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Knights vs Kings

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 17 Mar 2002, and now archived in the Forum Library.

moondust  17 Mar 2002 
I thought I would throw out a question/musing a friend and I were wondering . . . why crowley did the strange thing of making the Knights in the usual King position. He keeps the movement of the usual Knights in the cards. . . Any thoughts on this??

Mermaid  17 Mar 2002 
I've wondered that too!

A friend of mine suggested that it might be because Crowley wanted to show the 'King' as more of a journeyman figure - in other words, to show that he is still learning, as opposed to being perfected.

I'm not totally convinced though - I'd love to hear any other ideas!


VGimlet  18 Mar 2002 
Maybe because the Knights are active, and the Kings are passive? I was wondering that myself, actually. 

Thirteen  19 Mar 2002 
Originally posted by Lilyaka
Maybe because the Knights are active, and the Kings are passive? I was wondering that myself, actually.

You've pretty much hit the nail on the head. There are two reasons, as I understand it.

1) Crowley saw the "Knights" (kings) as active figures--the spirit of the element, it's "fire." So to put them on a throne, sitting and still, seemed wrong to him. On a horse, moving, active--full of the energy (fire) of their symbol. The fire of cups, the fire of swords--they are the symbol in motion--not like the queen who is the "water" or deep emotions of them emblem.

Think of the symbol as a Kingdom (the Kingdom of Pentacles, for example). Think of the queen as the Lady of the Lake, deep and quiet, the ruler and "Heart" of the Kingdom. At her side is her consort, co-ruler and champion, the Knight. With the weapon and armor she gave him, he heads out to fight, perhaps even die, for his Kingdom. He is its protector, it's most vocal and physical champion. He is all passion and fire.

2) Crowley is a "pagan" and his view of masculine and feminine realate to a God and Goddess. The God is usually in motion--he always has a journey, and often dies (is sacrified) and is resurrected. He leads his followers, builds, "does." The Goddess, however, is stable. She doesn't move but rather remains, like the Earth, centered. Things move around her, obey her and worship her. Or, put it another way, the goddess is the Earth, the god is the seed. She remains. He grows, develops, dies and is planted to grow again. 

DeLani  19 Mar 2002 
That was a really beautiful way to put it. Your grasp of the Pagan gender archetypes is right on.
The only difference I had with Crowley's court card associations was that I really didn't think that Queens should be water and Princesses earth. I would reverse that, as in the Queen is the stable earth, mature, mothering, supportive & stable. The Princess is water as in changeable, intuitive, playful. But that's just my take on it. In the deck I'm working on, that's the system I use.

Aoife  05 Feb 2003 
Can I get this clear -
Pages are associated with earth, Queens with water
although I've read debate about whether these should be swapped.
I've seen Kings associated with Air and Fire [likewise knights]

Is there a consensus or do views vary? 

Laurel  05 Feb 2003 
Aoife, it really depends on the specific deck and what the creators had in mind. Crowley and Lady Harris had a clear idea of what they wanted the Thoth to convey in terms of Court Cards and elemental/astrological/kabbalastic correspondences, however there is no consensus (nor should there be imo) as to what is the -right- way, for all tarot decks and readers.


Aoife  05 Feb 2003 
Many thanks, Laurel!

That's what I love above the tarot - so wonderfully, complicatedly clear! Such sweet ambiguity!! It makes me feel positvely decisive in my everyday life - despite my very Libran personality.


Minos  07 Feb 2003 
There is a king, but he is invisible. The other cards imply him, but do not speak of him explicitly.

The Knight kills the old king, and becomes the new one.

The Queen is his wife, whose hand he wins.

The Princess re-awakens his lust and force with her charm, allowing him to become the knight again.

The Prince is his son who will succeed him, whom a new knight will kill.

True kingship is the secret hidden within the Thoth court cards, which the wise reader may unlock by a careful observation of their natures and interaction across the various suits. 

Aoife  07 Feb 2003 
Minos, there's a myth in there somewhere - I feel I've read this before.

Or is it just a horror story for the naive and unsuspecting newbie!


Minos  07 Feb 2003 
Originally posted by Aoife
Minos, there's a myth in there somewhere - I feel I've read this before.

More than one of them. ;) Crowley was an enthusiastic student of Frazer's Golden Bough, a wide-ranging study of myth and ritual, the ideas of which form the basis for the Thoth court cards.

The other important influence is Crowley's visionary prose-poem, The Vision and the Voice

Umbrae  08 Feb 2003 
A. Crowley, was a Mason, although it may be argued that he was not a good one, and perhaps did not receive the degrees that he said…that is not important.

What is important that the king is seen in service…and not as a ruler…very Masonic in imagery… 

Minos  08 Feb 2003 
Originally posted by Umbrae
A. Crowley, was a Mason, although it may be argued that he was not a good one

A very bad one. I say that both as someone who appreciates Crowley and also as a Mason.

What is important that the king is seen in service…and not as a ruler…very Masonic in imagery…

I'm not sure if I agree.

The king in the Thoth court cards isn't seen in service or in ruling...he isn't seen anywhere.

Though in a way, this may tie in with the mythos of Freemasonry, just as it does with so many other myths.

Masonic rituals deal with the building of King Solomon's temple. King Solomon thus stands at the symbolic center of the mythos, and is embodied in the Master of the Lodge.

King Solomon, however, stands aloof from the initiatory proceedings. When the time comes for the candidate to take on the mantle of the Master Mason, he does so not as KS, but as the chief architect of the temple, who is a kind of double of King Solomon, but not him.

Thus the candidate reflects KS, but KS stands apart, just as the Thoth court cards reflect the King, but the King is nowhere to be found. 

Umbrae  09 Feb 2003 
My reference was to the EA Lecture, which contains the lines (and I paraphrase here), “…and we recall that kings have been known, to put up their scepter for a time, and take up the trowel…”

This states, that kings and rulers, often perform as masons, and when doing such, are no longer observed as kings, but meet on the level as masons; further, as such they would be subordinate to the Master in the East. 

jmd  09 Feb 2003 
Irrespective of the wonderful and peculiar Masonic exegesis one may also do with the courts (and other cards), and returning to the original post, one aspect which has been implied but not explicitly stated is the simple but highly effective neo-Kabalistic elemental association with the tetragrammaton.

Here, IHVH is connected with Fire, Water, Air and Earth (in that order), to which the courts are then linked. As the first is Fire, a volatile element, the active representation of the Knight was also seen to be, perhaps incorrecly, as better fitting.

    Yod - Fire - Knight;
    Heh - Water - Queen;
    Vav - Air - King;
    Heh - Earth - Princess/Bride
I am not, by the way, implying that the change is warranted, rather that it makes sense within a specific context, and is consistent within this eclectic-syncretist context (those elemental attributions to IHVH are not universally accepted).

As to Masonry - and to Crowley's affiliations, there are certainly various views :). 

The Knights vs Kings thread was originally posted on 17 Mar 2002 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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