The court cards are leaving space for a number of interpretations in a spread. Often they are read as actual people having an impact on the querent's life, who share characteristics of the element they are associated with and hold a certain social or familial "rank". However, they can also be aspects of the querent's personality that either define him or her or that are currently suppressed.
The Rider Waite deck shows us a crowned man in blue robes and a green mantle with a red hem sitting on a stone throne surrounded by ocean waves. A small ship with red sails moves along the horizon behind him. He holds a golden cup and a scepter and faces the viewer but without making eye contact. In the Crowley-Harris deck the seated kings are transmuted into much more dynamic knights riding horses and the Knight of Cups jumps a series of cresting waves on a white horse while holding aloft a cup. Long white wings stream from his back.
For my own card I chose a Maori warrior, his face adorned with the complex line work of mau moko and his braided hair held back by a heru comb depicting two hei tiki. He wears a traditional feather cloak and a greenstone toki pendant on a cord around his neck. When the toki was used in its initial function as the stone blade of a sacred adze only the chief of the tribe was allowed to wield it to make the first strikes to fell a tree for a canoe or a meeting house. As a pendant it still is meant to confer strength and authority to the wearer and to increase his or her life force.
In a spread the Father of Water stands for a man who is emotionally mature. He is aware of and in tune with his own feelings, which makes him a wise counselor, mentor and advisor. He takes the time and has the patience to listen and to understand where others are coming from. His compassion for others can make him a healer and a teacher. He also possesses a strong imagination and sense of harmony and beauty, which may express itself in various creative abilities.
For a relationship-related question the card stands for a deep and meaningful partnership that thrives on rich tenderness and emotional warmth. It may lack the flair and heat that the Father of Fire brings to a connection, but makes up for it in calm stability and intuitive understanding. Relationships with friends and loved-ones are nourishing and supporting and there may even be an element of healing old wounds and overcoming fears of commitment and fully opening up to another person. The Father of Water has a big heart and cares deeply for the people in his life.
If the card comes up for a business-related question it means that you should be using your intuition and emotional maturity to approach a project or work-related problem. Keep your calm and watch yourself to understand what makes you frustrated or angry. Realize that the only one you can truly change is yourself and the way you react to any given situation. Approach others with compassion and follow your deep-seated convictions as you make decisions. The card may also point to a career in mediation, counseling or facilitation or in the arts, the medical field or psychology.
If the card stands for yourself it means you are in tune with your feelings and know how to govern yourself. You have reached a level of emotional maturity that allows you to understand the feelings of others. However, you do not see what they feel as a weakness, just as the way they are. If you do give advice or try and help you will be able to make a real difference in others’ lives.
If the card is uncovered in an adverse or blockage position it could mean that you are at the mercy of your emotions. They may rise and subside quickly and your interests could flare and fade on a whim, which will make you seem unreliable and flaky, full of unripe ideas and failed attempts. People may see you as false, artificial, vain and easily seduced. Alternatively you may be so passive and placid that it seems you don’t care about anyone or anything. People may try and provoke you just to get some kind of reaction from you. You could even feel numb and out of touch with your own feelings.