For this spread I recommend the use of a personal significator, which is called the Sentinel.
I like to use significators when I read with the Tarot. In general, when I say ‘significator’, I am not necessarily referring to a card with which to signify myself, but am rather using it as an umbrella term applied to the court cards as they are interpreted to represent any actual people. In the context of the Sentinel spread, actual people can prove to be key components, and to this end the court cards tend to make useful significators for various people in the querent’s life. By extension, of course, the querent him or herself can be associated with one or more court cards, and I think that a general awareness of which cards these can be is useful to anyone who uses a Tarot deck, regardless of whether or not a particular spread requires one.
The Sentinel spread does make use of a personal significator (what good is a watchtower, after all, if there’s nobody posted on watch duty?), but if the querent does not wish to select from the court cards, there are other methods of choosing the Sentinel. The position of a personal significator in a spread is really no different than any other position in a spread with a designated meaning; the purpose of this “first position” is simply to describe the querent in some fashion related to the present. So the simplest manner of choosing the Sentinel is for the querent to randomly select one as he or she would for any other position in the spread. This card, whatever it turns up to be, court card or not, represents the Sentinel for the remainder of the reading.
I have never done that. With some rare exceptions, I only use this spread for personal readings, and I always like to consciously select my Sentinel beforehand, because it gives me a final sense of control before I move on to the body of the reading, which will be drawn completely at random. It’s a preliminary ritual that allows me to get into a proper mindset for my reading, to form a very basic point of reference for further interpretation of the cards, that is the result of my own choosing.
Of course, every reading is different from the next, and I do not always approach my watchtower with the same perspectives as before. I therefore do not have only one personal significator, but rather I keep a cast of several to choose from at any given time, depending on which aspect of my life I am asking the cards about. I’ve learned that this is a good way to identify with the cards on a personal level, and a platform from which to build relationships with the Tarot. I usually have at least one court card from each suit in mind for myself. My go-to court card significator is the Knight (or Prince) of Cups. I use this card for generic readings because it is the card that best describes my general temperament, and in many decks, I just like the look of him (aesthetics are important to me).
When using the Sentinel spread, though, more often than not I select the significator from the suit of Pentacles, because I originally designed the spread with magic study in mind. Because the Pentacles symbolize the element Earth, the element with which I most strongly identify, they are the emblem of my magic in the Tarot. As the Sentinel on the Council, my significator is the King of Pentacles.
Despite the title on this site, however, I will not be using the King of Pentacles as the Sentinel today. Unless I am specifically performing a reading of or for the Council, I don’t usually use the King. Instead, I use the less formal Knight of Pentacles. The Knight represents me as an independent agent, a wandering wizard – the sentinel, as opposed to the Sentinel On The Council. A different hat for a different occasion.
I do sometimes select the Sentinel from among the Major Arcana, although not as often as the court cards. I feel compelled to do this if I am in an especially mystical mindset, but sometimes the mood just suits me. If this is the case, probably nine times out of ten I will use either the Hermit or the Magician as the Sentinel, because these two cards are my Tarot patrons.* The possibilities are endless, though, and I encourage anyone who uses this spread to keep an open mind and experiment with the selection of his or her Sentinel.
For this example, the Knight of Pentacles (from a Marseille Tarot deck, which I’ve decided to use because I think it allows for the most freedom of interpretation) will remain as my choice for the Sentinel. He is to be removed from the pack and set to the side for the time being. We will see where he fits into the spread in the next post.
Before I bring this post to a close, I would like to make a final remark about significators as they may appear elsewhere in the spread. As I’ve said, court cards can represent actual people, and when one turns up in the spread, special attention should be paid to it. It should be considered whether the card in question is actually supposed to be another person, or if it is perhaps a different aspect of the querent him or herself. This is certainly a possibility when dealing with court cards in this spread, and while it may add a layer of confusion, it can also illuminate certain things about the querent.
*The subject of Tarot Patrons is one I will be writing on in more detail, hopefully sooner rather than later.