The Four Knights – Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles
The Four Knights in the Tarot represent people, situations, atmospheres, advice or messages, based on the Elemental Energies of the particular Knight. They generally represent males between 22 and 30 years of age but they can represent a female if their energy fits and she is displaying Knightly qualities. If a Knight turns up and the Querant is convinced it represents someone much older than 30, then it might suggest there is immaturity evident in this person.
The Knights represent the Fiery part of the Suits. Regardless of which Suit The Knight represents and his Governing Element, he will also be influenced by the Element and Energy of Fire.
Fire has very obvious effects on the individual Knights. By their very nature, age and archetypal personality, a Knight is expected to be able to call on Fire at will when the situation warrants it. In fact, those in his Kingdom would think it odd, if not unacceptable for a Knight not to display his Fiery side. How would a Knight be able to ride into battle and face the enemy without Fire bravely driving him forth? How would a Knight defend the honour of The Queen and King, or race to the rescue of a Damsel in distress, if he had not the energy of Fire to ignite his passion and interest?
Without Fire coursing through The Four Knights, they would stay at home in their castles pampered and fussed over, lounging around all day letting others do all the hard and difficult work for them. They would come across as weak in themselves, lacking in spirit, motivation and initiative. They would be enthusiastic for nothing and too tired to go anywhere.
History would have to re-write itself, and for certain most traditional romantic novels too. Rapunzel would still be locked up in her tower, Sleeping Beauty still deep in slumber and jousting tournaments too dangerous to participate in. Kingdoms would lie in ruin and pillage because of Knightless defence. Brave battles would never be fought, corrupt rulers never ousted, risks never dared and challenges never risen to. We would never have heard of Sir Lancelot or Sir Galahad.
Taking action, movement, mobility, courage, strength, vision, passion and daring risk is the realm The Four Knights dwell in. They are the older brothers to the young Pages, the handsome and dashing young adult sons (or daughters) of The Kings and Queens. They are adults within their own right, but only just, and for all their Fire and Devilish looks, still have much to learn. By virtue of their rank and age, they have now gained a freedom not often granted The Pages.
The Four Knights are certainly given much freedom. It is seen as their Right of Passage. It is expected that they enter their Knighthood play acting, or pretending to be ‘real men/women’ in the hope that they will come out the other end as ‘true men (or women)’ with all their rough edges smoothed off. The King and Queen both know that the only way they are going to grow, mature and develop is through the direct experience of life. Their offspring have reached a stage where they must start to fend for themselves. The King and Queen if they have done a good job in rearing their young Knights will suffer only mild anxiety when their sons (or daughters) head out into the great wide yonder, and out of their jurisdiction. They will accept that their Knights do not know everything regardless of how much they protest about their ability to cope. They will expect them to make some mistakes and will be there to support them through any aftermath involved. If they have failed or fallen short in their role as parents, The King and Queen may then expect trouble to land on their doorstep, and many a mess to clean up after their young Knight has last control or the run of himself.
And so The King and Queen stand by while The Knights are free to galavant and get up to all sort of mischief and mayhem. They will be encouraged to ‘sow their wild oats’ and might even receive a round of applause for it. They will be allowed take liberties, take chances and experiment with various aspects of life. They can pack their bags and take off around the world or pursue crazy careers. They can shout their mouth off using freedom of expression as their god given right. They can find their way to demonstrations as easily as they can find their way to a rock festival. Everything and anything is expected of The Four Knights as they carve out a life for themselves in the hope that it will all come together in the end. They will eventually be expected to quieten or settle down when the time comes, but for the moment, life is for the living and it would be hard to find anyone who is more alive than The Four Knights.
