In this instalment of my series on The Wooden Tarot, I'm getting acquainted with the Suit of Plumes court. So far, we've seen that this suit signifies its element, Air, and its key themes, momentum, communication, the intellect, and just a little danger, with feathered things - birds and arrows. Let's see how these play out in the court cards.
I must say, I find the court cards in this deck particularly challenging, because my identification skills are not great! Although I have some ideas, I don't immediately recognise the birds in this court and so I had to do a little digging before their significance could fall into place. As well as being an exercise for the intuition, this deck is also very educational!
I will posit that the fellow on the Page of Plumes is a sparrow. This light little bird is a great choice for the light touch of the Page of Plumes. This card is traditionally associated with nascent ideas, whispers of inspiration that sneak in on the breeze, looking for a mind that will grab hold and run with them. It's so clever that the artist has included the birds in flight in the background, as they give the sense of air in motion, which is quite strongly linked to the windy Page of Swords in the Rider-Waite deck. The breeze brings breakthroughs, new perspectives, and the youthful and eager Page encourages us to be inspired by them. Pages are, of course, usually associated with youthfulness, play, the idea of beginnings, and the philosophy of "beginner's mind". Here we have a caterpillar, a creature in its juvenile stage, learning what it can about the world before it takes that knowledge, and shapes itself into a mature form.
The image of the caterpillar leads us naturally into the Knight of Plumes, where our humble green friend has transformed into a butterfly. Clearly, the line between these two cards is one of growth and maturity. The ideas that whispered on the wind in the Page of Plumes have been grounded and transformed by conscious action into real, measurable things. The Knight of Plumes is depicted as a great egret, a fish-stalking, solo hunting, water bird. The great egret, like many herons, catches its prey with a rapid swipe of the bill, a quick-fire manoeuvre very apt for a speed- and movement-loving Knight. Where the Page of Plumes rests atop two arrows, the Knight grasps an arrow in its beak, which suggests to me that this card demands a proactive approach, that we take our situation in hand, and shape it according to our vision and intention. And quickly!
The Queen of Plumes is depicted as a Victoria crowned pigeon. A cursory read of available online resources about the attributes and behaviour of this beautiful and unusual bird didn't immediately put me in mind of this Queen, but knowing how meticulously this deck has been constructed, there's bound to be a connection (and if you can discern it, do let me know in the comments below!). I suppose the most obvious link is the fact that this bird is rather rare and elegant, a good aesthetic fit for the Queen of Plumes. This species is also known for its strange and resonant call - perhaps a fitting feature of the Queen of the suit of communication and transmission? Whatever the connection, I do think she very accurately conjures the vibe of the cool and remote Queen of Swords. This Queen certainly seems ready to give zero fucks and look great while she's doing it, which is definitely an approach I associate with the Queen of Swords!
The Queen of Plumes' correspondences can be further found in those outward-facing crescent moons. Their placement puts me in mind of the symbol for the triple goddess, signifying this Queen's multifaceted feminine power. Outward facing moons, as well as the full moon in the background, may also suggest the idea of receptivity and intuition, qualities traditionally associated with the feminine (if you want to get all binary, which I know not everyone does!). The notion of power is reinforced by the arrowhead, suspended between the crescent moons - a tool that the Queen presumably has no qualms wielding when the situation calls for it!
Heading in the opposite direction, the King of Plumes is the yin to the Queen's yang. The sun in the background is the day to the Queen's night. These cards actually put me in mind of The High Priestess/Magician opposition that we find in the Major Arcana - on the one hand, we have the watery light of the moon, the intuition and subconscious, and on the other, the fiery, outward-looking power of the sun. I'm not entirely sure if the inwardly facing moons are an established masculine symbol, but when placed side by side with the Queen's open and receptive lunar feelers, I have to wonder if the moons on the King's card are intended to signify the other side of the binary, whether that is masculine/feminine, receptive/active, yin/yang, and so on. Certainly, the King's upright arrow does seem obviously *ahem* manly!
The King himself appears as some variety of vulture, a bird with interesting associations. Being a consumer of carrion, vultures are associated with death, decay, inevitable demise. This King isn't the most uplifting fellow! He is resourceful though, and not one to let a good lunch go to waste! This King is always ready to make the most reasonable and practical decision, never one to be swayed by emotions or sentimentality. That can be threatening for some of us, but there will always been times when a King of Plumes approach is needed.
A final note - all the cards of this court have a visible third eye, reminding us of the importance of insight and clear-mindedness. This suit may not be as strongly associated with intuition as, say, the suit of Blooms, but the airy suit of Plumes does put us in mind of vision and clarity, so a piercing, triple-eyed gaze is appropriate!
And that's all she wrote for the suit of Plumes. As I've said in the past, these musings aren't intended to be exhaustive or definitive card meanings but rather, a collection of my own impressions on this strange and marvellous deck. I'd love to know what your thoughts are on these cards! If the spirit moves you, please do share your impressions in the comments!