One way to get familiar with the Court Cards is to personalize them. This exercise based on "Tarot for Yourself" may help you to remember the Court Cards.
We each show several faces to the world each day. We are mothers, fathers, co-workers, bosses, subordinates, siblings, children, friends, students and teachers. We are viewed differently in each of these roles. Divide a sheet of paper in half. On one side write down the roles you play each day. On the other side, write the court card which you feel corresponds to this role.
Do the same thing for other people you know, friends and relatives. For example, I see my favorite aunt as the Queen of Swords. My current boss is a Knight of Wands, though my previous boss was the King of Cups (he was also the Emperor!). My husband is usually the King of Wands. My mother is usually the Queen of Cups.
Some decks have different systems for their court cards. Two I know of have key word systems and one uses the court cards to modify other cards in the spread. "The Witches Tarot" by Ellen Cannon Reed uses court cards as modifiers. When you get a court card in a spread you deal another card on top of it which will be modified by the Court Card. Her reasoning is based on the Cabala. In Reed's system:
Kings represent the creative urge, (choosing the seeds to plant)
Queens represent taking the first step, (planting the seeds)
Princes represent the results of our planning taking shape, (plants sprout and grow)
Princesses represent the final form, (harvesting what we have sown)
For example "Queen of Cups is dealt, followed by the Two of Wands. The Two of Wands represents ideas taking on energy..., the Queen means the energy is at the concept stage - not yet taking on form, but on it's way to formation." ("The Witches Tarot", pg 149). Reed's system is quite different from any other, but makes sense Cabalistically and certainly tames the messy problem of interpreting Court Cards.
Most of the readers I know have several Tarot decks. The reasons for this are many. Some collect decks. Some bought a deck they found interesting at the time of purchase, but subsequently found they didn't "click" with. Some learned to read with a certain deck and then branched out on their own. Acquiring a new deck is a scary business. For one thing, Tarot decks are not cheap and you don't want to spend $20.00 and up for something you will end up throwing in a drawer, not to mention the large investment in time and study required to learn it.
I recommend that when you are starting out you find a deck you like and stick with it for a while, at least until you are comfortable reading it without the book sitting by your side. If you find the going rough, don't be tricked into thinking that a new deck will be easier to learn. While this is sometimes the case, particularly if you really dislike your current deck, more often it is not. A new deck won't be any easier unless you have a good base of interpretations to build upon. Once you have that, a new deck can be exciting and can revitalize a "stale" period. Don't feel you have to have the newest deck that everyone is talking about. A Tarot deck is like a friend.
You don't (or at least shouldn't) discard old friends every time you make a new one. I read with the Waite-Smith exclusively (on and off) for many years. I branched out to Motherpeace with much trepidation, remembering how painful it had been to learn the Waite-Smith, but I found that it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be because I had a good foundation in Waite-Smith. Learning my next deck was easier still. Remembering that I have the rest of my life to learn made it much easier and less stressful. You don't have to learn 3 cards a day, or even one card a day. If you are following a course, print the messages and go at your own pace. Spend a day on the Aces Lesson or spend a week on it. No one is judging you, there are no exams. Take your time, develop a rapport with your deck, record what you learn and in a few months you will feel quite comfortable reading Tarot.
It seems that many questions querents seek answers to involve relationships. A simple spread that I find useful is called "The Relationship Path Spread". It was designed by Nina-Lee Braden and Patsy Haggerty.
1 3 5 4 2
The cards are dealt in the pattern shown above. Should you need more information on a card, don't be shy about throwing a few more cards in that position for clarification.
Card 1 - How you see the other person
Card 2 - How the other person sees you
Card 3 - How you see the relationship
Card 4 - How the other person sees the relationship
Card 5 - Something about the relationship the querent needs to know
Card 6 - Where the relationship is going
Court Cards (e.g. Pages, Knights, Queens, Kings) represent one of the greatest challenges to new readers. I think this is because they force us to rely on our intuition, and we are usually afraid of being wrong. I have found though, that when I went against my intuition in an effort to "play it safe", I was usually wrong and my intuitive answer was the correct one.
Court cards obviously represent personalities, but whose? They can be read as aspects of the querent, or as other people in the querents life. One thing that helps is to ask the querent. As readers we sometimes think we have to know all the answers and feel shy about asking the querent for help, but the reading is about the querent. Who knows better what is going on in that person's life than they do? Should you come upon a Court Card in a reading and feel stumped, describe the personality traits associated with the card and ask the querent, "Do you know anyone like this?" If the answer is no, then it would be safe to assume that these are qualities the querent has manifested or needs to manifest in this situation.
