Why Use Tarot Significators?

Updated on September 28, 2018
theraggededge profile image

I'm a professional tarot reader with 18 years of experience. I have a resource-rich website and tarot-reading service.

During my professional tarot reading career, I admit, I’ve rarely used significators. However, I’m beginning to get more interested in the topic of significators and their personalities. What is a significator? In essence, it’s a card that represents the seeker, the querent, the subject of the reading. You.

I've discovered by using them, my readings provide another level of information. In particular, I look at the connection between the significator and each card in the reading. Tarot combinations are a fascinating topic, and I’ve written quite a lot about them on my own website.

In this article, I am exploring the general idea of tarot significators and how they relate to personality via the signs of the zodiac. Before I get to that, I’m laying out the basic associations between the zodiac signs, tarot suits, court cards and elements. If you are just wanting to select a significator, you can skip the next section. However, if you are a beginner tarot reader, it really is worthwhile learning these as they will help you enormously in your readings.

Major Arcana from the Mystical Tarot
Major Arcana from the Mystical Tarot

What Is a Tarot Significator?

As mentioned in the introduction, a significator represents the person asking the question. S/he is usually the subject of the reading. The chosen card is removed from the deck and placed on the table, face up. The randomly drawn cards that form the reading are placed near it. The significator may take center stage in the reading or be off to one side.

The point of using a significator in a reading is that it impresses the energy of the seeker onto the reading. It also gives the reader a way of relating the cards in the reading back to the seeker. Mentally comparing and contrasting each card with the significator helps find extra layers of meaning in the reading.

Astrological Modalities

As you know, there are 12 zodiac signs (yes, I know that some people think there are thirteen) and they are split into three modalities: Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable.

I am going to assign each of these to a Court Card rank as follows:

  • Mutable: Knights
  • Fixed: Queens
  • Cardinal: Kings

By doing this, I am actually going against the accepted doctrine that Queens are cardinal and Kings are fixed. My reasons are thus:

Mutable means changing, metamorphosis, inconstant. This reflects the personality and activity of the Knights. They are still unsettled, vacillating, in the process of maturing and discovering where they fit in society. They are flexible and open to new ideas. They push the boundaries of their suit attributes.

Fixed means consolidated, focused inward, still, serene. These attributes fit the Queens. They are stable, attached and are personalities that imply permanence. They have absorbed and solidified the energy of their suit. To fix also means to renew and repair, a definite fitting attribute for a Queen. Queens take all that fluctuating, emotional energy and bring it to a state of calm. Think of the way mothers instill behavior and good manners into children that remain with them for all their lives. They become fixed in the same way that dye is fixed into fabric.

Cardinal means leadership, chief, principal. It also represents forward moving energy. Whereas the Golden Dawn tradition assigns these qualities to the Queens, I feel they are far better suited to the Kings. They take that consolidated energy and carry it forward, outwardly expressing the full spectrum of the suit. The cardinal virtues are fortitude (Wands), temperance (Cups), justice (Swords), and prudence (Pentacles) and the Kings are each admirable representations of them.

Note that the Pages are not included above because they tend to represent children and younger people, and they don’t fit into the 12 modalities. However, you are free to use a Page as your significator if you feel it bests suits you. And I’ll include them in the analysis below. They are connected with the element of earth, which leads us nicely into the elemental properties of the signs and the Court cards.

Elemental Qualities

Each sign is associated with one of the four classical elements: Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Each tarot suit has its own element:

  • Wands: Fire
  • Cups: Water
  • Swords: Air
  • Pentacles: Earth

The zodiac signs are split between the elements as follows:

  • Fire: Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius
  • Water: Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces
  • Air: Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius
  • Earth: Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn.

So it follows that each Court card rank is associated with an element too:

  • Kings: Fire
  • Queens: Water
  • Knights: Air
  • Pages: Earth.

Therefore, we can create the following table which helps to further build up a picture of the Court personalities:

Suit/Rank

 
King
Queen
Knight
Page
Wands
Fire of Fire
Water of Fire
Air of Fire
Earth of Fire
Cups
Fire of Water
Water of Water
Air of Water
Earth of Water
Swords
Fire of Air
Water of Air
Air of Air
Earth of Air
Pentacles
Fire of Earth
Water of Earth
Air of Earth
Earth of Earth

Zodiac Signs and Corresponding Court Cards

  • Aries (Cardinal Fire) – King of Wands
  • Taurus (Fixed Earth) – Queen of Pentacles
  • Gemini (Mutable Air) – Knight of Swords
  • Cancer (Cardinal Water) – King of Cups
  • Leo (Fixed Fire) – Queen of Wands
  • Virgo (Mutable Earth) – Knight of Pentacles
  • Libra (Cardinal Air) – King of Swords
  • Scorpio (Fixed Water) – Queen of Cups
  • Sagittarius (Mutable Fire) – Knight of Wands
  • Capricorn (Cardinal Earth) – King of Pentacles
  • Aquarius (Fixed Air) – Queen of Swords
  • Pisces (Mutable Water) – Knight of Cups

Remember that these are my own preferences; you might prefer to switch Cardinal and Fixed.

