We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Tarot Court: "Be Thou a Knight"
Surviving squirehood, a young man of medieval Europe advanced to knighthood at around the age of 21. When the young man had completed his training in not only battle skill but social and courtly skills as well, he was ready to become a knight, and would be honoured as such in a ceremony (represented in this pre-Raphaelite piece "The Accolade"by Edmund Blair Leighton) known as "dubbing" (knighting) from the French "adoubement". The squire would hold a vigil, praying into the night. He was then ritually bathed, and in the morning he was dressed in a white shirt, gold tunic, purple cloak, and was knighted by his king or lord. As the Middle Ages progressed, the process changed. The squire was made to vow that he would obey the regulations of chivalry, and never flee from battle. A squire could also be knighted on the battlefield, in much abbreviated fashion, in which a lord simply performed the accolade, striking him on the shoulder saying “Be thou a knight”.
By the 1500's when tarot was developed, knighthood was already declining and knights in shining armor were mostly confined to the jousting field. The honorific title of knight conferred for civil service rather than military valor began in about 1560 and continues to today. Therefore, even in tarot's earliest form, the knights were more symbolic than literal. Even though military knights certainly still existed then, they had already become romanticized. Modern monarchies of that era had already begun to switch to standing armies, professional soldiers, rather than knights, who had become a land-owning noble class all their own. Knights were then associated more with chivalraic notions and an historically stereotyped role of those who fought for their monarch in brave and unyielding loyalty, which in actuality often veered far from the truth. Knights were not above using their wealth and influence to corrupt ends. In theory, knights were the warrior class defending the people of feudal Christianity and bound by a code of chivalry but this code was perhaps less scrupulously observed. In reality, rules were often bent or blatantly broken by knights as well as their masters, for power, goods or honour. So-called robber knights or robber barons would run organized crime rings from their estates or castles.

As in life, so it is in tarot, the Knights in tarot are honorable and dishonorable, positive and negative in their traits and actions. Their element is fire, the creative, active force that fuels ideas and gets things moving and accomplished. Knights go on "quests" -- they have missions, and so when you see a Knight in tarot you might ask yourself what is his mission, what is he trying to accomplish? His suit will tell you how he will go about it, as well as what is most important to him. Given the same mission or directive, each of the four knights will approach the goal differently according to his own ideas and personality. Regardless, they will get it done and show you the recommended approach to ensure success. Or not. Knights bring energy and movement to a situation, but depending on what you would like to see accomplished, the reading might show the wrong knight for the job. The situation might call for a meticulously slow and dedicated approach, so if say, the Knight of Swords pays a visit for that job, you might need to put on the brakes and restrain yourself.

Knights, like all court cards, are not necessarily literally young 20-something men. They can be male or female, young or old. It is this exuberant, youthful, get-there-or-die-trying characteristic that is found in all of us, given the right circumstances, that the knights are portraying. Though their energy is admirable, they tend to have that egocentric tendency that younger men have, complete with a distinct sense of invincibility. This makes them short sighted and impulsive, and a bit too sure that they are right. They also possess, with the exception of the Knight of Pentacles, a distinct lack of "sticktoitiveness." (The Knight of Pentacles has a bit too much of that, he's not easily swayed from anything he sets his mind to, which can be a problem at times, too.) You can depend on the Knights for the short term, but rarely for the long term. Their immaturity is displayed by their bravado and rash tempers, their lack of thinking things through, and an inability to pace themselves in a realistic fashion.

Even with their distinct flaws, I thoroughly enjoy the knights in tarot. Their energy and enthusiasm is usually welcome and can bring a fresh insight and spark to things and remind you how it feels to be young and ready to take on the world by your own lights. If nothing else they are passionate and responsive. While not always welcome when you had hoped for more stability, or when you don't really have enough information or understanding, acting first and thinking later can be a problem. They can exasperate, especially if you are on the receiving end of a fierce knight on a mission, you can be left picking up the pieces after they tromp through your life on their mighty steeds. But exciting? Yes, definitely.