Traditional Tarot readings are saturated with symbols and concepts around Gender. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck often focuses on Gender to give certain cards meanings (King, Queen, Emperor, and so on.)
In this article, we will be exploring how Gender has been viewed in traditional Tarot. I will also be exploring different ways of transcending gender norms. Or at least… becoming aware of masculine and feminine concepts in Tarot and using them when they best fit your reading.
HOW TO INTERPRET GENDER IN TAROT
Tarot cards speak to the subconscious through symbols and images. One of the symbols used in the cards is the Gender of the person represented. This can be used in two ways, to connect the reading to a specific person, or it can point towards the feminine or masculine energies involved.
Many modern decks are breaking down these gender norms/associations within the Tarot. There are modern ways to utilize the Tarot with a more gender-neutral and gender-fluid approach, and I will talk about that later in this article.
Let’s look a little deeper at these two traditional ways you can interpret the Gender of the cards.
Reminding you of someone
Sometimes when you lay down a card, it perfectly describes someone. Like laying down, the emperor might remind you of your father. Or placing the high priestess and it brings up the image of a friend.
This can help give one layer of context to the reading.
Tips when looking at gender as a physical reminder:
- Just because an image is depicted as a male body doesn’t mean it can’t represent the energy of a female friend of yours.
- Cards don’t have to be about specific people. Usually, they are more about forces at play than particular people or places.
Masculine and Feminine Energy
Another way you can interpret the Gender of a card is by seeing it as a metaphor for masculine and feminine energy.
For example, I was doing a reading, and I pulled the High Priestess. The inquiry I had was about an emotional process I was going through with my life’s purpose.
When reading this card, I associated it with the feminine energy within me—seeing how I needed to create more open emotional spaces for myself and allow my intuition.
In that same reading, I had the magician, which I associated with my Masculinity, specifically around my motivation and direction in life.
In this way, the Gender associated with a card can help explore Masculine and Feminine energy within you.
Tips when looking at a card’s Masculine or Feminine energy:
- Everyone has access to Masculine and Feminine traits. When interpreting the card, consider how these energies show up in yourself or others, regardless of their biological Gender.
- A male-bodied character in a card can still represent feminine energy and visa-versa.
- Not every card or reading needs to be about masculine or feminine energy. Just because you see Gender in an image does not mean it is the message trying to come across.
List of Masculine and Feminine Cards in Tarot
There are a few cards that many have associated in traditional Tarot as Masculine or Feminine.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it’s open to interpretation.
Feminine Cards in Tarot:
Note on the Page Court Card:
There is a lot of debate over the Page court cards. Some people believe they represent the innocence of adolescence and are gender-neutral or feminine. At the same time, others see the page as a young boy/masculine.
I like to interpret Page as youthful Feminine and Knight as youthful Masculine. This makes it more balanced with two Feminine court cards (Page and Queen) with two Masculine court cards (Knight and King).
Masculine Cards in Tarot:
Elemental Suits in Tarot – Masculine/Feminine:
In some western magical traditions, Air and Fire are viewed as masculine, and Water and Earth are seen as Feminine. Tarot can be seen to follow this tradition with its suits.
- Wands (Fire ) and Swords (Air ) representing Masculine
- Cups (water) and Pentacles (earth) representing Feminine
I have also heard people explain this by saying that Wands and Swords are phallic symbols and the Cups and Pentacles (Discs) are womb symbols.
This can add another interesting layer to interpreting the Tarot alongside Gender.
An example would be pulling the Queen of Swords. You could interpret the card as the masculine aspects of a woman you know. Or it could be a man’s internal Feminine.
Embodying the Full Range of Gender Archetypes in Tarot:
Over the years, I have learned to see Gender as a palette of self-expression rather than an assignment.
Within me lives both masculine and feminine archetypes—my expression of the changes from day to day and hour to hour. With consciousness, I can see when I enter these different modes.
This can be a helpful mindset when viewing Archetypes and Tarot.
The Archetypes of the Tarot aren’t just external; they are internal. Within you lies the whole pantheon of expression.
Understanding that will help your readings.
If you identify as Masculine, when you pull the High Priestess, try and take a moment to feel how this archetype shows up in yourself. It can add new depths to reflect on.
Modern Tarot and disrupting Gender Norms – Is it changing?
In the last 10 years, there has been astronomical growth in the number of Tarot Decks.
The rigid definitions of Gender in the Tarot have been changing. As society creates more complexity and openness to gender expression, Tarot has also been growing in complexity.
On the Fifth Spirit Tarot website, the creator states:
“The more we work with the Tarot, the more we realize that binaries don’t exist and everything is fluid—Gender, meaning, even time. We come to realize that we’re all creatures made of earth and air, fire and water, all four elements bound together by the fifth element: spirit.”
The movement to reinterpret Gender within Tarot has lead to innovation. It brings a new perspective around the meaning of the cards and the role gender has in spirituality.
This begs the question… Is Gender useful in Tarot?
This question points to some deeper reservations. It asks how gender interplays with our assumptions, cultural symbolism, and personal identity.
I have come to understand Gender to be a very personal exploration. How I view, my Masculinity is different then other people.
But… we also live in a society that shares symbolism around Gender and identity.
So for me exploring Gender and using the archetypal concepts of Masculine and Feminine is incredibly useful. It gives me a place to explore my perceptions.
It’s a dualistic system that helps me understand my polarity and interwoven relationship to Gender in the world.
As long as you remember that your interpretation of Gender is your own (informed by culture… but not fixed to it), you can keep an open mind to allow other people their own interpretations.
So for some using gendered symbols in the Tarot is helpful; for others, it is not (and sometimes even gut-wrenching). Instead of being prescriptive, explore Gender with an open curiosity and find what works for you.
I like using Gender in the Tarot to explore the archetypes of Masculinity and Femininity in my readings. Still, I balance that by understanding that each has these archetypes within us and is not fixed to biology.
If you are interested in understanding the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine, check out this article.
In Traditional Tarot readings, Gender was used as one layer of symbols that associate certain traits to femininity and the card’s meaning.
Understanding which cards are traditionally viewed as Masculine or Feminine can give you more context to explore in your readings.
But the meaning of the cards isn’t fixed to gender roles. They are bigger and more expensive than that. As you develop your own relationship to Gender and the cards, you can begin to create interpretations that go beyond the traditional meaning of the cards.
After all, the Tarot is perfect for exploring the subconscious. And each of us has our internal subconscious imagery.
I love this quote by Suzanne Cremen Davidson.
The Tarot is a colorful set of symbols sprung from the human imagination, depicting essential human experiences and patterns of development that are archetypal in their nature. Such archetypal images operate as bridges to the unconscious. Approached with awareness, they may facilitate psychological and spiritual growth.
Suzanne Cremen Davidson
This symbolism can be a tool for you to explore your identity and understanding of Gender.
If you are interested in exploring Gender, specifically Masculinity, on a deeper level, then check out the HeroRise Masculine Archetype Deck.
I also have another article that includes a list of Masculine Tarot and Oracle decks.