What Do the Knights of the Tarot Mean?

four tarot knight cards spread on a table

For many readers, the court cards are the trickiest aspect of the Tarot to master. The Major Arcana gets a lot of attention, dealing as they do with big transformations and important choices —and the minor pips, with their everyday insights, make for compelling narrative arcs within their respective suits. But the court cards, with faces and elements and distinctly human personalities, can often feel out of reach, confusing, or unsettling.

What to do with these sixteen cards, which seem to tackle experience, insight, balance, discovery, resourcing, expansion, adventure, artistry, leadership, boundaries, and so much more, all at the same time? How can we work with them, and how can we harness their skills for our own purposes?

I’ve been running an Instagram series called #OrderInTheCourt, which aims to carve out space to explore these very ideas, encouraging readers to share their favorite keywords, definitions, understandings, and experiences with these cards. But sometimes, it can be helpful to grab your own deck and work with the cards on your own, building personal insights that help you understand how to utilize that energy.

We’ve already examined the Pages, and now, we’ll look closely at Knights

What Are the Knights in Tarot?

Knights can also be called adolescents, explorers, travelers, witches, apprentices, seekers, or velocity, and are often seen as a bit more experienced than their younger counterparts, the Pages. Not brand new but not yet masters of their element, Knights are adventurous, enthusiastic, and eager to prove themselves. They bring questing energy to everything they do, ready to go out into the world and experience all it has to offer.

Each Knight has a goal, something they want to accomplish — but that idea may not yet be fully formed or completely thought out. There is joy in raw, expansive expression, and Knights are deeply present in each moment, taking pleasure and satisfaction in every step of the process. Like Pages,

Knights aren’t necessarily concerned with doing something perfectly the first time. But the stakes can be higher with their choices. With high risk comes the potential for high rewards, and Knights often urge us to consider how we are balancing an element within our own lives. Too much of an element, and we may lose focus, but too little, and we may lack conviction. We see stubbornness and obsessive behaviors in these figures sometimes, a tendency to put the entire self into an idea, ambition, emotion, or dream without necessarily being open to other possibilities. 

When we combine this energy with the four different suits or elements, we can dig deeper into how these energies overlap and tangle together.

The Knight of Wands

The Knight of Wands is charismatic, passionate, and inspiring, often bringing other people into their bold ideas and ready to show the world everything that they can do — but they can get easily distracted with their many ideas and sometimes are better at starting than they are at seeing it through to the end.

The Knight of Swords

The Knight of Swords is clever, insightful, and extremely logical, able to see the threads that tie things together and solve problems quick as a flash — yet if they get too focused on a particular perspective, they can shun all others, refusing to see beyond their own views.

The Knight of Cups

The Knight of Cups is romantic, artistic, and idealistic, wearing their heart on their sleeve and eager to connect with others — but all of that vulnerability can turn to jealousy or hurt feelings quickly if tenderness isn’t returned.

The Knight of Pentacles

The Knight of Pentacles is responsible, patient, and devoted to their cause, pressing on with consistency and determination — yet they can get set in their ways, missing the beauty of the path or ignoring possibilities for growth in their fixation on the final goal.

Each of these figures brings boldness, fortitude, and passion to their element. And when they appear in readings, Knights often ask us to take a chance, pay attention to what we’re working towards, and balance our sense of pride with long-term objectives. 

Grab your favorite Tarot deck and pull out all four Knights to harness your inner Knight. Lay them out and spend time with them as a group, then individually. What do these cards activate and invite within you? How can they inspire, challenge, question, interrogate, and discover? Where might they lead if you were willing to follow? What characteristics do these Knights share, and where do they differ? If two of these Knights were in conversation, what might they talk about?

Make sure to read: Your November 2022 Tarotscopes

Knights can be complex figures, and if you’ve been reading for some time, you may already have a Knight that you identify with strongly, a Knight that encourages you to try something new, a Knight that signifies caution, or a Knight that trips you up when it comes forward in readings.

Pull all four Knights out of your deck and look at them side by side, considering what they have in common and where they diverge. Which ones feel comfortable for you, and which ones challenge you? Do you see yourself in any of these figures? Do you recognize people you know? If you like, take some time to journal about each of these cards or all four Knights, and consider which aspects of each one stand out to you. How do you define these characters? What do they mean to you?

Keep the Knights out of your deck as you pull cards for this spread. If you like, put them at the top of your reading space as a reminder to harness a spirit of courage, power, strength, and care.

A Tarot Spread for Tackling Adventure

graphic explaining a four card tarot spread

Card One: Something to pursue: What are you ready to explore? What is challenging you, beckoning you, capturing your attention? Where do you feel momentum building, and what will you do about it?

Card Two: Something to remember: What have you learned from previous experiences that you can apply to your current dreams and ambitions? How is your intuition buzzing? What wisdom is emerging from your heart and mind?

Card Three: More of this: What needs to expand? What can you channel more inspiration, resources, insights, or collaborative energy into?

Card Four: Less of this: What is out of balance? What is taking over? Where have you gotten carried away or distracted?

I highly recommend journaling through each of these prompts with your spread. Where are you being invited to grow, change, and experience something different? How do you want to prove yourself? Which doors are opening that you’ve chosen to walk through? What is manifesting, and how can you be present in the expression of a particular dream?

How have you traveled with the Knights in the past, and where might they be encouraging you to go now?

Related article: Six “Scary” Tarot Cards That Are Actually Positive

About The Author
Meg Jones Wall
Meg Jones Wall (she/her) is a queer photographer, writer, and tarot reader based in NYC. She is a columnist and contributor at Autostraddle, shares daily card studies and original tarot spreads as 3am.tarot on Instagram and recently launched a tarot newsletter, devils & fools. She is currently working on her first book and is available for personal readings and writing opportunities through her website.
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