Selecting a Significator

Many Tarot spreads employ the use of a “significator,” a card that specifically represents the querent in some meaningful way. This process intrigued me, since I haven’t used such a spread, but I know the Celtic Cross is a common, easily read, and generally popular spread, and uses a significator. How does one choose a significator card?

It turns out that the methods for choosing a significator vary widely—each reader has his or her own preferred way to do things. There are, however, a handful of common selection methods. One simple and popular method is simply to use The Magician to represent a male querent and The High Priestess for a female querent. Personally, I don’t feel this is the best way, though, as those cards may not be particularly accurate representations of the querent in the present moment, and also because they would pull those cards out of the deck and make them ineligible for any other position in the spread, which could result in reduced accuracy in the reading.

Another method, which seems to be very popular based on my research, is to use one of the court cards. The card chosen can be based on various criteria, such as physical traits, personality traits, or Zodiac sign. Generally, Kings are used to represent men, Queens for women, Knights for young adults or teenagers, and Pages for children. Of course, the courts are in all four suits, so those selection methods might look like this:

Wands could represent:

  • Querents with fair coloring and hair
  • Querents who are energetic and passionate
  • Zodiac signs Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius

Cups might be used to indicate:

  • Querents with medium complexions and brown hair
  • People who are creative and emotional
  • Zodiac signs Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio

Swords may represent:

  • Querents with olive or Mediterranean complexions and dark hair
  • Highly logical, intellectual querents
  • Zodiac Signs Libra, Gemini, and Aquarius

Pentacles might be used for:

  • Querents with dark skin, hair, and eyes
  • People who are practical and realistic
  • Zodiac signs Taurus, Capricorn, and Virgo

A third method, which I personally think would have the most accurate results in a reading, is to let the querent choose his or her own significator. This can be either by letting the querent shuffle, cut, and select a card, or by letting him sort through the deck and choose a card that he feels, intuitively, best represents him in that moment. In this way, the card can be used to inform the reading, not just to proxy for the querent in some undefined way. It also does not remove key Majors like The Magician or The High Priestess from the deck, which leaves them available to land in other positions in the spread.

Do you use significator cards in your Tarot spreads? How do you choose your significator? Do you find it makes your readings more accurate? Less? I’d love to hear about it

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