Significator Personalities

This is probably the section you are most interested in, the actual personalities of the Court cards, which will help you determine your own personal tarot significator. Remember that although they are split into conventional genders, you can ignore them if you want to. Also, although, the Court cards have been assigned to zodiac signs for the purpose of this analysis, you can ignore that should you be drawn to a different card. For example, for myself I have chosen the Queen of Pentacles, but my sign is Capricorn which is associated with the King of Pentacles.

The Suit of Wands

The Wands are brimming with passion, excitement and enthusiasm. If you feel aligned with these adventurous qualities, you might find your significator here.

The King of Wands (Fire of Fire) is associated with the Cardinal fire sign of Aries. As a personality, he is a natural leader, outgoing, outspoken, and forward looking. Not for him, the intricacies of introspection. He is a complete extrovert. He is interested in the big picture, the goal just over the horizon, and the greater good. He is happy to leave details to other people while he focuses on wider strategies. You’ll find King of Wands types in all sectors of society - often at the top levels of business and society, but you’ll also find failed Kings of Wands populating bars and living on the streets. They take failure very hard, and it may be one of the most difficult life lessons for them to deal with. Those imbued with the cardinal virtue of fortitude will keep trying, never to give up.

The Queen of Wands (Water of Fire) is associated with the Fixed fire sign of Leo. She is extrovert, warm, passionate and a bit of an exhibitionist. In her youth, she may be a little selfish and self-obsessed. Yet, as she becomes older and wiser, her Queenly attributes kick in to make her a good listener and someone to turn to in times of difficulty. She’s generous to a fault and easy to get along with. She pays more attention to details than the King and that coupled with ambition can take her to the top of her chosen profession. Her life lesson is to recognize her own potential and live up to it.

The Knight of Wands (Air of Fire) is associated with the Mutable sign of Sagittarius. He tears around, never finding the elusive ‘thing’ he’s always searching for. He’s unable to be faithful, or to stick with any project for any length of time. Life is one big adventure. No-one can succeed in making him settle. His strong point is being able to galvanize others into action. His charm and enthusiasm are contagious. And he has the wide perspective of the King. Yet, don’t expect him to be around for the ongoing hard work and successful conclusion — he’ll have already moved on. Eventually, he will either discover maturity and become a King, or he will continue his wild ways until death.

The Page of Wands (Earth of Fire) is one of life’s explorers. She’s always looking for adventure, but even at her young age, she is more grounded than the Knight. She assesses her options before taking a leap into the unknown. She’s active, curious, gregarious, fun. She’s progressing all the time and meeting her short-term goals. No-one knows her ultimate destination - perhaps she will be Queen or King.

The Suit of Cups

The Cups represent human emotion and compassion. They are empathic, sympathetic, wise in the realm of love and relationships. If you feel your personality is aligned with these qualities, you’ll find your significator in this suit.

The King of Cups (Fire of Water), associated with the Cardinal sign of Cancer is a gentle man. Generally wise, quiet and kindly, he is interested in the environment and other people’s well-being. He tends to keep himself to himself and sometimes needs to be cajoled into socializing. Being a King, he is capable of leadership, but is happy to delegate difficult decisions to those he trusts. He is the one that his family turn to when in need of a comforting word. Think of him as a harbor in a tempest.

The Queen of Cups (Water of Water) is associated with the Fixed sign of Scorpio. Hence she has many layers of characteristics. On the surface, she is your kindly best friend who you turn to when you need a shoulder to cry on. She never judges you and is always on your side. Yet she has hidden depths which are never revealed. She may suffer from depression at times, or be a little kinky. She doesn’t talk much about her own emotions, but probably uses a journal, or even writes novels to express that side of her psyche. She may well have a career, usually in such areas as childcare, geriatrics, creative arts, etc. She makes all decisions based on her intuition, which is almost always correct.

The Knight of Cups (Air of Water) is associated with the Mutable sign of Pisces. He is, of course, romantic, dreamy and a little vague. He loves to be in love and holds this idealistic vision of what love should be. His vision doesn't include diapers, baby-wipes or picking up dog poop. When life gets ‘realistic’ he often melts away. The Knight of Cups is able to share his feelings and has the Cups’ ability to empathize with other’s pain, although he is often too wrapped up in himself to notice. As with the other Knights, age confers maturity and common sense.

The Page of Cups (Earth of Water) is a gentle soul. She is quiet, introspective and creative. She’s often artistic or musical, sometimes both, and needs these outlets in order to express her feelings. Like all the tarot Pages, she is an explorer of the energies of her suit, therefore she takes a great interest in how people cope with their own emotions.

The Suit of Swords

Swords are connected to thought and communication; all that goes on in our heads. The suit of logic, creative thinking, incisiveness and cognition. If you feel you align with ‘head-stuff’, you might find a rapport with these Court cards.

The King of Swords (Fire of Air) is associated with the Cardinal sign of Libra. Like most Librans, he is a well-balanced, though authoritarian figure. His maturity allows him to see all sides of an argument, and he can be trusted to make a fair and accurate judgment. He makes a good, honest, and fair leader, though prefers to channel his talents into a professional career such as law, accountancy, investment, surgery, writing or similar.

