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Tarot Card Tattoo Designs and Meanings: The Court Cards or Royalty Symbols

I am a Fire Horse in Chinese astrology, and my life symbol is the Lovers according to the tarot.

The Meanings of Each Tarot Court Card Tattoo

If you're into tarot, you know that there are 16 court cards (kings, queens, princes, and princesses) in a deck, four of each suit (swords, cups, wands, and pentacles).

In general, these face cards represent two things: the important people in your life and the skills you hope to possess. In other words, they represent both your real-world teachers and the tools that will help you on your journey in life.

I am not a tarot expert. I'm more of a lifelong fan or dabbler. I was in elementary school when my long-haired mother—a hippy at that time, an artist who designed her own tarot deck—did tarot with me. I did it with my friends as in my tweens and teens. In the 1980s I used Tarot: Mirror of the Soul, a handbook designed by Gerd Zeigler to accompany the Aleister Crowley Thoth deck, and in the 1990s it was all about Angeles Arrien's Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols, a book that was on the bookshelf of every cool kid I knew in college.

Royalty Cards in a Nutshell:

  • The King and Queen usually refer to older, long-lasting or authoritative people in your life or long-standing abilities and insights.
  • The Prince and Princess reveal new abilities and insights or younger, newer people in your life.
  • The female cards (Queen and Princess) = deepening consciousness about topics related to the anima or the female or feminine facets of your personality.
  • The male cards (King and Prince) = expanding consciousness about topics related to the animus, your male or masculine faces.

Female and Male Tarot Cards: Anima and Animus

There is no need to take the gender of a tarot card too seriously. These cards are thought to represent energies, not literal genders. Thus, for you, drawing a king card might represent a powerful authoritative figure in your life or some masterful tool you have in your toolbox, and drawing a queen might represent any maternal, self-sufficient, or generative, introspective skill you possess. Princes and princesses might be stand-ins for sons and daughters, or they might represent new skills you hope to gain.

What Names Do You Call Your Court Cards?

Different tarot decks use different words to describe these four noble face cards. Notice that in different decks, "Knight" refers to both the king-type and the prince-type of card.

 KingQueenPrincePrincess

Other Names for This Card:

Knight, Mentor, Father, Speaker, Mother, Priestess

Mother, Artist, Daughter, Shaman, Gift

Knight, Son, Amazon, Knower, Apprentice

Page, Daughter, Child, Place, Seeker

What the Suits Mean

  • Swords (Mental or Cerebral)
  • Cups (Emotional or Inward-Turned)
  • Wands (Spiritual or Upward-Turned) (aka batons, rods, or staves)
  • Disks (Physical or Material) (also known as pentacles or coins)

If you're interested in the Major Arcana, read Tarot Card Tattoo Design Ideas and Meanings: The Major Arcana.

If you're looking for the suit cards from Ace to Ten, read Tarot Tattoo Design Ideas and Meanings: The Minor Arcana (Suit Cards: Swords, Cups, Wands, and Disks).

Queen of Swords tattoo by Quinn DeRuiter @femmefatale_quinn at Omega Point Tattoo in Omaha, NE; Design by @micah_ulrich.

Queen of Swords tattoo by Quinn DeRuiter @femmefatale_quinn at Omega Point Tattoo in Omaha, NE; Design by @micah_ulrich.

By Michael Mafrici Tattoo @mafriciinc, a midlands-based artist.

By Michael Mafrici Tattoo @mafriciinc, a midlands-based artist.

Swords King, Queen, Prince, and Princess

These cards represent four different kinds of mental understanding. These figures all hold blades and are usually pictured in action, slicing through old patterns and beliefs.

King of Swords (The Mind Master)

This king represents an achievement of pinpoint focus, intention, and self-control. In most decks he is depicted on a horse flying through the air (the element of the mind) over water (the element of emotion). He gallops forward, holding both a dagger (yin) and a sword (yang) to slice through the air with razor-sharp focus and willpower. This card might represent an older man or authority figure or a True Master of an older skill or tradition. The King of Swords moves forward fearlessly, in brand new directions.

Queen of Swords (The Mask Cutter)

This queen represents an achievement of both rational, disinterested thought and open-minded awareness. She can see through the superficial layer of things into their truer, deeper nature. She's often depicted sitting on or among the clouds, often holding a sword in one hand and a mask in the other. She has sliced away the mask that veiled her eyes. Like the goddess Athena and, according to Arrien, "She has the ability to counsel and consult others and has the wisdom to seek counseling and consultation for herself when necessary."

Prince of Swords (The Box Cutter)

This prince represents an achievement of creative thought, intuitive thinking, and a desire for unrestricted and unrestrained mentality. This card represents a fresh, new awareness of one's own intuition and one's ability to think unfettered, unboxed thoughts. He is often depicted holding several blades representing his determination to cut through old thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs that might hold him back.

Princess of Swords (The Mood Fighter)

This princess represents an achievement of practical thinking and tangible thoughts. She is called "The Mood Fighter" because she cuts through the emotion (symptom) to see its heart (cause). She doesn't let emotions control her actions. She acts on ideas rather than just mulling them over. She's often shown sitting in the clouds or battling a dust storm of moods. For her, words and deeds are aligned.

Knight of Cups by @omimoloko

Knight of Cups by @omimoloko

Cups King, Queen, Prince, and Princess

These cards represent four different kinds of emotional understanding. These figures all hold cups, grails, or vessels of some sort. Water is emotion, and cups hold it.

