What is a significator card, and how do you use one in a tarot reading? (You may have also heard it referred to as a “signifier card.” Same thing.)
A significator card is a way to personalize tarot readings. In this post, I’ll tell you how to choose a significator card and why you may want to use one in a tarot reading. Plus, a video to see it all in action!
What is a significator card?
In a tarot reading, a significator card represents the querent, or the person asking the tarot cards a question. It represents the querent’s current state, perhaps their general character or personality, or what they are currently focused on or working through.
Significator cards are usually selected from the Major Arcana and/or the court cards. That’s because those are the cards that represent archetypes and personality types. So, they are naturally better suited to representing a person. The Minor Arcana cards are more about circumstances and situations, so they don’t make as much sense for significator cards.
How do you choose a significator card?
A significator card is special because it can be picked deliberately. In other words, you can choose your significator card rather than just drawing it randomly like you regularly do for tarot readings.
In fact, here are three ways to pick a significator card, depending on whether you are reading for yourself or somebody else.
1. Allow the querent to find their significator card themselves.
If you’re doing a tarot reading for someone else, you can begin the tarot reading by having them go through the tarot deck and pick out a card to represent themselves. (If you’re reading for yourself, then obviously you do this for yourself.)
Some tarot readers immediately think, “Nope! Aint nobody touching my deck but me!” And I get that. If I’m doing a reading for my husband or sister at home, I have no problem letting them shuffle the cards or pick a significator for themselves. But if you’re reading for clients and strangers, I understand not wanting to hand over your tarot deck. So if that’s you, skip to the next two ways to choose a significator card.
(Related: How to Shuffle Tarot Cards)
For this method, you hand over the Major Arcana, court cards, or both to the querent and ask them to look through the cards and pick one that seems to represent them. Your querent’s choice of a significator card already gives you an insight into their state of mind and current energy before you’ve even done the reading, which is valuable. There’s a reason they pick what they pick!
If a querent picks the Queen of Wands for themselves, I might infer that they either already see themselves as someone with high self-esteem who is comfortable in their skin, or that they value and ultimately want to embody this bright, confident personality. If they pick the Hermit on the other hand, I can infer that they are feeling a little moodier because the darker colors spoke to them. Perhaps they consider themselves an introvert, a solitary person, or even lonely or depressed.
2. Choose a significator card for the querent.
After hearing a little bit about the querent and the situation they want to ask the tarot cards about, you can go ahead and choose a significator card for them yourself.
(Related: 5 Tarot Questions that Lead to Bad Readings)
Now, if you read up on significator cards in certain books or on certain websites, you’ll get some really (in my humble opinion) outdated information. “If your querent is a young female, pick a page. More specifically, the Page of Cups if they are fair-haired. If they are dark haired and old, pick the Queen of Pentacles.” I hate this and don’t subscribe to it because it’s old school and gender stereotypical and dumb.
Here is what I think is way more valuable when it comes to significator card selection:
If I were reading for someone who is highly disciplined, structured, and perhaps overly ego-driven, I would pick the Emperor for them whether they are male or not, old or not. Why? Because this person embodies classic Emperor energy. Or, if I were reading for a man who is asking about his children and how to provide for his family, I might pick the Queen of Pentacles. That card embodies this concern and energy.
The querent’s hair color, eye color, or genitals are ridiculously irrelevant to tapping into energy, channeling their highest and most authentic self, and digging deep to sort through thoughts and make an informed life decision.
(Related: How to Figure Out Your Tarot Life Card)
3. Draw the significator card randomly.
I actually don’t use significator cards that often. But when I do, I usually draw them randomly from just the Major Arcana. (You could add the court cards into that mini-stack for your random draw if you like. It’s up to you.)
This approach might resonate more with you if you believe that a random or intuitive draw from the deck is more informative than consciously choosing a card just because we like it or our ego is telling us something that may not be the most accurate or true.
Below is a basic spread I use that calls for a significator card, or signifier card, to be randomly drawn from the Major Arcana. I like it because I may think I’m in the wise, introspective space of the Hermit, for example, but the Judgement card comes up as my signifier, or significator. That tells me that deep down, I’m probably longing for some connection and validation from others more than I think. And that’s the beauty of tarot!
How do you use a significator card in a tarot reading? What’s the point?
Okay, so you’ve chosen a significator card. Now what? What’s the point?
The significator card is important in the way it interacts with the other cards in the spread.
Let’s use the four-card check in spread above to illustrate what I mean. This spread could also be done without a significator. You could just draw three cards to represent your physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual realm. And that would work just fine. With a significator though, you might be able to link each or all of the cards in a way that adds nuance and layers to your reading.
To see what I mean and how this plays out in an actual reading, check out the video below.