The Knights are viewed as the young men of the world. Their aim is to conquer the world and become Masters of their domain. The world is also their oyster, and it is The Knights who are given the freedom to wander it as they choose, for they must become knowledgeable and experienced in the ways of not just their own world, but of many. They must make a name for themselves, find their place and assert their presence. They must seek out, fight for, and claim their own territory if they are ever to be taken seriously. They should command a presence about them that is unmistakably Knightly and enjoy many followers and admirers. Knights may equally expect to attract rivals in love, life, career and power. Such rivalry often keeps their flames fanned and a state of constant alert should they be required to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
The Kings carefully monitor The Knights’ comings and goings, for it is they who stand to inherit. The only person who strikes real fear into the heart of any Knight is The King himself, for he still has immense power and influence over him. It is The King who can speak as he chooses to The Knight when it comes to reprimand and command. However, The King is lenient in certain matters and areas of behaviour with The Knight for he too remembers what it was to be a Knight. The Knight must learn to be a man and therefore must be given enough freedom to do so. The Knight must defer to The King, but in The King’s absence The Knight will try to assume his power and control, for he understands that it is only a matter of time before he too becomes a King and ascends the throne.
The relationship between The Knight and The King can be that of respectful son and loving father or resentful son and domineering father. It depends on how The Knight was reared and what he experienced. The Knight can be the loving and obliging son or spiteful wayward rebel. A real handful.
The Knight’s mother, The Queen, may not be made privy to his comings, goings and actions in the same way The King is. The Queen typically dotes on her Knightly son, sees little wrong in him, and has great capacity to forgive any of his misdemeanours. She will tolerate much antics, bad behaviour and minor indiscretions before uttering a word of reproach. It is to The Queen, The Knight will return for comfort and emotional support if their relationship has been stabilised from the start. It is through The Queen, The Knight can be allowed to indulge in emotional matters and love. The Queen wants what is best for her son, which is usually what The Knight tells her he wants, whereas The King wants what is best for his kingdom. The King and Queen may clash over such matters. The Queen will happily cover for her Knightly son and act as a buffer or go-between matters flare between The King and his son. Any romantic partners of her Knightly son will have to undergo extreme vetting before being accepted into the inner sanctum of the family.
And so the Element of Fire has a huge role to play in the formation and personality development of a Knight. Because all The Knights are influenced by Fire as well as their own Element, we find it in abundance and strength in The Knight of Wands. Here we have Fire influencing Fire, an explosive combination straight away. The Knight of Wands is bursting with enthusiasm and excitement at the prospects of life and travel. He just can’t wait to get going and certainly doesn’t waste any time in kicking up his heels. He is determined to enjoy his time as a Knight and is ready to have a go at everything, at least once, for he wants to experience all. Temperatures sky-rocket as The Knight of Wands prepares for off. He has no time to waste.
The Knight of Cups, romantic and sensitive, being the Fiery part of Water uses the energies of the Fire Element to take action on his feelings and emotions. He is young, handsome and ready for love. He is ready to put love to the test as the Fire fans the flames of passion bubbling beneath the surface. He has the freedom to come and go as he chooses now and is eager to master the art of romance and the joy of sex.
The Knight of Swords, quick minded and talkative being the Fiery part of Air uses the Fire Element to fuel his mind and thought processes in order to think and act swiftly. This combination of Air and Fire is combustible and volatile. This Knight cannot think and move fast enough. He is at the top of his game but with such powerful Elemental Forces in Air and Fire at play, he can easily lose control at this stage of his development. He is fearless and brave, if not impulsive and single-minded. He can be outrageously brilliant or explosively reckless.
The Knight of Pentacles, serious, committed and responsible, being the Fiery part of Earth, the Fire Element influences him to do something about his long-term goals. He may be forgiven at times for appearing not to have any Fire present at all, but do not be fooled. This Knight keeps his Fire under tight control so that he can harness and re-direct its energies for useful purposes. He may see the other Knights as wasting their Fire on useless pursuits and trivial activities. He would certainly know how to put it to better use should it all be handed over to him. He is clever, careful and quiet, a true Knight and not a show-off. He is the most loyal, trustworthy and long serving Knight of the King of his realm. The King will trust this Knight with his life, the life of his family and the continued safety of the Kingdom. The Knight will not let him down.