King of Cups (Master of Unconditional Love)

This king represents emotional loyalty and commitment and unconditional love. He's the only king in the deck that does not wear a helmet or a crown to signify the idea that he's open-minded, trusting, unguarded, vulnerable, and willing to be seen. He often rides a winged horse (Pegasus) and offers a grail or loving cup up to the sky in a generous, eternal gesture.

Queen of Cups (The Truth Teller)

This queen represents an achievement of emotional integrity and self-reflection. She can also represent motherhood or maternal figures. She gives birth to new forms, talents, selves, identities, and lives. She expresses her feelings eloquently, openly, freely, unapologetically. She owns her feelings and expresses them freely without repression, blame, or judgment. She's often depicted on a throne overlooking a pool of water, gazing into its depths and and its reflection: She chooses reality over illusion.

Prince of Cups (The Lover)

This prince represents the achievement of emotional desire. He's often depicted riding over the water (emotion), holding a cup in his hands. He is motivated by his innermost desires and emotions. He gazes into the cup to find his way, looking inside himself to let his emotions and desires guide him. He drinks deeply from his loving cup, feeling and expressing emotional passion deeply and utterly.

Princess of Cups (The Mood Master)

This card represents an achievement of emotional openheartedness, objectivity and detachment. Instead of being attached to any object of love, she is simply in love. She doesn't play emotional games: She is beyond possessiveness, jealousy, and manipulation. She is emotionally stable and able to communicate her feelings and desires clearly. She is ready to love or to find new ways of loving. She holds a cup in front of her, offering free love to the universe.

Queen of Cups by Rhea Blais at at Sacred Body Tattoo in Enfield CT @sacredbodygallery (from the Linestrider deck).

Queen of Cups by Rhea Blais at at Sacred Body Tattoo in Enfield CT @sacredbodygallery (from the Linestrider deck).

Wands King, Queen, Prince, and Princess

These cards represent four kinds of spiritual or supernatural connection. Each of these characters holds a wand (baton, rod, or stave) that allows them to communicate with other wolds and connect to higher powers.

King of Wands (The Vision Quester)

This king represents an achievement of insight and intuition. He is a visionary leader or spiritual guru of sorts. Often depicted riding a unicorn, he sits firmly astride a supernatural connection. He holds a torch (the ace of wands) in his hand to burn through any blocks or obstacles that impede his vision. He charges forward, actively and assertively seeking truth and dynamically making it so.

Queen of Wands (The Self-Seer)

This queen represents an achievement of self-knowledge, introspection, and personal transformation. She sits on a throne and is often seen reflecting or in reflection. She has achieved self-knowledge and self-actualization. She knows every face of herself and manifests who she is in the world, giving birth to every form and facet of herself. Her radiant crown represents "the splendor of awakening to the deepest essence of who we are" (Arrien).

Prince of Wands (The Self-Maker)

This card represents an achievement of creativity. He is often depicted on a chariot or a horse. He holds the reins casually, nonchalantly, completely self-assured in his sense of direction. He is completely caught up in the flow of his creative process, moving in new directions. letting his inner creativity guide him. He is fully committed to and engrossed in the process of expanding and transforming himself through his creative process.

Princess of Wands (The Tiger-Tamer)

This princess has faced her demons, wrestled her inner beasts, and won. In the Thoth deck she is depicted as having a literal tiger by the tail, as this card signifies an achievement of of self-liberation, the release of inner fears and limitations, and a triumph over internal blocks and limits.

Crystal Kinsley's @CrystalMouse1 "The Father of Pentacles" tattoo from Kim Kran's Unknown Wild deck.

Crystal Kinsley's @CrystalMouse1 "The Father of Pentacles" tattoo from Kim Kran's Unknown Wild deck.

Pentacles (or Disks) King, Queen, Prince, and Princess

These figures represent four different manifestations of external powers or material gains. Whether you call it a pentagram (a symbol of the element of earth) or a disk or a coin (symbols of material riches or gains), all four of these characters express capabilities and dexterities in the physical world.

King of Pentacles (The Harvester)

This is the king of prosperity and abundance. He manifests his skills in the outer world in practical ways. He sits overlooking abundant fields; he has planted his seeds, cultivated carefully, and reaped what he has sown. This ability is not abstract or metaphysical or emotional: It represents physical, real-world, bottom-line, tangible abundance in health, career, finances, and the physical world.

Queen of Pentacles (The Nurturer)

This queen—like Demeter or Earth Mother—is the feeder, the giver of nutrition, and the "builder of fruitful worlds" (Arrien). She builds new realities, feeds new forms, nurtures new lives, and fulfills new destinies. She is the matter-of-fact and down-to-earth mom who cares for her family, invests in her community, and insists that everyone stay for dinner.

Prince of Pentacles (The Builder)

This card represents an achievement of forms and foundations and of physical fitness, exercise, and the body. He is a body-builder, an architect of appearances, a designer of new looks. He muscularly, actively creates whatever new structures are needed.

Princess of Pentacles (The Maker)

This princess is in the process of giving birth to herself and her own creativity. She fertile and fruitful, usually depicted pregnant. She has faced difficulty and prevails, "a woman who has been over the volcano and through the briar patch" (Arrien). She bears new life—it gestates inside her—she is in the process of forming a new life, self, identity, and facet of herself.

Queen of Pentacles by Micah Ulrich in Michigan, US (micahulrichart.com)

Queen of Pentacles by Micah Ulrich in Michigan, US (micahulrichart.com)