A tarot significator is a card that is pulled from the deck and used to represent the subject of the reading, usually the client. Some readers use them all the time; others never do. So what’s the point of using tarot significators and do they add value to the reading?
Why Use a Significator?
There are several good reasons why using a tarot significator is a good thing. The first is that it provides a focus for the reading. The card is placed right there in the center, up above, or off to one side of the tarot spread and acts as an anchor to keep the reading on track. Secondly, a significator can be interpreted alongside each card in the reading as a two-card combination. This offers the opportunity to mine extra meaning and information from the cards. Thirdly, the significator makes the reading more personal; there’s a visual link between the client and the cards right in front of you… and them. Your client (or you, if you are reading for yourself) can make an immediate connection.
Disadvantages of Tarot Significators
There’s only one really, and that is it removes one card from the deck which might have, excuse the pun, significance if it appeared in a designated position. You have to decide if this is a good reason for not choosing a significator, and I have to confess, it was why I never used them in the first place. However, after all these years of reading tarot, I have changed my mind. The advantages far outweigh that one negative, particularly because of the potential for using the significator as part of the two-card combination as mentioned earlier
How to Choose a Significator
There are a few ways to choose a significator to represent the seeker:
- S/he could work their way through the whole deck until they find an image or character that resonates with them and their situation.
- You might restrict the choice of significator to the Court cards only, going by physical attributes.
- You could use the seeker’s zodiac sign to select the Court card designated to that sign. Bear in mind that this excludes the Pages.
- You could use numerology to find the client’s birth card/s from the Major Arcana.
Can You Change Your Significator?
Of course. You might choose the Hermit for a reading because you feel temporarily isolated, but later you might choose the Queen of Wands because you are back to feeling confident and outgoing. You can stick with the same one if you wish, or you can change it for every reading. It’s down to personal preference. If you choose using the zodiac sign method, then you’ll probably stick with the same one. If you choose one based on gender and age, as you get older, your card will change too.
Using a Significator in a Reading
Should you choose a significator, place it off to the side and don’t pay attention to it at all during the course of the reading, there’s no point in using one at all. However, if you constantly refer back to the significator, noting common symbols, similarities, interactions, support, oppositions, then it has already added a great deal of depth to the reading.
Example Reading With Significator
You and your client, Justine, have agreed to use a significator to represent her. You are most comfortable using the zodiac sign method for selecting significators as it’s the fastest and requires little explanation. Referring to your table of Court card associations you discover, because Justine is a Scorpio, her card is the Queen of Cups.
Justine’s situation is that she is having problems at work. Her boss appears to be blocking her progress and Justine is unsure how to proceed. You place the Queen of Cups on the table and, after shuffling, draw two cards to represent:
- The cause of the current situation – Five of Wands
- How Justine can deal with her boss and resume her career progression – Queen of Wands
Now, because you have Justine’s significator in front of you, it reminds you that, as a Scorpio, the Queen of Cups is not all sweetness and light. She has a darker, deeper side. She may carry resentment or have a tendency to be judgmental, so you’ll know that this conflict with her supervisor may not be one-sided.
The Five of Wands with the Queen of Cups suggests that there could be competition between the two. And while Justine does not verbally express her resentment or anger, she is certainly feeling it. And, as in all human relationships, it is almost impossible to feel one way and act in another. There are always undercurrents. So you talk to Justine about how she feels about her supervisor, pointing out that the Five of Wands indicates a challenge and an imbalance in the working relationship.
The Queen of Wands might well represent the supervisor, or she might represent someone else within Justine’s circle of colleagues who could help the situation. This Queen of Wands may be sympathetic to Justine and be able to resolve the unspoken conflict. As you can see in the card here, while the Queen of Wands has to maintain appearances, she has her caring side, as represented by her kindly lady-in-waiting. Look at the Queen of Cups (Justine); she is inwardly focussed; she is not reaching out, so perhaps she needs to take her cue from the Queen of Wands and make the first overture of reconciliation?
You get the idea. Just keep referring back to the significator, reading each card as a pair with it.
Using a Significator with the Celtic Cross
The value of the significator is immediately apparent when using the Celtic Cross. Large spreads are complex enough, yet by adding a significator, you can begin to see a narrative unfold. Each time you feel the cards are being vague, refer back to the significator for clues. Should you get stuck on a particular card, simply read it as a two-card combo with the significator. That should unblock your train of thought and get the reading moving forward again.
Let us know if you prefer using significators in your tarot readings, and which card do you feel most represents you?
The deck used here for illustration purposes is the Tarot of the New Vision by Giordano Berti and Tiberio Gonard, published by Lo Scarabeo