Because of Fire influencing them, The Knights are known to be extreme in their nature. We must look to their Governing Element to determine such nature.
The Knight of Wands can be extreme in his enthusiasm and actions or exhausted and disinterested, the Knight of Cups can be extremely emotional and romantic or downright lustful and manipulating, the Knight of Swords can think and act too fast, get stressed and agitated or become aggressive, abusive and violent, and the Knight of Pentacles can be overly cautious and un-adventurous or gamble and become lazy and insolent.
The Four Knights represent exuberance, the first taste of power, real freedom and the ultimate defining stage of the young to mid adult years of the Court Cards. Their energy is masculine (females can also be represented by a Knight) excitable, infectious and outward. Full of ideas and promise, The Knights are determined to make their mark. However, they are just finding their way in the world and are prone to making mistakes.
In general most of these mistakes are just part of the growing up process and we are quick to forgive. It is only when they Reverse that their mistakes can become disastrous. At this stage of their growth, the Knights may very well believe they are invincible and immortal. They may think they know it all and have nothing left to learn. They may refuse to take advice or to heed caution or warning. This can be one of their greatest mistakes, and if allowed to free fall into Reverse, it may be very hard to put right.
At this vital stage of the growth process, The Knights are no longer children. They must act responsibly while enjoying themselves, or they may end up regretting at leisure later on in life. No longer young but not yet fully mature, the dye of their personalities however, is being cast. Any negativity, unless dealt with firmly in The Knight stage will become entrenched and fixed. As you will discover on your journey throughout The Four Knights, they can become as undesirable when Reversed as they are desirable when Upright. Brilliant young men or crashing nightmares.
More on The Four Knights
The Four Knights we encounter are in stark comparison to The Pages that came before them. All of The Knights are featured on Horseback wearing a Suit of Armour. Here we have great symbolic importance of the role The Knights play in The Court Families. Gone are the whimsical and often naïve attitudes of The Pages who spent their time thinking and planning their futures ahead. In their stead come The Knights who are men of action as well as thought, feeling and practicality. They are the Torch Bearers of their Element and Suit. With The Knight’s ability to combine action with vision, thought, feeling and practicality to create momentum and drive in their individual Suits, they need to work very hard to maintain this balance.
This can be very difficult for The Knights to successfully achieve and maintain, for Fire is a powerful Element, and can be extremely overwhelming. It may prove difficult to fight or keep under control, especially when The Knights so badly need its influence to retain their Ranking. A Knight who is lacking in Fire, or has a complete absence of it, is a sorry sight indeed and none more so than The Knight of Wands who is born out of The Fire Element, and then has it doubled once more, is the ultimate bearer of Fire and possesses all Fire’s attributes from one extreme to another.
We spoke of Fire being essential for The Knights to combine action with thought to create momentum, but if too much Fire is present, then actions can become the dominant quality, leaving precious little room for thought, reason, feelings or practicality. Left unbridled and unconstrained, Fire will impulsively rush headlong into situations without checking things out first. The Fire will certainly create momentum, but the outcome of all this forward activity may not yield the result wished for.
The Four Knights need Fire to fight their way through life and to make things happen. The Suit of Armour worn by all symbolically represents their preparation for, and desire to go into battle for that which they want, or want for others. Their Suits of Armour demonstrate their bravery, fearlessness and courage. They are responsible for defending their own territory, as well as fighting for the territory of others. They must use their Fire and Armour to battle for supremacy, take what they believe is rightfully theirs, and assert their position in the world. They have a lot of work to do, much to experience and experiment with. With not a lot of time to achieve their aims before they will be expected to take on their Kingly (and sometimes Queenly) roles, The Four Knights need the assistance of their trusty steeds to carry them rapidly forward, and from place to place.
Each Knight has been gifted and entrusted with just the right horse for his journey and respective Suit. Each horse is born and formed out of the Elemental Energies which are specific to each Suit. Essentially, their horses are an integral part of each Knight. One may not be able to exist without the other. A Horse-less Knight, can no longer hold his Rank, and so becomes just another one of the crowd. We expect our Knights to be more than that. We expect them to be larger than life beings who have been divinely blessed, and sent here to carry out very specific duties.
