What Exactly Is a Significator in Tarot? Here's How to Pick One Yourself
Learning tarot can be a bit intimidating, and even though we've been at it for a while, there's always more for us to learn.
Recently, The Only Tarot Book You'll Ever Need by Skye Alexander and Mary Shannon has been a go-to resource for us. Among our favorite things we've learned from it is the importance of Significators and the role they play in tarot readings. Whether you've never heard of a Significator, or just need some tips on selecting the perfect one for each situation, we have some tips for you below.
What It Is
While the majority of the cards that come up in a tarot reading are up to the fates, a Significator is a card that's chosen to either represent the person being read, or the person or situation the reading is about. Typically, this card is hand-picked so it has some special significance to the person, grounding them to the reading.
The most common Significators are court cards, but the Major Arcana are also occasionally used, and even the Minor Arcana are sometimes selected when particularly applicable. This card is picked before the reading begins, and is sometimes part of a spread, such as the popular Celtic Cross—but typically sits on the table, beside the spread, to set an intention.
Why Use a Significator?
In certain spreads, including the Celtic Cross, the Significator is critical to the meaning of the reading. When it's not a part of the spread, it's usually for the benefit of the person being read, allowing them to better see themself, or their situation, in the reading. When a card represents a person, they may feel a deeper connection to the deck as a whole, better understanding their place within it and seeing how the other cards tie into their lives. Significators are optional, but many people find them helpful.
Court Cards and the Zodiac
One of the simplest ways to pick a significator for a person is by using their zodiac to select for them. Wands are associated with the fire signs Aries, Leo and Sagittarius, while Pentacles are linked to the earth signs Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. The air signs Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are tied to Swords cards, leaving the water signs of Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces to Cups. Once this has been figured out, you can decide whether the person is more of a Page, Knight, Queen or King in their life based on their personality, and even factors like maturity and gender. Sometimes, a person's moon sign—which reflects their emotions and inner feelings—can be used instead of their sun sign to select a Significator when the reading pertains to matters of the heart.
The Major Arcana
Sometimes, the best Significator for a person will be something that relates to their situation, which may immediately be reminiscent of one of the Major Arcana. If they're trying to mend fences with someone who's their complete opposite, maybe the Lovers is the right Significator for them. Perhaps the Fool is appropriate for the next big step in their life. It's all about feeling out the situation and understanding how to guide them toward the next step.
Feeling Things Out
A lot of the time, the best way to pick a Significator is the simplest. Before the reading, the person being read can simply rifle through the deck until they land on a card that speaks to them, for whatever reason. Sometimes, the less this person knows about the cards and their meaning, the more insightful their selection can be. Your unique deck may also have cards with symbols that feel personally relevant to you. Any card can be a good Significator if it feels right.
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