I haven’t been polishing my “curmudgeon cred” much since I ended my “Cheap Shots” series, so here is another crack at it.
Late-19th-Century tarot authorities, lacking our psychological and sociological sophistication, almost unanimously considered the court cards to show other people in the querent’s life, even going to the extreme of trying to describe their physical appearance. Modern readers often have a great deal of heartburn with this rather narrow, mechanistic viewpoint because it doesn’t square well with their own more nuanced day-to-day experience of the cards. Although I sometimes think they aren’t really trying hard enough, many even dismiss the idea as irrelevant to the context of the question or to particular positions in the spread. The way of choice seems to be to dodge the question entirely.
I’m something of a “fence-sitter” on the subject. Because I encounter so few people during the course of a week, when I read for myself I almost never jump on court cards as automatically revealing others I’m going to have to deal with. Instead, I interpret them as showing attitudes or behaviors I should either adopt or avoid in facing the events of the period in question. I generally see my periodic self-readings as “setting the tone” for the day, week or month, so this is the most reliable way to handle any court cards that appear (although I do still keep an eye out for random intruders). I get the most mileage out of Aleister Crowley’s “moral characteristics” for the tarot court as explained in his Book of Thoth because they catalogue human qualities that can be applied equally to oneself or to others.
My approach changes dramatically when reading for another sitter. I find it most productive to ask first whether one or more court cards indicate other people whom the querent is already involved with or anticipates such involvement. If I’m right, the reading often takes off in that direction, with other aspects of the spread subordinate to that main focus. I can almost see the light of comprehension dawning on the sitter’s face at the mention of the possibility, as if it instantly clears up something that has been particularly vexing. Although it’s more than a little snarky and I wouldn’t dream of saying as much to the querent, I firmly believe that the allure of this idea lies in the fact that the individual has been casting about for someone or something external on whom to pin the blame for their troubles, and here is a ready-made “target of opportunity.” There is, of course, the risk of playing into their overheated fantasies, but I’m usually careful to lay it out in an even-handed manner by looking at all sides of the situation as they emerge in the dialogue. This potential exists in almost any department of life, so I never discount it out-of-hand, no matter the question or the spread I’m working with.
Failing to score an immediate hit with this gambit, I change gears and move on to the other two interpretive angles of attack. Eventually something will click and we’re off and running. As we explore the circumstances described by the cards, it isn’t unheard of that the narrative will circle back around to the initial assumption and the sitter will exclaim “Oh, that’s who we were talking about before.” Although I like to very briefly revisit earlier cards when I summarize at the end of a reading, I don’t even have to bring it up.