Thus The Four Knights needs their Horses to rise above the mass so that all may be aware of the Rank and Status they enjoy, and the importance of the missions they are prepared to undertake. Missions only they have the nerve to carry out. Young, bold and daring, they need their trusty mounts to guide and steer them through the guaranteed challenges that lie in wait for them as they journey forward. The Knights are born for the job and we would not dream of sending anyone else in their place. The Four Knights must be prepared to rise to any challenge. They have all donned their Suits of Armour and mounted their Horses. They cannot just sit there looking pretty, or pretend to be a brave chivalrous Knight. They must fully incorporate their role and act it out. With Suit of Armour and Horses pawing the ground, they are obliged to move and get going.
The Four Knights tend to attract challenges on their path, some actually going out of their way to seek them out. Their Horses must be able to fearlessly jump the nature of any obstacles that are particular to their Elemental Journey. These challenges are different for each Knight which means their Horses are formed for the specific roles they will play. They will not be fazed by what they encounter or experience.
Whereas The Knight of Wand’s Horse has been bred with the fearless strength and speed of a Hunter, The Knight of Pentacle’s Horse is one of endurance, perseverance and adaptability, much like a Great Shire. The Knight of Sword’s Horse is a pure Thoroughbred Race Horse, built for incredible speed and agility, while The Knight of Cup’s Horse is also bold and strong, but moves with the grace and beauty of a superb Dressage Equine.
When it comes to the superb four-legged beasts that carry their Knights forward through life, we can liken them to four young colts that have just become aware of their own power. We must always remember the nature of these wonderful animals. They are large, strong, muscled, tall and very, very, very powerful. Symbolically, the Horse represents many things, but sheer Power is one of their greatest associations.
I have worked with horses for many years, and also rode and competed my own Horse in show jumping, cross-country and dressage. In all this time, I had to remember to have a healthy respect and fear for the animal that carried me across large fences before taking me back home safely across the finish line. Yes, I had several falls over the years and fractured my collar-bone but I never sustained any injuries from my horse falling on me or worse kicking, or head-butting me. No matter how in love I was with my horse, and I know she loved me too, she was still a mighty force and powerhouse of muscle and bone. With one quick sharp kick, she could have split my head open, not because she wanted to, but because she got a fright or was in season when a stallion passed too close, or if I had not being paying particular attention, or had become to laid-back or blasé about the potential danger of standing too close to a Horse. She was a beauty, like so many others, but beauty or not, she could kill me with the swing of her head clashing with mine, her hoof packing a powerful punch or the weight of her body crushing me in a fall.
The Four Knights must remember this when taking on the responsibility of their Horses. They should not be messed around with. Before these eager young Colts where handed over into the charge of their Knights, we can imagine them running wild and free across the fields, racing each other to the top of the hills, bucking and messing around. If they can stop for long enough for us to look into their eyes, there you will see the burning Element of Fire that supplies them with endless, high-spirited and manic energy. Like a bush fire that races across dry arid land, these unbridled horses can lay waste to anything in their track for they move too fast to even notice the damage they may be causing.
The first challenge for each Knight is to round up and catch his own young Colt. They must approach these wild beasts and seek to draw just the right one to them. Once selected, they must develop a rapport with their Horse and seek to encourage trust. Once they can get close enough, The Knights must then risk life and limb to capture their Horse, get a bridle onto its head, A bit into its mouth and a saddle on its back. They must then attempt to mount the Colts that up to now have never been restricted or restrained.
