I like significators. Not everyone does, but I think they are useful when working with the Tarot. Some spreads require significators, and some do not, but regardless, I like to know which cards represent me in the deck I’m using before I lay out a spread.
First of all, for those of you who may not know, a significator is a card that represents a specific person. This person can be you, but anyone you may know can also have a significator. Usually, significators are chosen from among the 16 court cards, but this does not absolutely have to be the case. The court cards are most appropriate for significators for a reason, though, so most people who use them will use a court card. The court cards, while also possibly representing actions or abstractions, are normally taken to represent people of various ranks, genders, skills, temperaments, occupations, or sometimes, in older systems, physical characteristics. Because they represent people, the court cards are better suited for significators than small cards or Major Arcana cards, which refer generally to situations and concepts.
I use a few different court cards for significators, with at least one from each suit. These all represent specific areas of my life: work, music, magic, and one card that represents my general personality. I chose the latter significator based on a popular method: its zodiacal attribution. I admit, I tend to the side of skepticism when it comes to accuracy in astrology, but the personality traits described for my card in every book I’ve read on it are remarkably similar to mine. Coincidence? Maybe. I also like the way this card looks in most decks.
For my other significators, I used other methods. My work significator just made sense based on the nature of my employment and my “rank” within. For music, I laid out a spread using the same number of cards as there are members in the group, in the positions we occupy on stage, and with only court cards. In this way, I discovered which significator applied not only to myself, but to each member of the ensemble (or at least as they relate to me, that is, as a musician).
For magic, I based my significators on my element: Earth. Therefore, the suit of my magic significators is Coins (which is surely surprising for some, as most people seem to think Coins is a significator for work, because of its associations with money and materialism. I don’t say that’s wrong, but my situation calls for different associations). As an individual, practicing wizard, I use the Knight of Coins (or Pentacles, usually, because I generally use the RWS when dealing with these significators). As a member of the Council, I use the King of Pentacles.
The Council is a small group of like-minded wizards who discuss magical theory and practice. My fellow Council members each identify with one of the other four elements, and are represented in the Tarot by the respective King of their suit (or a Knight, if they show up in a spread that is oriented around magic but not around the Council).
Depending on which of these significators in a given deck appeals most to my aesthetic sensibilities can help me decide which deck I use for a specific situation. I always know what my significators are, so even if the spread I’m using* doesn’t call for a significator, I pay special attention to one if it pops up. Of course, what one of these cards really means when not previously set aside as my significator depends on many factors, and it doesn’t necessarily have to represent me (the same can be said of any court card; there are significantly more than 16 people on this planet, so it should be understood that, as with anything else, context is key).
Sometimes, I do use the Major Arcana for significators, most especially the Hermit, the Magician, or the Fool. I reserve these for very special situations; more often, these cards represent some aspect of how I approach the Tarot, magic, or life in general (the Hermit especially, as should be obvious to anyone who notices how often he shows up throughout this blog, but as far as I’m concerned, the Magician is really just another side of the same figure and is therefore equally important to me). So I do identify very strongly with the Hermit and the Magician (and yes, the Fool, although I think that’s a card for everyone, no matter what other significators you use), but more often they represent an ideal for me to strive to achieve, whereas the court cards actually represent me as a regular human, with all the fallibility that comes with the condition of my frail mortal frame. Of course, it should go without saying that when a Major Arcana card shows up in a spread, I do not assume it’s the significator for anyone unless there are clear signs that indicate I should do so.
When it comes to significators, it really boils down to personal preference. I’ve noticed that many people don’t like them, don’t understand them, or just don’t see any practical reason to use them. If for no other reason, though, I do like them because they allow me to connect with my deck on a deeper level. It’s as if, with cards that can signify myself in them, I become as much a part of my decks’ lives as they are of mine. I feel like the Tarot is something with which you build a relationship, and it makes sense that it should get to know me in its own terms, just as I get to know it on mine.
*I read almost exclusively for myself. This is why I have no offers on this blog for readings like I see on many other Tarot blogs. It is also probably why I can afford to be so free and easy with my methods of interpretation. I only use this space as a place to exercise my writing chops and explore the Tarot and the messages it has for me. I’m eager to share, of course, and I hope that anyone who reads is positively affected by these thoughts, but even if no one does read, I still benefit from the mental activity.