Make your own free website on
Divinitory Meanings of the Tarot by Baird Stafford

Face Cards

Where the pip cards seem mainly to betoken events and situations, the face cards are said to represent primarily the people, or sometimes qualities in the people, who influence or bring about those occasions.

Traditionally, the face cards of the suit of COINS represent persons who are dark of complexion, hair, and eye; the SWORDS represent persons who have dark hair but fair skin and light eyes; the CUPS represent people who have medium skin and hair and either dark or light eyes; while the WANDS betoken blondes and redheads who have fair to very fair complexions and blue, gray or green eyes.  I have difficulty with this system since it requires the suit of COINS to represent the majority of humans in Africa, the Americas, Australia and the Pacific, to say nothing of Asia.

I generally choose, therefore, to say that the element of the suit corresponds to the element of the Sun Sign of the person indicated.  COINS are thus limited to people who were born under the signs of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn - a quarter of the human population of Earth rather than ninety-seven per cent of it, and thus a tremendous improvement.


These four cards, one per suit, are the cards which do not appear in modern playing cards.  The cards were originally Pages but during the late 1880s or early 1890s the Golden Dawn, moved by its twin obsessions for Balance and the Qabala, changed them to Princesses in order to have two face cards representing men and two representing women.  The two Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot Decks retain this nomenclature, as do other modern decks (some of whose creators appear to have no idea that the idea was not original with them).


Favorable:  A child or adolescent whose hair and complexion are dark *or* the a child or adolescent born under an Earth sign, who is a student: hence, study, scholarship, reflection; also new opinions and ideas.  Other readings suggest news, messages and those who bring them.

Unfavorable:  Dissipation, prodigality; one surrounded by those whose ideas conflict with one's own; dislike of learning, fear of new ideas; also, bad news and the bearer thereof.


Favorable:  A child or adolescent with dark hair, fair skin and light eyes *or* a child or adolescent born under an Air Sign who is in some sense a sentinel: hence, alertness or vigilance; and by further permutation, spying, secret service, examination as by one who holds authority; inspection or scrutiny.

Unfavorable:  Unreadiness, unpreparedness; taken by surprise; ambush.  Also, the more evil connotations of spying: a nark in the pejorative sense.


Favorable:  A child or adolescent with medium hair and complexion *or* a child or adolescent born under one of the Water signs who is of meditative bent: hence, contemplation, meditation, and perhaps the inspiration derived from these.  Also, news or messages.

Unfavorable:  Seduction, attachment to another perhaps to the point of obsession; deception, artifice; inclination, taste.  The affairs of the world intrude upon one's meditations.


Favorable:  A child or adolescent with blond or red hair, fair skin and blue, gray or green eyes *or* a child or adolescent born under one of the Fire signs who is quick and intelligent; hence, a bearer or intelligence in all forms, as an ambassador, postman, or the delivery person for the newspaper; by extension, television newspersons and the like.  If the card appears next to one representing another person, it may indicate favorable testimony concerning that other.

Unfavorable:  Bad news, rumor and innuendo; anecdotes, theatricality; instability; cruelty.


The Knight or Prince is said generally to represent a person in late adolescence or early adulthood - the guideline I find most useful is that the person is in the age group generally considered eligible for required military service.    COINS

Favorable:  A young person with dark hair and eyes *or* a young person born under one of the Earth signs who is, above all, responsible: hence, responsibility, utility, serviceability, rectitude moral and ethical, practicality.  As a side note, the person betokened by this card requires no great mental acuity and may laugh as heartily at a joke the twentieth time he or she tells it as the first time he or she heard it.

Unfavorable:  Stagnation, otiosity, inertia, laziness, stagnation.  Also, carelessness of the kind that leaves tools lying about the work area to become a general hazard, and the reluctance to take great pains with any project.    SWORDS

Favorable:  A young person with dark hair, medium to fair skin and light eyes *or* a young person born under one of the Air signs; but if the card signifies one in active military service, that significance may override all others.  The person is brave and skillful, and furthermore is secure enough in his or her skills that the habit of command comes naturally.  Hence: capacity, ability.  May also denote war; in combination with other cards signifying craft or guile, may mean guerrilla warfare.  Destruction, ruin, and resistance or opposition to these.  The card also, in almost all its meanings, carries a connotation of swiftness.  Unfavorable: Incapacity, braggadocio, imprudence, impudence; unwise extravagance; petty spite or active malice.


Favorable:  A young person of medium hair and complexion *or* a young person born under one of the Water signs who is approaching: hence, arrival, whether of a lover or a messenger; advances, propositions, invitations, incitement.  This person may also be the catalyst who leads one to further spiritual development.

Unfavorable:  Beware of opportunity offered by another - remember the Trojans' experience with Greeks bearing gifts.  Trickery, artifice, subtlety, and outright fraud.  Rivalry.