Once this has been achieved, The Four Knights will have to take up their reins and take control of the powerful energy that is bursting to be released. They will see the muscles twitch and heads swing furiously back and forth in an attempt to escape their captive state. They will stamp their feet and walk backwards before rearing up, desperate to off-load the weight off their backs. In time, the Four Horses with careful handling will realise that The Knight they carry, shares a similar nature to them. They are one and the same, and so accept their masters, eager to obey and accompany them on their many journeys. They become trusty friends, but The Knight must always remember that for all his Suit of Armour and Rank, his Horse is far more powerful than he. He must also remember that he bears the responsibility of containing and directing such power. The Four Horses carry the strong influence of The Fire Element and must be managed.
Once the partnership of Horse and Knight Remains in balance, then all is well in the world and The Four Knights can do great things. They can even change the world and encourage positive reform. They must work hard to keep the reins in their hands. It is when The Knights fall into Reverse Mode, they often forget, or take for granted, the powerhouse of fiery energy they ride upon. They drop the reins or forget to tie them up. Should the Horses manage to break free of their bridles and restraints, they will revert quite rapidly back to their Coltish state. With the wind in their mane and a swish of their tails, they will take off and run amuck, leaving damage and disaster in their wake. They will be like Fire let loose and out of control.
Metaphorically speaking, The Four Knights must stay mounted and in control. Whether they are on or off their Horse they must make sure their Horse is safe, is where it is meant to be and is of no threat to others. They will succeed with none of their missions if they fail to manage the power of Fire that will carry them through each situation they encounter. If controlled and balanced properly, Fire can agree to be paced so that it can be beneficially used at the appropriate rate required for a particular situation, issue, incident or challenge.
Fire can be disciplined to move at a walk, trot, canter or gallop. It is only when The Knights Reverse that Fire is let loose to do its own thing, it bolts. It then has only two speeds; gallop and flat-out. Even Horses cannot run forever or maintain such an accelerated pace. The Reversed Knights can be very dismayed to discover that their Horses are not machines that can keep going and going and going. These Reversed Knights realise only too late that travelling at such a crazy speed may result in a crash, accident and injury. The only similarity their Horses have to machines or cars is that if they are expected to work at the max speed for a long period of time, either their engine will burn out or they will run out of fuel. When this happens, they become of no use to anyone. Their Knights may find themselves stranded, with a long walk home and a Horse that needs a long period of rest and recuperation. Without his trusty steed, he can no longer stay in the race and is not in a position to compete with the other Knights. He will have to be patient and work hard to retain his Ranking once more. He will have learned his lesson the hard way.
Because The Knight’s Horses provide methods of transport for their Knights they can also symbolically represent journeys or travel when Reading. The Knight of Wands can imply travel to hot distant lands, The Knight of Cups, travel across Water. The Knight of Swords can symbolically represent travel through Air while The Knight of Pentacles would typically suggest travel across rough terrain, or travel across one’s own land or country. These symbolic indications of travel can be re-enforced by the presence of other supporting travel cards.
On The Kabbalistic Tree of Life the Four Knights reside in the 6th Sephira, Tipareth (Beauty/ Balance/Son of God). Tipareth bridges the divide between The Divine God and the Physical world.
Any Knight turning up in a Reading should be closely observed to determine if their energy is helping or hurting. Action of some sort is usually required of you when a Knight appears and does not represent a person. The particular action will be determined by the Governing Suit and Element of The Knight involved. For example, you may need to act on your feelings when The Knight of Cups appears, or to act on your thoughts or plans when The Knight of Swords makes an appearance.
All Four Knights in a reading suggest much activity around the issue and rapid development of a situation leaving precious little time to draw breath. There may be a sudden need to travel. They also represent study, learning and large groups of young males.
Three Knights suggest a group of men or friends while Two also suggest friends but of a closer bond. A solitary Knight can represent a love interest, partner or secret admirer.
Several Knights Reversed suggests trouble with a group of men or The Gang/Mob Mentality. It can also suggest too much activity, highly charged situations, stress and exhaustion. One Reversed Knight turning up with several other Upright Knights can suggest that there is a ‘bad egg’ or ‘troublemaker’ in a group.
In a relationship spread Two Knights appearing Reversed can suggest love rivals, especially if they are the Knight of Cups and Knight of Wands Reversed.
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