There is a certain school of thought that recommends the use of a Significator card in aiding the Tarot reader during a Tarot reading. Of course, like all subjects that suggest one approach, there is usually a counter argument on why not to use it and the use of a Significator card in a Tarot reading is no different. There are reasons for using a Significator card and there are reasons against it. This post will explore the use of a Significator in a Tarot reading, and in particular the pros and cons.
At one time, using a Significator was considered an extremely important part of doing a Tarot reading. Most Tarot spreads as a result, were designed to integrate this technique into the spread itself – such as the Celtic Cross Spread.
What is a Significator
This is a Tarot card that is specifically selected before the Tarot reading begins; not after or during but before. Spend some time before the reading talking to the client and assessing their expectations on what a Tarot reading can provide, and what they want from the reading. If you choose to use a Significator, the information you will gather at this stage will become invaluable in helping both you and the client select the appropriate card.
The Significator is selected to represent either the client themselves, or the subject of the question. For example, a Court card is most commonly used to represent the Client whereas a Pip or Minor Arcana card is used to represent the subject of the question itself. For instance, if the nature of the question involves a family inheritance, then the 10 of Disks would be an appropriate choice; or if the question involves romance, then perhaps the 2 of Cups is best suited.
How to select a Significator to represent the client
- Involve the client in this process. I usually discuss the client’s expectations before a Tarot reading. I use this conversation, amongst other methods to determine what Court card most accurately represents them.
- I show them two possible Court cards that I think most accurately represents them. I explain some of my reasons and usually they’ll select the most appropriate of the two.
- I would avoid using both Astrological methods and the Physical description of the Court cards as part of the selection process. I find these methods to be useless. However, I mention them in case you connect strongly to using one of these two options.
There are no hard and fast rules for choosing an appropriate Significator. In many ways this comes down to pure intuition and experience. Don’t worry if you’re unsure what card to choose. It’s a good sign that you’re learning and building up experience.
How to select a Significator to represent the question
In many ways this is the easiest type of Significator to select. It does require a basic understanding of the 78 Tarot cards but essentially the Significator is selected based on the exact nature of the question. If it is financial, consider using a Disk card; if it’s a relationship question, consider using a Cup card; if it is a medical or health related question, consider using a Sword card etc.
The card that is selected as the Significator is really not that important. It’s not something to be too concerned with. It’s actually much more important to the success of the reading to involve the client in this process. The involvement of the client is what makes the selection the right one, that and you’re guidance based on intuition.
Three Reasons to use a Significator card in a Tarot reading
- A Significator card gives the client something to focus on whilst shuffling the cards. It prevents their mind from wondering and helps produce a trance like effect. It also allows transference between Tarot reader and client, producing the right atmosphere to fully engage in a Tarot reading.
- It helps to open up unconscious content within the client when the Tarot reading begins.
- It seems to help the client relate to the other cards better. I suspect this is due, in part, to the unconscious content held within the client, which provides this content a chance to voice itself. It also helps, on a visual level, for the client to see themselves as part of something much bigger than just their own desires, hopes and fears. They can begin to see themselves as part of a much more complex set of causal relations which, as mentioned in a previous post, can help them rediscover their humanity.
Six reasons not to use a Significator card
- By choosing to use a Significator card, you have removed what might have been a critical influence from the reading. In other words, if the subject of the question involved business, and in particular the negotiation of contracts, you might choose to use the Three of Wands. In this case, the Tarot might have wanted to use that particular card within the context of the spread itself to illustrate the negotiations, and in particular, how those negotiations will be effected by other causal events represented by the other cards. By removing the Three of Wands, the possibility for a complete reading has been compromised.
- It is not actually necessary to use a Tarot card as a Significator to produce the benefits I listed above. One method that I’ve read (I forget the authors name) is to actually ask the client to place a coin from their pocket onto the table so that they can focus on that whilst shuffling the cards. This method helps to create some of the benefits I mentioned above. In particular, the trance effect and the opening of unconscious content. This method therefore produces all the benefits of using a Significator without the compromise of removing a Tarot card from the deck.
- It is actually unnecessary to use a Significator of any kind during a reading because the dynamics and energy flow created in the act of reading actually produces a receptive atmosphere that assists in helping the client make choices. Although the atmosphere is not as strong, it is still strong enough to produce a good reading without having to resort to a Significator.
- Imagine a situation where you select a Court card to represent the client, and the reading itself concerns a relationship reading. For example, the Queen of Wands is selected but in the cards you have dealt, the Queen of Cups turns up. Does the Queen of Cups represent the client or a love rival? This kind of confusion can be avoided by not using a Significator at all.
- A person is continuously changing and so to represent them using one ‘fixed’ card can be limiting and inaccurate. For instance, in one area of the client’s life, they may be a Student and thus a Page or Princess, and in another, they may be a parent and thus a King or a Queen. We each have different roles in life that can be represented by different Court cards. No one role should take priority over another if we want to achieve a balanced and objective reading.
- Symbolically, using a Significator acts to remove free-will. Let me explain: a Significator is meant to represent the client, their true essence. In other words, the Significator represents who the client really is, not dependent on circumstances or events, but who they are outside of those events. By placing the Significator next to the Tarot reading, you are symbolically removing them from their life. In other words, you are looking at what is going to happen to the client regardless of their choices; this can be seen as pure fortune telling, and limits the client’s ability to take control of their lives.
I think the use of a Significator within a Tarot reading can be useful. The benefits for doing so are very positive. However, I do feel that in the majority of cases it is perhaps a little unnecessary. It’s almost like going to a knife fight armed with a missile launcher. It’s effective and gets the job done but was it really required to go to those extremes? I’ve done literally thousands of Tarot readings and I can honestly say I have only ever used this technique a few times. When I did, it surprised me how effective it actually was but those were special circumstances, requiring me to approach matters in a very specific way.
The use of a Significator depends on the question, not the person. The real key to a successful Tarot reading is to involve the client in the build up to the reading, the conversation before hand, the selection of the Significator, the forming of a question and the shuffling of the deck. All these little processes combine to produce a successful reading, not one technique on its own.
If you decide to use a Significator, I would suggest practicing this technique continuously for about a week, then switch and do readings without using a Significator. Oscillate between using this technique and not using it until you feel comfortable with the process. Try to understand, in an everyday context, what the benefits of it are, and also the drawbacks. Treat this almost like an experiment. I would suggest conducting this experiment over a four week period. This would allow enough time to assess the pros and cons of using this method yourself.
Let me know what your experiences are with using a Significator and if you feel it’s a requirement for a successful reading?