The Queen of Swords (Water of Air), associated with the Fixed sign of Aquarius, is as straight-talking as you’ll ever find. She values honesty and integrity above all other qualities. Never try to bamboozle her or she will wither you with a look. Yet, because she is a Queen, she has a softer side which she makes every attempt to hide. She’s often as tough, ambitious, professional and focussed as the King—no glass ceiling gets in the way of her journey to the top of her chosen career.

The Knight of Swords (Air of Air), associated with the Mutable sign of Gemini, is a man on a mission. He is a warrior for injustice and will often fight for those he perceives as unable to fight for themselves. Once he sets his sights on a goal, he excludes everything else. He’s impatient, witty, sarcastic and capable of besting anyone in an argument. He is intolerant of ignorance and stupidity, and is capable of being quite cruel verbally. Maturity usually brings a softening in attitude, and self-awareness brings acceptance of other points of view.

The Page of Swords (Earth of Air) is an explorer of the mind. She likes to push the boundaries of thinking and can be quite precocious in this respect. Clever beyond her years, she has an incisive wit and a scathing sense of humor. She is an innovator and an inventor. She ignores convention in favor of experimentation; she loves technology and seeing how she can make it work for her.

The Suit of Pentacles

Pentacles are the last suit in tarot because they represent the final form of energy—physical manifestation. Thus they are connected with all that we can touch, as well as prosperity, fertility, health, work, etc. Yet Pentacles is also a spiritual suit, showing us our connection to the Earth and the systems which support and sustain our existence. If these things are important to you, then you may find your significator here.

The King of Pentacles (Fire of Earth) is associated with the Cardinal sign of Capricorn. He’s magnanimous but hard-working. He has put all his efforts into creating his heaven on earth. Often rising from poverty, he is a self-made man. He’s generous, but expects other people to work just as hard. He has no time for free-loaders. He enjoys the good things in life and believes he has earned the right to party. While not as inspirational as the King of Wands, nevertheless he makes a good leader, with his feet on the ground and his heart in the right place.

The Queen of Pentacles (Water of Earth) is associated with the Fixed sign of Taurus. She is the most down-to-earth personality of the tarot Courts, and is the earthly representative of the Empress energy. Family oriented and home-loving, she can still make quite an impression on her chosen career as she is adept at juggling all the aspects of her life. Happy baking cakes and even happier counseling her employees, she is a force to be reckoned with.

The Knight of Pentacles (Air of Earth), associated with the Mutable sign of Virgo, is seriously underrated. He is hard-working, grounded, precise and focused. He also has hidden facets to his personality. Loyal, friendly, appreciative, capable of keeping a secret, and in his relationships for the long haul. He’s the most mature of the Knights and capable of a lot more than people give him credit for. He is deeply connected to the Earth and to nature. He’s kind to animals and children, therefore, he’s one of the good guys.

The Page of Pentacles (Earth of Earth) is eternally curious about the world around her. She has an endless thirst for knowledge and experience. She has an open, loyal personality and makes a great ‘best friend’. She nurses injured birds and helps classmates with their homework. She enjoys being useful and finds a great satisfaction helping others.

The Major Arcana as Significators

You can, of course, choose a Major Arcana as your significator. Using your birth card is always effective. Simply add up the digits of your birth date, reduce them until you reach a number under 21 and that’s your birth card. Some people will discover they have more than one. If you are a tarot reader doing remote readings, then this may be the best way of choosing a significator on behalf of your client.

The Minor Arcana Significators

Similarly, you can take your significator from the Minors. You might find that one particular image, number, or suit speaks to you. The seeker should work though the deck and pick the card that resonates with them the most.

If you have any questions or comments regarding tarot significators, please use the comment section below.

Questions & Answers

  • How do you reduce the number in tarot?

    You mean to get your birth card? You just keep adding the digits, like this:

    Birthdate: July 23 1989 7+2+3+1+9+8+9 = 39 Then: 3+9 = 12. You can further reduce it to 3, giving two birth cards, the Hanged Man and the Empress.

© 2018 Bev G

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    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      11 months ago from Ohio

      I always enjoy learning about tarot cards. This is very interesting, seeing how the cards relate to other aspects of life. :)

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      11 months ago from Wales, UK

      Hi there, RoadMonkey. It's best to choose a significator you feel a connection with. If you don't feel it, then you don't have to use one at all. The significator is a card that represents your presence in the reading. You don't have to try to be like it.

      You can choose a card that has 'character traits' that you'd like to acquire, by all means. It would entail studying the card, perhaps writing about it, meditating on it and actually practicing those qualities you'd like to have. That is something a little different to choosing a significator.

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 

      11 months ago

      I read through those and never know which to choose, most of them seem useful and something you would like. So, which to choose? Do people sometimes choose one they like and then just try to be like that one?

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      11 months ago from Wales, UK

      Thank you. It's a fascinating topic to study, Louise. It's not all about fortune-telling; it's an elegant system that reflects all of human existence :)

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      11 months ago from Norfolk, England

      That was really interesting to read. I really should learn the tarot cards as I find it all so interesting.

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