Entering The Court: The Pages In Tarot

Entering The Court: The Pages In Tarot

This is one of a series of articles that I wrote over my five years as the tarot columnist at Planet Waves. I will be re-releasing these, one at a time, over the coming weeks and months.

Having gone through the “pip” tarot cards, from Ace through Ten, we now enter another domain: that of the court cards. Although part of the tarot deck’s minor arcana, the court cards have a quality all their own. They are essentially a separate, complementary unit to the preceding ten cards, representing the encounters we have with others, or ourselves, and of character traits that are asking for our attention.

Page of Wands

Page of Wands from the Waite-Smith Tarot, created by A E Waite and Pamela Colman Smith © US Games, Inc.

The Page of Wands — the suit of creativity and inspiration — makes an interesting contrast to his successor, the Knight. He is in many respects like all of the Pages, the Knight in embryo — before he has to armour himself and become an active principle in his own experience. Unlike the older version of himself, this Page is receptive, and there is no immediate need for armour — either physical or psychological.

His clothes are sumptuous, heavy, and in good fettle; the Knight’s are well-worn, ragged, flapping in his wake as he gallops forward. The tail of fire emanating from the Knight’s helmet is but a single feather of flame with the Page. This is the beginning of the burning: the zeal, the lust, the drive is hinted at, but hasn’t yet caught him by the jugular, is not yet driving him.

Right now, he’s sizing up his potential — holding his wand with both hands as he directs his gaze to the top of it. He seems slightly in awe of it, or at least as if he’s not quite sure what to do with it yet. He hasn’t bonded with it in the way that the Knight has, who owns his with a firm grip. By contrast, the Page’s demeanour is cautious — his left leg is faintly bent and, although not a given, I was left with the feeling that he is about to get down on one knee. Neophyte; not yet master.

But the colours: orange, yellow, ochre. The card still channels the flow of heat, the Page at the centre, clothed predominantly in the colour of the Sun. The black salamanders are present. There is power — radiating rather than directed, in keeping with the receptive nature of the card’s subject. What the Page could achieve once he started to harness and channel what he has at his disposal!

Then there is the Page’s cap, which strikes me as somewhat out of place. Whereas the rest of the Page is a melange of yellow and orange-red, his hat is a flat grey. It doesn’t feel like something stylish or fashionable as much as it feels like a lid, plopped on to the top of his head, which serves as a dampener against the heat rising from within. It is no match for what burns, however: a flame has already escaped, and is licking from the brim so that, with it, he almost matches the wand in height: whether he is aware of it or not, there is a part of him that is striving to meet what his wand represents on the same level. This is a sign of what is to come.

Page of Cups

Page of Cups from the Waite-Smith Tarot, created by A E Waite and Pamela Colman Smith © US Games, Inc.

Cups are associated with emotions, and in the Page of Cups I tend to see these emotions as being pure and well-intentioned, young-at-heart.

The Page is well dressed. Dandy, even: he isn’t wearing the attire of someone who is used to going through the wars (that comes with the Knight, as it does in the Knight of Wands), but rather of someone who has time for recreation and imagination. This is not to denigrate the Page of Cups. Not at all. Love has to have its beginning somewhere, and what better beginning than one that is imbued with an open and dream-like quality? Yes, it’s going to be put through the wringer, in a manner of speaking, and it has yet to acquire the patina of experience, but the foundation for something that is expansive and accepting is there.

The fish interests me here. It is the same colour blue as the man’s ornate headdress and his tunic, as well as the undulating waters behind him. It is as much a part of him as it is a part of the seas — a visitor from the uncharted depths of his own psyche. But he isn’t afraid of it, instead greeting it with a smile, his body bent towards it. It is as if he is inviting it into his consciousness, after which he might throw it into the sea so that it is free to swim and multiply.

The Page of Cups as a card evokes a sense of lightness (of heart); its colours feel like a source of calm and comfort. The Page himself is vital and emotionally present and aware. He has a similar headdress to the Page of Pentacles (see later), but in this case it blends with the rest of the picture; he carries it well, just as he takes his piscatorial encounter in his stride. The sea behind him seems deep, yet calm. Like the Pages of Wands and Pentacles, there is a receptivity about him — although in this case the receptivity seems more accepting, more inclusive.

Page of Swords

Page of Swords from the Waite-Smith Tarot, created by A E Waite and Pamela Colman Smith © US Games, Inc.

Swords represent mental processes, and the Page of Swords inhabits his cloudy, roiling, wind-blasted landscape with an alertness that suggests a keen — sometimes to the point of slight or injury — analytical presence.

He is built for speed and agility: his clothing is light (but also bright) and spare, there is no head adornment to impede him, and his long hair moves with the currents of the air. He has the ability to dance intellectual rings around the object of his attention, and make no mistake: what he says and what he does can be deeply cutting.

The Page often comes in the form of an adversary that meets us on the mental plane. He is an antagonist. He is swift and his blade is sharp. I looked at the Page and one of my first reactions was, “Watch that sword!”

That is not to say the Page is to be dreaded. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Rather, he asks for discernment. What we come up against is the knife-edge of unthinking youth, swift to lash out. He is a person — perhaps more likely an idea — that can sabotage. He lacks the empathy and insight that come with maturity. He is not yet a Knight, and far from being a King. In other words, he is young, and behaves as such.

The one thing about the Page, though, is that we’ll either see him coming, or his presence will be unmistakeable when he arrives. He might be a thought that doubts our ability. He might be a pull to regress to patterns that are not conducive to nurturing what we are tending to. Like the cumulonimbus clouds swirling around him, what he brings with him is an explosive mix of hot and cold air. In this way, he is a keen signpost to where our thoughts might be limiting us — his sword can point us to the truth — and thus we have it within our means to disarm him and work with his energy. As with all of the other Pages, his lack of armour hints at a vulnerability, and in recognising this we can choose to pay him no mind and keep our attention focussed on what is important.

Page of Pentacles

Page of Pentacles from the Waite-Smith Tarot, created by A E Waite and Pamela Colman Smith © US Games, Inc.

The Page of Pentacles is in love — the object of his desire the beautiful yellow orb in front of him. Sitting on his fingertips, the pentacle isn’t so much being held as it is floating, as if it has chosen to alight here and the Page cannot believe his good fortune.

The Page reminds me of that state of youthful desire that is probably familiar to all of us when we are in the presence of beauty. It is the feeling that accompanies an encounter with something that we realise we want dearly; it is the promise of inner fulfillment implicit in something external and palpable — from an object that we feel is going to help us to define a part of our identity, to the joy of standing in nature and understanding that the beauty we see beats to the rhythm of our own hearts. The first experience is short-lived — unable to achieve what we want it to — while the second is enduring: we understand that we, and it, are one.

In the Page, there is still separation between admirer and admired. The Page, like the Page of Wands, has not yet reached that state of unity with the quality of his suit. To him, beauty lies outside: his pentacle is that aforementioned object — something to look at but not yet to embody. When he does that, the hint of the field at the right of the picture will grow into something that is capable of creating and sustaining life (as it is in the Knight); the blooms at his feet will become full-grown plants; the fruit on the trees in the distance will become available. His hat is ornate and blood-red: there is passion here, but, like his hat, he wears it conspicuously. It is fancy — fanciful — and doesn’t match with the rest of his clothing, which echoes the colours of the earth around him. The red becomes more integrated in the Queen and the King: it is part of a larger whole, where what human and nature form a harmonious relationship. The seeds are here, though. The Page just has to cultivate them.