The Significance of Significators
Tarot readings styles have changed a great deal over the last century. Tarot is a very young art, and will always continue to evolve and change.
One of the traditions that has changed a great deal is the tradition of significators.
What is a significator?
A significator is a card that signifies a person.
Years ago, a tarot reading would begin with the reader cognitively choosing a significator from the Court of the Minor Arcana to represent the querent. Often, significators would be chosen simply by age, gender and coloring.
In describing Court Cards, older tarot books often say “choose this card for a young woman with dark hair,” or, “choose this card for an older gentleman,” and so on.
The significator would be chosen, and then the cards would be drawn at random and laid out in a spread, like the Celtic Cross.
I think the idea was that the energy of the significator card would help set the energy for the reading, and make sure the cards drawn at random would pertain to that person – sort of a type of sympathetic magick, I suppose.
I don’t know anyone who uses this technique these days, although that doesn’t make it useless or inappropriate.
As with all things in tarot, each reader has to do what resonates best.
There are two other uses for significators that I do employ, and find indispensable.
The first is a significator drawn at random.
I like to use spreads that include a significator position. The card that falls into that position describes who the querent is at the current time. This, to me, seems much more helpful than simply choosing a Court Card to hold the energy.
The second is personal significators.
Every tarotist has cards with which they identify on a very personal level. Those might be birth cards, or soul and personality cards, which are Major Arcana cards chosen based on birth dates.
There are also Court Cards chosen based on age, gender and astrology, or based on elemental preferences. Some people choose personal significators because they are attracted to a particular card, and feel it describes them. Others choose a personal significator because that particular card comes up repeatedly for them, so, in essence, the card has chosen them.
My “native” significator is the Queen of Cups, because I am an adult woman born under a water sign. I have too much of a tendency to over-emote, so I don’t find using the Queen of Cups very helpful for me – I need less water energy, not more.
So, many years ago, I chose the Queen of Wands to be my personal significator. I need her fire, her humor, her passion, her creativity in order to be the person I really want to be. By choosing a card I must stretch into, I am using my tarot significator as a tool to embrace personal growth.
Now, when I read for myself, the Queen of Wands comes up to tell me I am on the right path.