Significator cards can be used in tarot to help focus on the person, situation or question of the tarot reading.
Let’s look at what significator cards are all about in a tarot reading.
What are Significator Tarot Cards?
When a tarot reading is about a person, usually a court card is used as the significator card to represent the person in which the tarot reading is focused on.
However, you can also use a significator tarot card to represent a situation, topic or question for the reading instead of focusing on a person.
In those instances, you can use any card from the tarot deck such as the court card, a minor arcana or a major arcana card.
So, the significator card is just a representation for the person, situation or topic of the reading.
Usually this card is the first card laid down in the Celtic Cross or can be used in any other reading in which you feel the need for a significator card.
So how do you determine what court card to use for a person?
There’s different schools of method when it comes to significator cards and the court cards, but we’ll look at a couple of methods here:
Physical Appearance and Significator Cards
Traditionally (or rather in old-fashion), significator cards were chosen based on appearance and physical characteristics such as hair colour, skin tone and eye colour.
This makes it pretty generic when this could mean that most people from a cultural/ethnic group or background might be grouped to only one certain suit in the tarot.
We all know that people can vary and be different characteristically apart from physical looks and are more than just their physical appearance.
Besides, when doing long distance tarot readings, this method of picking a significator based on looks can be awkward to ask what people look like just to pick a significator.
As you can see, this method is becoming less used in modern times – but it’s interesting to know this method as a part of “tarot history.”
Let’s look at what this method determined physical characteristics to be for the tarot suits:
Red / Auburn hair, fair complexion, green eyes
Blonde hair, fair complexion, blue eyes
Brown hair, medium complexion, brown / hazel / gray eyes
Dark hair, dark complexion, brown eyes
This method isn’t my favourite one and I don’t use this method either.
As you can see, it leaves a lot missing and more to be questioned:
What if you have auburn hair, medium complexion and green eyes?
So, this method has quite a bit of flaws and doesn’t stand up to modern times.
Astrology Sun Sign and Significator Cards
Another method to choose a significator card is by matching a tarot suit to your astrological sun sign.
This method can be more popular (and less discriminatory than the physical appearance method) and most people know their sun sign anyway, so it can make an easy way to quickly pick a significator card.
Here’s how the suits match up to the astrological signs:
Fire Signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Water Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Air Signs: Aquarius, Gemini, Libra
Earth Signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
This method only requires you to know your sun sign or the sun sign of your querent and then select a court card from the suit that matches the sun sign.
But what if you don’t feel or act like your sun sign?
There’s even a flaw with this method, too.
Not everyone will feel or relate to their sun sign; some people may feel more like their moon sign or rising sign.
So, even with this method, you can choose instead to have your significator match your moon sign or your rising sign instead of your sun sign.
Do whatever feels right to you or whatever feels right for your querent.
Picking a Significator Card that Fits You
So whether you choose one of the methods above or something else, the best way to choose a significator tarot card is to pick one that feels right to you.
Choose a card that describes you as well as any tarot card can depending on your circumstances and your present state.
Pick any card (court or other card) that feels right to you at the time of the reading.
Some people choose to use the same significator card again and again as their representation, while other people may choose between two or more.
Some people may decide to switch up significator cards for different readings.
Know the Tarot Suits
Knowing the tarot suits can help you to choose a significator tarot card more easily.
How would you describe yourself?
How would other people describe you?
You can also try to match the tarot suit to your personality and use a court card from a tarot suit based on your personality.
Here are some descriptions of the tarot suits that can help you to find a significator based on the tarot suits:
Fiery, passionate, intense, driven, ambitious, initiative, curious, fun.
Sensitive, empathic, intuitive, friendly, kind, compassionate, genuine, romantic.
Intellectual, witty, sarcastic, quick, straight-talker, fair, communicative, logical.
Practical, reasonable, materialistic, steadfast, hardworking, productive, studious.
These are just a few examples of descriptions for each of the suits.
It doesn’t mean you have to fit the entire description of the suit, but just that one suits you better than the others.
The Tarot Court Family
We looked at the tarot suits as significator cards, now we’ll look at the tarot court family members.
Each tarot suit (Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles) has four court members:
We’ll be using the court family system as from the Rider Waite Smith system which is different than the Thoth system which categorizes the courts as Princess, Prince, Queen and Knight.
Let’s start with the Page.
Who would use the Page as a significator card?
Traditionally, pages were used to represent children and teenagers.
Although this can still hold true, pages don’t have to be just limited to children and young adults.
The page can be viewed as a life-long student of learning and the world.
This can also be someone who has a sense of wonder and responsibility to the realm which she/he resides in (Wands, Cups, Swords or Pentacles = Fire, Water, Air or Earth).
The Page can be used as a significator tarot card in examples such as:
- a student
- going back to school or employment
- learning a new skill or trade
- someone who is inquisitive, inexperienced or a novice
- someone who is child-like and full of wonder
These are just a few examples that can be used to describe someone who may fit the description of using the page as a significator card.
This can then be used in combination to match the page to a suit of the tarot that would also help describe the querent.
Pages don’t have to be just for the young in age.
They can be for those who are starting a new journey and those who are young at heart, but don’t feel it should be limited to just those examples listed herein.
Traditionally, knights as significator cards were viewed as for young males (often unmarried.)
