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Selecting a Significator

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on August 12, 2010 | Comments (4)

Most tarot students agree that the court cards are the most challenging. Perhaps this is because they represent people and, let’s face it, people are complicated! One of the best books I’ve read to explore all the complexities of the court cards is Understanding the Tarot Court by Mary K. Greer and Tom Little. They help us jump right in by getting up close and personal with the court cards by having us pick our significators. What is a significator? How do you pick one? Let’s see what Mary and Tom have to say:

One of the most familiar uses of the court cards in divination is the significator. The significator is a card that represents the querent—the person who is asking the question and about whom the reading is being done. Significators are chosen in many ways [such as by age, gender, physical appearance, and sun sign]. Now is the opportunity for you to pick out a significator intuitively.

  1. Take your deck, and separate the sixteen court cards from the rest, laying them out face up in a mixed grouping. Forget everything you know about these cars and simply look at the pictures
  2. Eliminate the cards that are least like you—getting rid of at least half. Keep these separate from the others.
  3. Notice some of the characteristics that you used in the elimination process. Too old? Too young? Wrong color hair? Wrong sex? Overly harsh? Not friendly enough? Too dreamy? Too conservative? Interested in the wrong things?
  4. From the cards that remain, does one card stand out clearly as being most like you? If not, examine the remaining cards in pairs, choosing one over the other by considering what you most connect with or where you see yourself most strongly. Then compare the chosen card to a new card until only one is left. This is your significator.
  5. From your initial stack of eliminated cards, find the card that is least like you. This could be called your “nemesis.” It generally represents those characteristics you feel your were not allotted.
  6. In your journal, write the ways in which you are most like your significator. Describe how your nemesis is not like you. One way to think of your nemesis is that if you were competing in this person’s field, he or she would be an unbeatable rival; you could not possibly win. You may want to write down other cards that seemed to express a certain aspect of yourself that is noteworthy. Date your entries.

Mary and Tom’s exercise is an interesting way to learn not only about the court cards but also about ourselves. I think this would be a fun exercise to do with a deck that I wasn’t familiar with and that used non-traditional ranks and suits, so that I wasn’t swayed by the titles but instead only reacting to the art.

Do you think the card we deem “least like us” is a nemesis or is it our shadow? Or are the nemesis and shadow the same thing?

Reader Comments

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on August 12th, 2010 @ 11:44 am

I’ve never been big on Taking a sig our of the deck, even in spreads that use a sig, I like to let the pull of the cards speak to the Sig for that day.

That Said you would be Amazed (or not 😉 how often my Sig comes up the King of Cups, My Nemisis would most certainly be the Pimp of Cups; of the Page – but I guess you can see how I think of that Weasle.(sometimes the Nine as Well.) I’ve never read this book, but I will agree it takes some time to learn the court cards.

Two Thoughts …
1. Study Astrology, getting to know Venus, Mars, Jupiter and the whole solar family better will help you understand the court better too, they are a court of sorts after all.

2. Lay out all the courts from your deck, or even photo copy them. then compare them with your Key Words and think about them. See how many you can match up to members of your family. When I see the King of Wands I always think of my Uncle John, an Auto Worker in Buffalo, a simple man, hard working. He had been a Para-Trooper in WWII; but I never knew it till I was in service myself, and then it was my aunt told me. John never once “Bragged” about his experiances in my hearing. But if you’ve seen a Bridge too far he jumped with the Polish Brigade.

My point is … having a guide like my uncle helps one envision the card in more well rounded terms, not Just the Fire of the Element, but the Stotic, Steady aspect that makes him a King, he has out grown the Impetus Kt (the ParaTrooper) and Grown into the Man I knew as my Uncle. … Blessings, BB.

Written By Jan
on August 31st, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

I’ve never tried this before, and hadn’t really appreciated that there was a particular “significator”. Recognition of both the significator and the nemesis was almost instantaneous, and I’m intrigued by the fact that I eliminated 8 of the male cards without realising it consciously. If you’d asked me off the cuff, I’d have said my significator would be the Queen of Cups. But no, it’s the Queen of Pentacles.

And the nemesis? A very wintry – in the Rider Waite deck – King of Swords. An ice king. Nothing would melt him. And maybe that is a shadow too – I’ve frozen my emotions many times, being too frightened to acknowledge them, so I can recognise that as part of me.

Written By Barbara Moore
on September 1st, 2010 @ 7:47 am

Jan, sounds like you had an interesting experience! Thanks for sharing and stopping by!

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