Figuring out when the face cards represent situations vs. people is a frequently-asked question and it's a tough one. The best way to figure it out is (1) set an intention about how you wish to read the face cards BEFORE you begin your reading and (2) journal your readings so you will be able to review them to see when the face cards appeared as people or as events. I think your intuition and the context of the reading should also guide you.
In general, I read the face cards as people. However, in my system, you'll notice that the meanings for the Kings and Queens are more specifically describing people while the Jacks can also describe situations. When I do a reading and see a Jack, I think about it as both a person and a situation. Another thing I've noticed is that in relationship readings, the face cards will also show the type of relationship. For example,
King of Spades = a rocky relationship
Queen of Diamonds = a security blanket relationship – one of convenience or comfort where partners are too afraid to move on.
Jack of Clubs = on again, off again relationship
When you come across a face card, try to apply the people and situation perspective. They may both make sense.
In the 3-card reading, the position and the question will determine how the card is interpreted. A face card in the 1st position is someone the questioner knows or a role they are playing. Look at the question. Did they ask about someone (Will I reconcile with my ex?). If so, this is who is showing up in the 1st position.
The 2nd position often shows someone they don't know who is involved in the issue. In a question like, Will I reconcile with my ex? the Queen of Hearts may show up here to suggest the ex has already found a new love. In the question, What do I need to know about my marriage? the Queen of Clubs may appear here as the other woman.
The last position shows who controls the outcome or who the outcome affects. A face card here can show someone who comes to your rescue or determines your financial fate, for example. This person is usually known by the questioner although they may not have been mentioned in the question. In these cases, the question is often, What's on my _________ (love, financial, career) horizon? Where will we get the money? Will I be promoted? A face card here may show that their fate is not in their hands but in someone else's.
Once, while I was out of town, I did a quick reading for my day. Here are the cards I chose:
King of Spades = a man causing worries or problems, someone in remote position of authority. Judge. Police. Military, Power of attorney. May suggest legal issues.
Jack of Clubs = Coming and going. A traveler or visitor. Someone who is on the go.
King of Hearts = A male relative or dear friend. A devoted partner. Married or in a committed relationship. Doctor. Minister. Therapist. Anyone who offers counsel to those in need.
At first glance, it looked like I would encounter several people during the day…a man causing me worries or someone in a remote position of authority; a visitor or someone who comes and goes; and possibly a therapist, healer, doctor or minister. Or I figured I would be around several folks having a heated conversation. In the spread, the Jack and King of Hearts are confronting each other and the Jack is ignoring the King of Spades.
At the end of the day, I realized this reading was showing me the PLACES I would go that day. First, I had to meet with the continuing education coordinator (i.e., authority figure) and sign some paperwork/contracts (King of Spades). Next I stopped at the campus’ Visitors Center (Jack of Clubs). Finally, I went to a natural foods market that features massage practitioners, psychic readers and other healers and counselors (King of Hearts).
This reading proved that context is key. My natural inclination was to interpret these cards as people. But when I did this reading, I was in a hotel room visiting a different city and only had one day to get around, so my reading was all about places I would visit during my stay.
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