To me, nines represent the end of a cycle. An interesting idea involving cycles is the Year card. Angeles Arriens first proposed this in her book "The Tarot Handbook". Mary Greer describes it her book "Tarot for Yourself" and derived a similar system of her own in "Tarot Constellations".
James Wanless describes it in the booklet that comes with the Voyager deck. I will be using his method here. Per Wanless, the year starts for you on your birthday. There are two year cards for every year. One is the card that corresponds to your age. At birth you are The Fool. At one you are The Magician. This cycle goes through 22 years and starts again, so at ages 22, 44, and 66 you are The Fool. The other year card is calculated by adding your birth date to the current year, then reduce, much like we did the personality and soul cards.
For example, if your birthday is on June 6th it would be 6 + 6 + 2014 = 2026 = 10.
When I have finished interpreting each card in a spread, I like to sum up the reading. I just review the overall reading, pointing out the key points we covered. I always try to leave a reading on a high point. Even if the reading conveys bad news, I try to give the querent the tools to change events, based on the reading. A reading should be empowering for the querent, rather than a recital of things that may happen in the future. The key words are 'may happen', We have the power to influence and change the future.
When laying down a spread, it is useful to take a few moments to look at the spread as a whole, before reading individual cards. Is there a preponderance of one suit? Are there several Major Arcana, or several Court Cards? These are indications that you should keep in mind when doing the reading. They are often clues as to what is going on. For example, lets say the question concerns ones love life. You throw the spread and see there are lots of pentacles, but not a cup insight. What does this mean? It could mean that material security is a key issue in the relationship right then. It could also mean that the person should be focusing on financial matters right now, rather than the relationship. Perhaps worrying about the relationship has led to them doing poorly at work, or to spending more than they can afford to keep the other person happy. Perhaps they are telling you that the issue is love, but the thing that is really worrying them is money. Tarot sometimes tells us what we need to know vice what we want to know. You might want to ask questions to explore these issues during the reading.
Contrary to popular belief, these concepts were not developed by Mary Greer, but by Arrien Angeles in "The Tarot Handbook", a book which does not get the credit it is due in my opinion. She also presents several similar concepts in the book, such as growth cards and growth cycles.
Personality Card - this card represents your expression in the outer world, your talents, gifts, resources and how others see you. To find this card, add your birth day, month and year together. Example: Sept 9th, 1956 = 9 + 9 + 1956 = 1974 then add the digits of the result together - 1 + 9 + 7 + 4 = 21.
This is your personality card. If it is a double digit reduce it again: 2 + 1 + 3. This is your soul/spiritual card. The soul card represents the deepest core of who you are. It provides an internal base of energy and natural resource for you to draw upon for your personality expression. If the first result is more than 21:
June 6th, 1956 - 6 + 6 + 1956 = 1968, 1 + 9 + 6 + 8 = 24 (note this is more than 21), reduce it again, 2 + 4 = 6. This becomes both the personality and soul card.
I have read many different ways to cut the deck. The only one I follow is to cut with your left hand. I deal with my right hand, so I feel cutting with the left gives the deal some balance. I also cut into 3 piles. The most common admonition is to cut with the left hand into 3 piles to the left. It works for me, but I don't doubt some other method would work as well, this is just the way I learned.
Large cards such as Thoth, Rohrig and Voyager present problems to those with smaller hands. You can try shuffling them from the sides, vice the long way. You can also try swishing them around on a table (make sure it is clean), or on your bed. Like poker cards, Tarot cards wear with time. I still have my first Motherpeace deck and while it is a little "thick", I have not been able to bring myself to part with it. If you read for others though, you probably will not make a good impression with a deck so worn and fat that it is difficult to shuffle. My old friend is reserved for my personal use only.
Another question that comes up is whether to deal the cards face up or face down. I deal face up, because I like to get a feel for the spread as a whole, but some people find it distracting. They feel that they start forming impressions before they have the whole spread dealt. Dealing face down avoids this.
I think that we sometimes get too tied up in the ritual and "doing things right" and forget that Tarot should be a relaxing, enlightening experience, vice a nervous ordeal because we are trying to shuffle in a way we are not familiar with, trying to remember the right way to cut, the proper invocation etc. Relax, get the cards well mixed and read.