The Royal Arcana can be observed as a 4×4 grid, and sometimes seen as an addition to the Minor Arcana, or a separate but related system to both the Major and Minor Arcanas respectively; which was touched upon in a previous section. There are often many different names for the Royal Arcana cards, such as “Page, Knight, Queen, King” or “Princess, Prince, Queen, and Knight”. For the sake of simplicity, in Patch Tarot we have titled them “Princess, Prince, Queen, and King”. This decision to do so is explained more thoroughly in The Book of Patch, and relates heavily to the history of Tarot, and an attempt to unify all pre-existing decks into One.
We fully acknowledge the confusion that can come from the different layouts of the many decks, and have spent a great deal of time attempting to understand the difference between these variants and why they exist at all. Sometimes the King is in the position of the Prince and embodies the element of Air, where as other times the King is called a Knight and embodies the element of Fire. The principal reason for the different versions come from the two major staple decks in the last 100 years, the Rider-Waite and Thoth Tarot.
That said, both of these decks derived from the Qabalistic structure of Tarot established by the Order of the Golden Dawn. However, the Rider-Waite was a synthesis of the Golden Dawn structure and the older “Tarot De Marseille” decks which was the previous standard, circulated through Europe for hundreds of years prior. Thoth Tarot on the other hand, relied more heavily on the Golden Dawn structure, but was also a synthesis of Aleister Crowley’s own understanding and level of consciousness at the time of creating it. Most decks that were made in the last 100 years are generally based to some degree on either of these two decks, and each of them follows a distinct system which either puts the element of Air, or Fire, at the top of the Royal hierarchy.
We have decided that with what we know and understand about Qabalah, the Four Worlds, Alchemy, Astrology, and the rest of what is available through the Tarot, that the system of Fire at the top makes the most sense (all deriving from formless female air by nature of Kether). This is described with much more detail in The Book of Patch, however for now we will continue with a basic description of the Royal Arcana.
Patch Tarot is an attempt to unify these pre-existing decks, and so we have laid out the Royal Arcana by this structure:
The Princesses are the element of Earth.
The Princes are the element of Air.
The Queens are the element of Water.
The Kings are the element of Fire.
|Disks (Earth)||Swords (Air)||Cups (Water)||Wands (Fire)|
|Princess||Earth aspect of Earth||Earth aspect of Air||Earth aspect of Water||Earth aspect of Fire|
|Prince||Air aspect of Earth||Air aspect of Air||Air aspect of Water||Air aspect of Fire|
|Queen||Water aspect of Earth||Water aspect of Air||Water aspect of Water||Water aspect of Fire|
|King||Fire aspect of Earth||Fire aspect of Air||Fire aspect of Water||Fire aspect of Fire|
|Young Female Energy||Young Male Energy||Mature Female Energy||Mature Male Energy|
Generally when drawn in a reading, the Royal Arcana can be observed in a number of ways. Often, they are read as people in your life or aspects of yourself. They can also signify, places, events, or things too. Because of this, reading the Royal Arcana cards can often be the most complex cards in all of the Tarot, but that is simply a signal of just how deep you can go with them. Another reason these cards are so complex is that they relate to not one, but several different astrological signs, often including at least 2 constellations and even more planets, in addition to their two elemental signs as well.
Therefore, do not limit your understanding of these cards to the previously described connections and grids, but continue making connections and strive to learn more. For those of you just getting started, having this basic understanding will be monumental in helping to understand what these alchemical combinations mean. Further, look to the upright and reverse keys at the top of the cards for a very simple understanding of what the card might represent – but don’t limit yourself exclusively to this meaning – you can always go deeper.
Now that you have got the basics of the suits of Tarot, in the next section we explore deeper into the esoteric information of Tarot!