When doing a reading, some Tarot readers like to choose and set aside a card to represent the Querent (the person they are reading for). This is called the significator. Other readers like to designate a card as the significator but leave it in the deck, and then apply special significance to it if it shows up in the reading. And still others don’t use a significator at all, or perhaps use one from an oracle deck. As always, the choice is up to you. Choose what works for you, and know why you made that choice.
If you would like to use a significator, there are several different methods for deciding on the appropriate card to represent the Querent. The two most popular deal with Zodiac signs and physical characteristics, respectively. A more rare method depends on knowing the Myers-Briggs type of the Querent.
The first method I will describe depends on knowing the Zodiac sign of your Querent. Also, you will need to know which element is associated with each suit in the deck of Tarot cards that you are using. Most RWS-inspired decks use the following associations: Wands-Fire, Cups-Water, Swords-Air, Pentacles-Earth. Some decks, however, switch the attributes of Wands and Swords, making Wands-Air and Swords-Fire. If your LWB doesn’t tell you which elements are associated with each suit, there are usually visual clues on the cards, especially the Aces and Court cards.
|Fire||Aries, Leo, Sagittarius||Wands|
|Water||Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces||Cups|
|Air||Gemini, Libra, Aquarius||Swords|
|Earth||Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn||Pentacles|
If the suits for Fire and Air are switched in your deck, just switch the signs in the above chart.
Now that you have determined which suit to choose the significator from, it is time to pick the appropriate Court card to use. The guideline is generally given as King for adult male, Queen for adult female, Knight (or equivalent) for young adult of either sex, and Page (or equivalent) for young teen or child of either sex.
Physical Characteristics Method
Significators based on physical appearance are popular because it doesn’t require the Querent to know their Zodiac sign, or for the Reader to memorize which sign goes with which suit. (Although, you can easily record this information in your Tarot journal or small book you carry when doing readings on the go.) Instead the physical characteristics are usually nicely illustrated on the Court cards for you.
|Wands||fair, freckled||blonde, auburn, reddish||light or dark|
|Cups||fair, medium||light brown, blonde, gray||gray, blue, hazel|
|Swords||dull, olive||brown, black||light|
|Pentacles||dark, shallow, ethnic||black, dark brown||brown, dark|
Again, choose the Court card from the appropriate suit based on the age of the Querent–King for adult male, Queen for adult female, Knight (or equivalent) for young adult of either sex, and Page (or equivalent) for young teen or child of either sex.
A new method for determining the significator has recently appeared. It is based on the Myers-Briggs personality typing. Each Court card has a specific personality type assigned to it, based on the traditional meanings of the card. There are a few different systems, but the one I like the best is below.
|King of Wands||ENTJ|
|Queen of Wands||INTJ|
|Knight of Wands||ENTP|
|Page of Wands||INTP|
|King of Cups||ENFJ|
|Queen of Cups||INFJ|
|Knight of Cups||ENFP|
|Page of Cups||INFP|
|King of Swords||ESTJ|
|Queen of Swords||ISTJ|
|Knight of Swords||ESTP|
|Page of Swords||ISTP|
|King of Pentacles||ESFJ|
|Queen of Pentacles||ISFJ|
|Knight of Pentacles||ESFP|
|Page of Pentacles||ISFP|
As you learn more about the Court cards and their personalities, you might decided to choose the significator by deciding which of the court cards is most like the Querent. This method is most useful if you know your Querent well.
Also, you could decided to lay out the Court cards from all the suits that correspond to the Querent’s age (Kings for adult males, etc., see above) and allow the Querent to choose the card that they prefer.
A rarely used method, from what I understand, is using Major Arcana as significators. Twelve of these cards are associated with Zodiac signs (see chart here), and could conceivably be used as significators. I’m not fond on this method because I like to have all the Major Arcana in the deck when I read since they represent life changing events. As I mentioned early though, you can designate one of these as the significator and leave it within the deck. If it shows up in the reading, play special attention to it.
Which ever method you choose, know why you want to use it. Like most things, Tarot reading is more effective when you are fully aware of why you use the methods you do. For example, if you don’t like Zodiac signs, do not pick that method.