Favorable:  A young person of fair hair and complexion *or* a young person born under one of the Fire signs whose mind is swift and constantly in motion; hence: departure, absence, emigration or other change of residence; travel by air.

Unfavorable:  Frustration, as when dealing with minds less quick or capable than one's own.  Rupture, discord, division, interruption.  May also betoken intolerance, prejudice and the refusal to listen to views at variance to one's own.



Favorable:  A dark-haired, dark-skinned, dark-eyed woman *or* a woman born under one of the Earth signs who is open-handed and generous.  She appears, on the physical plane, to be the Mother in the Tarot; hence: generosity, magnificence, opulence; liberty; and the security one gains from the presence of a warm and loving elder who supports one physically and to whom one may turn for help in solving the problems and dilemmas of daily life.  Surrounding cards will indicate whether the subject of the reading has such a person upon whom to relay, or performs that function for another.  Also, luxuriant fertility.

Unfavorable:  Over-dependence on another, perhaps to a pathological extent: this is the card of the co-dependent with all the ills suggested by that buzz-word.  Possessive love; hence, jealousy and suspicion.  Mistrust of those near one, whether physically or those who should be near in heart. Suspense, fear.


Favorable:  A dark-haired woman with fair skin and light eyes *or* a woman born under one of the Air signs.  In conventional published accounts, she represents widowhood, absence and mourning; I would add divorce to these, especially one bitterly contested or desired by one partner only.  Conventional wisdom also holds that there is no death card in the Tarot: oral traditions and my own experience suggest that conventional wisdom is either mistaken or deliberately misrepresenting the truth in order to avoid frightening the groundlings; the Queen of Swords (the Queen of Spades in a conventional deck) is the card which most frequently denotes death or other final endings.  Caution *must* be observed in the derivation of such a reading, however.  The Queen *must* be supported by other cards with parallel meanings (usually the three, five and ten of her own suit and one or more of the more final Triumphs) before such a prognostication may be made; and even then one is left with the dilemma of the doctor who knows a patients disease is terminal: does one tell the patient - or not?  I strongly suggest an alternate reading unless similar combinations of the cards recur frequently when dealing with a given subject.  Such alternate readings may include barrenness, privation and the like; according to one source, she may also mean that the Sword of spirit penetrates and informs the material.

Unfavorable:  Spite, malice, ill-natured gossip, deceit; narrow-mindedness, bigotry, intolerance and the cruelty which derives from these.


Favorable:  A woman of medium hair and complexion *or* a woman born under one of the Water signs.  This is the card of the dreamer and visionary who works to make her or his dreams and visions manifest in the world; it is also the card of the psychic.  Poetry, imagination.  In the Victorian view, she is the "perfect spouse and a good mother."

Unfavorable:  A person whose good qualities outweigh the bad, but in whom tendencies towards selfishness and egocentricity may still be discerned; a person who is not entirely to be trusted.   Also, one who answers to every passing fad and fashion.


Favorable:  A blond or red-haired woman with blue or green eyes *or* a woman born under one of the Fire signs.  Love of home and nature.  Honesty, rectitude; but also adaptability.  Someone who will be of assistance to the seeker.

Unfavorable:  A person generally reckoned as good but who expects the world to conform and adapt to his or her own rigid standards.  Economy, perhaps more strict than truly essential.  Surrounding cards may influence the reading to suggest opposition, jealousy, deceit and infidelity.




Favorable:  A dark-haired, dark-eyed man *or* a man born under one of the Earth signs, noted for intelligence and character.  He may be a businessman, what used to be known as a "captain of industry."  May indicate mathematical gifts, realizing intelligence; valor.  A good husband and father, but may be inclined to workaholism.

Unfavorable:  Avarice.  A dull, plodding character.  Others give perversity, ugliness, weakness: a dirty old man in all senses.


Favorable:  A man with dark hair and fair skin *or* a man born under one of the Air signs.  He may be a judge or arbitrator; if in the military, he is of senior rank.  A wise man or counselor.  Command, authority, militant will. Others suggest he is clever or subtle.

Unfavorable:  Injustice, tyranny, barbarism, sadism; a clever enemy.  Caution is advised in legal matters: "The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client."


Favorable:  A man of medium hair and complexion *or* a man born under one of the Water signs.  He has a creative intelligence in the arts and sciences rather than business and is, moreover, disposed to assist the student: a good teacher or professor.  May also represent kindness, liberality, generosity.

Unfavorable:  Sensuality, idleness; lies and dishonesty.  May also indicate an "artistic temperament."


Favorable:  A man of light hair and fair complexion *or* a man born under one of the Fire signs.  He is generally married, honest and conscientious: "The card always signifies honesty," according to Waite, and I have found this generally to be true.  May also betoken passion in a noble cause.

Unfavorable:  Severity, strictness, austerity - but always in good cause.  May indicate one who applies a stricter standard to his own behavior or work than he applies to that of others.  Unpalatable advice which should none the less be followed.