You are probably familiar with a system that allocates each of the Minor Arcana suits an element - either earth, air, fire or water. The system that I use is:
Wands - Fire
Swords - Air
Cups - Water
Pentacles - Earth
But there are other systems out there. Some decks include a 5th suit and therefore a 5th element (usually associated with ether or spirit) - so find one that looks like it agrees with the imagery on your deck and stick with it! :-)
Something else, worth bearing in mind, is that each of the court card RANKS also has an element associated with it:
Pages - Earth
Knights - Air
Queens - Water
Kings - Fire
Even here, there are other options - with Knights sometimes being regarded as fiery and the Kings as Airy. Take your pick!
What this means is that each of our Court Cards has two elements at work. In some cases these elements will be complementary and in other cases downright conflicting.
When talking about the two elemental components of your Court Card, it's the Rank element first, followed by the Suit element (a bit like a first name and a second name....so the Page of Wands is Earth of Fire)
Using this elemental pairing information can add further depth to your Court Card interpretations:
Fire and Air are complementary/friendly
Water and Earth are complementary/friendly
Fire and Water conflict/unfriendly
Air and Earth conflict/unfriendly
Fire and Earth are neutral
Air and Water are neutral
You can actually apply these principles to your Tarot reading generally - it's a whole discipline called Elemental Dignity and the power of cards can be increased or diminished, depending on the surrounding cards.
When I are use the suit element and the rank element, I'm not always using the Elemental Dignity method of reading whereby the surrounding cards play a role. Mainly I just look at the elements at play in the single Court card in front of me and apply them to the situation in question.
Four Court Cards are, literally, in their element - the Page of Pentacles (Earth of Earth), the Knight of Swords (Air of Air), the Queen of Cups (Water of Water) and the King of Wands (Fire of Fire).
If you only have one element operating, how might this affect these four cards? Might they be overwhelmed by their element? Do they lack balance? Something to think about when a double element Court card arises in your reading.
As well as four people being in their element, four of them suffer real conflict between their Rank and Suit elements:
The little Page of Swords - Earth of Air
The Knight of Pentacles - Air of Earth
The Queen of Wands - Water of Fire
The King of Cups - Fire of Water
The King of Cups, for example, may struggle to assert his Kingly energies when his compassion is roused? Likewise, the Queen of Wands actions might belie her caring streak? When two conflicting elements vie for supremacy in a Court, what might the results be? Are they unpredictable people? People seeming to say one thing and do another?
What about the Knight of Pentacles or the Page of Swords - what might their conflicts be?
Technically, the neutral elements of Water/Air and Fire/Earth don't strengthen or weaken....but when reading individually, why not consider how useful these elements can be together? For example - air can really give water a bit of pizazz (think of carbonated water!) how else can air affect water? Can this be brought in to your interpretation of the Court card? Are these people more even balanced? Less likely to experience utter meltdown because they have non-conflicting elements nor double elements?
What about Fire and Earth? Think of the useful ceramics that can be made....and how that process can go wrong! Can that add depth to your interpretation of this card?
There are lots of great resources out there to help you find out more about Elemental Dignities. Pay a visit to Paul Hughes-Barlow's site, supertarot. Also, Liz Hazel's book, Tarot Decoded has excellent information on Elemental Dignities :-) Please feel free to add your own recommendations for sites or books in the comments section.
Card illustration: Knight of Disks - Thoth Tarot - Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris, published by US Games.
You can buy the deck here:
You can buy Liz Hazel's book here: