First, let’s get one thing straight; in the tarot scheme of things the pages are most traditionally associated with women and the Page of Pentacles is no exception. The Golden Dawn created the tarot associations and interpretive principles that most card slingers still use today. In fact, The Golden Dawn significations are what prominent tarot decks, such as The Rider Waite Smith and the Thoth Tarot, are based off of. To reiterate this point in “The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic" we find, this little nugget, “the Page or Princess which was anciently a female figure, is referred to the Bride, Kallah or Malkah.” (1) Or more directly stated, princesses or knaves are used as a signifier for young women. (2)
That’s right, in the most popular tarot deck to date, the Rider Waite Smith, the Page of Pentacles lady looks like a dude! (I detect a little Aerosmith lyrics in reverse going on here.)
Funny enough, infamous occultist, Aleister Crowley, (a man known as a rebel and renegade) whose tarot deck, Thoth, most closely sticks to rules of the Golden’s Dawn tarot symbolism. The Thoth’s Princess of Disks (AKA Page of Pentacles) looks almost identical to the Golden Dawn’s description of her.
It doesn’t take a big intellectual leap to realize that the Rider Waite Smith deck majorly influenced tarot symbolism by turning the princess card into a page and then assigning the card’s gender to male. I’ve had conversations with card readers about this. Most readers call decks like the Thoth, that have the gender split evenly among the court cards (eight men and eight women), more “balanced.” Hey and why shouldn’t it be? If court cards represent people than about half the world’s population is female. The balanced approached is what the Golden Dawn seems to have intended but apparently Rider, Waite and Smith (a woman) didn’t get the memo. The four queens are the only women present in their 16 court card assignments. (11)
In this day and age even with less gender bias going around it is more helpful than not to have balanced decks. Looking beyond the literal sexes of the characters on the card women symbolically represent feminine energy such as introversion and reflection while men stand for the masculine, which is extroverted and forceful. These masculine and feminine traits lend themselves just fine to either men or women and thus the cards are less about gender and more about the masculine/feminine approach, which is much more akin to the Yin Yang symbolism than to societal gender roles. The unbalanced decks of only four women court cards are not just doing gender representation wrong (and I assert they do get it wrong) but are also misrepresenting the important energies of masculine and feminine.
The Rider Waite Smith deck was published in 1909 (4) while Crowley’s and Lady Frieda Harris’ Thoth deck was created several years later between 1938 and 1945 but was not published until 1969 (5). Arguably, If Crowley and the Thoth’s deck artist, Harris, would have followed the Rider Waite Smith’s unbalanced approach than the tarot lexicon would have been denied one of its most beautiful feminine archetypes, the Princess of Disks found in their deck. Thankfully that was not the case. The Princess of Disks even elicits desire in occultists like Lon Milo DuQuette as he rhapsodizes in his book "Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot":
"For me, the Princess of Disks is the most beautiful female figure in the entire Thoth Tarot...To be embarrassingly honest, I am most profoundly (and most hopelessly) in love with her." (6)
DuQuette even went as far as using the Thoth’s Princess of Disks image as the cover of his book about the deck.
Aside from the beauty engendered by the feminine archetype and therefore the beauty missing in the tarot lexicon by reducing her role in unbalanced decks, these court card gender assignments impact the most important part of card divination. INTERPRETATION. Simply put, it’s more difficult to see a card with a male figure on it and interpret it as the feminine energy. I agree that the Page of Pentacles in the Rider Waite Smith looks like a gentle and earnest young lad but he’s still being groomed to be a Man and the lessons of masculine energy differ from those of feminine.
If you’re fluent in a language you’re adaptable in what’s called code switching; meaning you know how to adjust the way you speak depending on the social situation you are in. Of course, seasoned tarot readers can learn that the pages in tarot represent the feminine and therefore know to code switch. But, A. Code switching is more complicated and B. The novice reader will not have sufficient context to know how to do the same. This makes for another endorsement of balanced decks…they are simply less confusing!
So, we must find a way to help us interpret the Page of Pentacles in decks like the Rider Waite Smith as feminine. One tip in doing so is to evoke personality types. In Kim Huggens text “Tarot 101 – Mastering the Art of Reading the Cards” she’s lumped the court cards into those familiar Myers-Briggs Type Indicator categories. (7) Of the 16 personality types the Page of Pentacles gets cast at an ISTP, which stands for Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving. What that means for the Page of Pentacles is she likes to explore and attempt things in a "hands on" manner, according to the website 16 personalities. (8) She’s logical and wants to figure out how things work.
One handy way for delving deeper into the court cards is by making them more tangible by assigning them to celebrities they relate to. In this way, the Myers-Briggs personality types come as a very useful tool. Some ISTP (and therefore Page of Pentacles) celebrities include: Scarlett Johansson, Kristen Stewart, Anna Kendrick, Arya Stark (a character from Games of Thrones), Tom Cruise and Christian Bale. (9)
Note that in Huggens system for assigning the Myers-Briggs personality types to the court cards, the feminine archetypes of pages and queens all get assigned Introverted as opposed to the masculine knights and kings, which are Extroverted. The introverted side of the ISTP is based on their ability to internalize things and their desire for space and independence. (10)
At the end of the day why muck up the interpretive process of reading the cards by introducing the need to code shift? Also, why minimize the feminine archetype and the intrinsic beauty it brings to your divination practice? I personally love the Rider Waite Smith deck and despite some of its flaws I’ve spent countless hours reading with it BUT when it comes to the court card symbolism, I’m all for the balanced approach and I implore deck creators to take this into consideration. After all, occultists like DuQuette could use a few more Princesses of Disks to fall “hopelessly” in love with.
Reference and Notes
Astrology, Tarot, Mystic Arts, Divination and Other Musings