basis of what is right may change. This is someone who often feels strongly about anything they pursue, but their pursuits may change quite quickly, and may even seem contradictory to someone from the outside.
- Elemental: Air of Air
- Astrological: 20° Capricorn (♑︎) to 19° Aquarius (♒︎)
The Knight of Swords, being Air of Air, can tend to be very abstract. He has a very sharp mind that ventures in many different directions. He can live in his ideas and ideals, for better or worse. On the positive, he is a great systemic thinker and can see how things interconnect and relate on the microcosm and macrocosm. But this objectivity can also seem aloof, distant, or cold, making a connection with him difficult except when facilitated through abstraction. A high-minded quest to set things right or discover new ideas will grant you favor; anything else will have to be considered by him.
- Elemental: Air of Earth
- Astrological: 20° Aries (♈︎) to 19° Taurus (♉︎)
The Knight of Disks carries and spreads an idea into the physical realm. The Knight sows his seed, metaphorically and (possibly) literally. More than the other Knights, the Knight of Disks is more likely to sit down and have a cup of tea or glass of wine with you. He is personable, down-to-earth, and direct. But, like the other Knights, don't expect him to stick around for too long as he feels he is on a mission, fueled by the fire of Aries and rushing in headlong like the bull of Taurus.
The Knight of Disks is something like a traveling architect. He goes to a city, gets a lay of the land, drafts some blueprints, makes some professional relationships to ensure his plan comes to fruition, maybe even stays to help lay the cornerstone. But he will move on.