Monday, October 26, 2015

Significators in the Tarot

In Tarot, significators are typically court cards that represent the person being read for (including the reader, in a self-reading), as well as important people in the person's life. Some people use them as part of a reading (pre-selecting a significator as a focal point), and some don't (I fall into the latter category).

There are quiet a few theories about how to choose this card, but in my experience no choice is really necessary - the cards themselves show you who you are (if you're paying attention). And while you may tend to show up as one particular card most frequently, you may find yourself symbolized by a number of other courts, depending on the context of the reading. For example you may see yourself appear as the King of Swords in matters of work and "outside life," but then you may appear as the Queen of Pentacles when it comes to a reading about your family.
Stone Tarot - A. Stone
Often I see people choose a significator according to their gender and astrological sun sign (i.e. a Pisces woman would be the Queen of Cups, and a Sagittarius man would be the King of Wands). In reality this is not always true or reliable. For example, I am a double Capricorn woman, however my principal significator is the King of Cups. I tend to show up most commonly as Kings in general, but also at times as Queens (most usually the Queen of Cups) and even Pages (particularly the Page of Wands).

My husband and one of my sisters both show up most often as the King of Wands even though they are water and air signs, respectively. Another sister (a Leo) is most commonly represented by the King of Swords, while my mother is the Queen of Cups (that one fits the mold being that she's a Cancer!). I even remember reading for a man who appeared in his own reading as the Queen of Wands. In all of these cases the significators were not preselected or decided upon, they were shown.
Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA - J. Turk
This isn't to say that astrological associations aren't ever accurate, or can't be helpful. As I mentioned before, my Cancer mother's card is the Queen of Cups. My eldest daughter (a triple Earth sign) is most often the Page of Pentacles. And in an ancestor reading for a client once, the Queen of Swords appeared. I asked my client if his sister was an air sign, but he wasn't sure about her birthday. Later he checked with his mother, and sure enough she had been an Aquarius.

Court cards represent our most salient traits and characteristics, so they don't always match up neatly with gender or astrology. And that is a good thing, as it allows much more fluidity in readings, and in the end reflects our diversity with far greater acuity.


  1. I agree that one significator is to limiting to describe somebody. It is my opinion that if you use a significator it is best to leave it in the deck so the card has a change to play its part in the reading In that case I use a second deck to pick the signifcator from. Since I am a noob in astrology, I pick them purely based on intuition. :)

    1. I agree with you about leaving them in the deck! I actually never use significators at all (not a fan) but often you start to see which card represents "you" over time, as they appear naturally in readings. It's always fun to see what appears for different people! I find it very limiting when people think that they have to claim the court card that corresponds to their sun sign, or gender - it just doesn't always work that way!

  2. Alison Cross over at Tarot Thrones did some interesting posts on how to use significators. However, I still rarely do. As for seeing myself in the cards, my most common ones are the Queens of Swords and Wands, and the Page of Pentacles :)

    1. Nice! I rarely appear as Swords courts, though it has happened a few times. I find it really interesting to see how Tarot reflects back to us our predominant energies in readings, though like you I don't intentionally employ significators. I never would have pegged my sister for the King of Wands, though after the fact it makes quite a lot of sense! :-)