Knights are seen as going of on adventures, quests to get their glory and fame – and also whatever they were going after.
But, who says knights have to be for males or young males at all?
Brienne of Tarth, anyone?
So, who would use a knight as a significator tarot card?
Anyone who feels that they embody the essence and qualities of the knight – who goes after what they want whether passionately, intellectually, emotionally or practically.
- charge ahead
- take the next step in the plan
- forge ahead
- some think twice, some don’t think ahead, some go full steam ahead, while others go at a leisurely speed.
Try this method to find what knight may be suitable for you or someone else:
Find and get the four knights from your tarot deck of choice.
What do you feel describes each one?
Think of someone that each knight reminds you of.
This can be someone famous, alive or deceased, someone you know or have known, real or fictional.
Put a name to each knight, put a face to each knight.
Do you see yourself as one of those knights?
Now here’s the thing.
We’ve ALL been one of those knights at some point of our lives.
Most likely, we’ve all been each of the court cards in all the suits at some point of our lives depending on situations and phase of our lives.
But, do you feel one (or more) of the knights describes how you are on average every day?
Do you feel it describes someone you know and how they are most of the time?
Make notes if you have a tarot journal to keep for future reference.
A knight as a significator can also be someone who is:
- sticks to their morals
- does what they feel is right and honourable
- goes after what they want
- does what they want
Again, knights don’t have to be limited to men and the same for any court card for any gender.
We’ll talk more about gender and the court cards later in the post.
Queens are the rulers – the feminine side of the rulership.
They oversee the kingdom and realm of Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles.
Queens are traditionally used to represent mature women, mothers, married women or even widows.
However, the Queen court card doesn’t have to be limited to specific women or only women – although all women are queens in their own right, right?
A queen significator could be someone who:
- cares for others
- is intuitive / empathic / psychic
- uses their heart to make decisions
- is mature and in control but has a softer touch
- a good listener
- gives good advice
- gets sh*t done
These are just a few examples for the Queen court card (without using the suits so far).
A queen court card as a significator can be used for example by anyone who feels they embody what the queen represents regardless of gender, marital status or maternal status.
More often the queen is equivalent to the king, but has a more softer or gentler appeal, is more intuitive and subtle, but can still be fierce and decisive.
Who is the king as a significator card?
Traditionally, the king in tarot was considered to be an older man, married or a widower.
However, the king doesn’t have to be limited to just men or older men, married or widowers.
Younger people (of any gender) can also be considered kings as significator cards in tarot.
Many younger people have become masters and experienced in their chosen fields of work or study or have become leaders in their community or even head of households, etc.
The king is someone who is in total control, but doesn’t let persuasions, emotions or feelings cloud their judgement and keeps it separate.
They let their experience and decision speak for themselves.
The king as a significator can:
- use logic and reason over emotions
- make decisions for the betterment of everyone around them
- use experience and expertise
- show leadership
- lead by example
The king has a sense of mastery and skill from years of training, study, through trial and error, successes and failures.
Have a look at the four kings in your chosen tarot deck?
Take note of what each king seems to be a master of in that realm/suit of the tarot?
Do you feel that is you in one of the kings?
Do you recognise someone else as one of those kings?
If so, which tarot suit?
If you have a tarot journal or a place to keep tarot notes, make a note of any impressions or people that you feel could be represented by a king in tarot.
DIVERSITY & TAROT COURTS
This can be a whole other topic, but we’ll talk about this here as we’re focusing on tarot significator cards.
The tarot courts in the Rider Waite Smith system are listed as:
- Page – Female
- Knight – Male
- Queen – Female
- King – Male
That being said, when you pick a tarot significator card, don’t feel you have to stick rigidly to this example.
Don’t be afraid of what other people may think about the tarot court you pick for yourself.
Focus on what essence behind the card, not so much on the gender title and what’s been written hundred of years ago.
Although a lot of tarot decks use the Rider Waite Smith court card system, there are some newer decks on the market that are changing that up – and it’s about time.
Decks like the Slow Holler Tarot uses Students, Travelers, Architects and Visionaries as the courts instead of gendered titles for the court cards. You can check out the review here from Little Red Tarot.
Asali Earthwork has a list of queer, trans and people of colour tarot decks that can help others to find a tarot deck that resonates with them and their significator card as well.
Do you really need a significator card in tarot?
Actually, not really.
So was this post just a waste of time?
It’s good to know what significator cards in tarot are and how they’re used – it’s pretty much taught as a foundation for most tarot reading courses and classes.
The Celtic Cross tarot spread uses a significator card as the very first card, but if you don’t use one, that’s OK.
It’ll still work fine if you don’t use a significator card.
Significator tarot cards can help you to focus on your querent, the subject, topic or situation that the reading is about.
If you’re doing a reading for someone else, it can help the querent to have something to focus on to keep their attention on the reading and question at hand.
There is a thought that by removing a card from the tarot deck as a significator, that means that card won’t appear in the reading which could potentially have been part of the reading.
I agree with this and that’s why I stopped using significator cards.
However, you could still choose a significator card and then place it back in the tarot deck, shuffle and then draw your cards.
If the significator card appears in the tarot reading, then it may be an important part of the reading.
You can then focus more closely on the interpretation of that card and as a representation of yourself or the querent.
Hopefully this helps to give insight into significator tarot cards on your tarot journey. 🙂