Waite's significators. Knights older and Kings younger?


In the PKT, the section on "An Ancient Celtic Method of Divination," Waite says:

"A Knight should be chosen as the Significator if the subject of inquiry is a man of forty years old and upward; A King should be chosen for any male who is under that age;"​

It seems like it should be the opposite, i.e. Kings representing an older man and the Knights a younger. Generally there are two theories for why Waite wrote it the way he did. 1) It's a misprint; and 2) He was using Golden Dawn correspondences. It seems most likely to me it's a misprint.

Let's say for the sake of argument Waite is referring to the GD correspondences of

King = Knight
Knight = King.

It still wouldn't make sense for the following reason, in the GD Knights are still young men and Kings are older men, though their arrangement is different, i.e. their positions are switched. The GD chose Knights as fire and the active, initiating force; they represent youthful vigor. By the same token, the Kings were older and more mature; they represented the qualities necessary to develop the energy first initiated by the Knight. It's illogical that Waite would be secretly referring to the GD attributions, because in the GD Knights are still younger and Kings still older.

It makes more sense to me that this is simply a misprint. Waite may have subconsciously been thinking of the GD ordering and wrote the wrong thing. At least that's my 2 cents. :)

Rose Lalonde

Someone more well read will come along, but if we take it to mean GD correspondences, shouldn't it be:

Waite King = GD Prince
Waite Knight = GD King

In which case, it makes sense, because the Prince is the son of the King.

From Book T:

The Four Kings
The Four Kings or Figures mounted on Steeds represent the Yod forces of the Name in each Suit, the Radix, Father and commencement of Material Forces. A force in which all the others are implied and of which they form the development and completion. A force swift and violent in its action, but whose effect soon passes away, and therefore symbolized by a figure on a steed riding swiftly, and clothed in complete armour.
Therefore is the knowledge of the scale of the King so necessary for the commencement of all magical working.

The Four Princes
These Princes are figures seated in Chariots, and thus borne forward. They represent the Vau Forces of the Name in each suit; the Mighty son of the King, and the Queen, who realizes the Influence of both scales of Force. A prince, the son of a King and Queen, yet a Prince of Princes, and a King of Kings. An Emperor whose effect is at once rapid (though not so swift as that of a king) and enduring (though not as steadfast as that of a Queen). It is therefore symbolized by a figure borne in a chariot, and clothed with armour. Yet is his power illusionary, unless set in Motion by his Father and Mother.


Book T is one of the most confusing documents I've ever read. Sometimes it's hard to know if it's talking about Kings, Knights or Princes.

Reading the descriptions of the Courts though I'm left with the impression that the figures on horses are younger and the ones in chariots are older. For example Knights are described as "Warriors." This seems more fitting of a younger man. The Knight of Cups is described as a "youthful Warrior." The King of Swords is described as a King and the rest as "Kingly." This coupled with the fact that the Kings are in chariots suggests an older person. Regardie has added to the confusion by labeling them King, Queen, Prince and Princess. Pat Zalewski says in The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn:

"In going along with what he considered the traditional approach, Regardie decided in both his publications, (which he changed from the original manuscripts) to call the figures on horseback Kings and those in the chariots Princes. In this regard his influence is very evident in the Wang pack, while the descriptions in the original Golden Dawn papers often contradict each other in this respect."​

If Zalewski is correct in this, the "Four Kings" mounted on steeds may have originally been Four "Knights"; and the "Four Princes" seated in chariots may have been Four "Kings." That doesn't change the descriptions though; but it does tend to increase the likelihood that the figures in chariots would be seen as younger. I've always wondered where the copies of Book T we now have came from. I suspect probably from Regardie. I've never seen an original manuscript. Zalewski doesn't say specifically, but his comment seems to leave open the possibility that it wasn't only the titles that were altered.

There seems to have been disagreement even between GD memebers themselves. Again quoting Zalewski:

"I have been assured by Jack Taylor [Whare-Ra Temple] that in the Golden Dawn proper, it was Knight, Queen, King and Princess and so I have followed suit. It would be fair to comment however that not all in the Golden Dawn went along with this association."​

Mathers' paper on Tarot Divination also holds an intriguing clue. In the operation of "The Opening of the Key" the following instructions are given for selecting a Significator:

Kings..........................Generally men.
Queens........................Generally women.
Princes (Knights)..........Generally young men.
Princesses (Knaves)......Generally young women.


Crowley's Equinox, I, viii Fall 1912 looks like it could be another source of Book T as it exists today. Crowley printed it in that issue. It has the same parts about the "Four Kings" and "Four Princes" with the same descriptions.



Here's a pic of the Knight and King of Wands from the Classic Golden Dawn Tarot side-by-side. The patterns for the Courts in this deck were supposedly "Westcott's" original court cards; they were discovered among Wescott's effects, though I'm not sure it's ever been proven definitively he drew them.

In each suit, the Knights are younger looking while the Kings have facial hair and look older.



I note that the Knight is Fire of Fire, while the King is Air of Fire, which agrees with Crowley's Yod and Vau distinction. It's too bad Waite wasn't more forthcoming with his own thoughts on this.


I don't know of anywhere where Waite addresses this directly, but indirectly it's possible to know what his position probably was (at least one version of his position :laugh:). Because of the iconography of the Elementals on the courts, we know he assigned the Elements as King = Fire, Queen = Water, Knight = Air and Page = Earth. By an indirect route it can be established that Kings = Chokmah/Yod, Queen = Binah/He, Knight = Chesed–Yesdod/Vau and Page = Malkuth/He (final).

First, there's a passage in Waite's Occult Review article of January, 1926, entitled "The Great Symbols of the Tarot." It's also repeated in Shadows of Life and Thought, 1938:

"Had Lévi understood Sephirotic Kabbalism better, again he could have done better by affirming—as it would have been easy for him—that the French Damoiseau [young man, Page] had replaced a primitive Damoiselle [girl], the Squire [Page] Court-Card being really feminine. He could then have allocated correctly as follows: the King to Chokmah, the Queen to Binah, the Knight to the six Lower Sephiroth, from Chesed to Yesod inclusive, governed by the semi-Sephira Daath, and the Damoiselle to Malkuth. He would have found also in this manner a complete correspondence between these Trumps Minor and the four letters of the Tetragram. Finally, he would have established the operation of the Sacred Name in the four Kabbalistic Worlds and would have exhibited the distinctions and analogies between Shekinah in transcendence [Queen] and Shekinah manifested in life and time [Damoiselle, Page]."​

Second, his Frontispiece from The Holy Kabbalah shows how he assigns the letters of the Tetragrammaton. Yod = Chokmah, He = Binah, Vau = Daath and He (final) = Malkuth.


In this roundabout way it's possible to infer how Waite might have understood it.


In the FRC, Waite followed the correspondences of Yod = Fire, He = Water, Vau = Air, and He (final) = Earth. This, together with everything else, and an educated guess can be made.

King of Wands = F/F
Queen of Wands = W/F
Knight of Wands = A/F
Page of Wands = E/F

King of Cups = F/W
Queen of Cups = W/W
Knight of Cups = A/W
Page of Cups = E/W

King of Swords = F/A
Queen of Swords = W/A
Knight of Swords = A/A
Page of Swords = E/A

King of Pents = F/E
Queen of Pents = W/E
Knight of Pents = A/E
Page of Pents = E/E