Signifiers in the Tarot

The cards give you images and symbols to focus your vague intentions and transform them into action. Your will is the magic. In other words, you are the magic. If you can create something in your heart and then act on it to make it happen, that is magic. Very simple, very straightforward—no witches, no spells, and no broomsticks.

Theresa Francis-Cheung

In tarot readings, the signifier (also referred to as the significator) represents the person having the reading. It can be any of the 78 cards and typically ties to the situation the querent (questioner) is inquiring about. Signifiers aren’t always used nor are they mandatory but can help the querent stay on track, focus energy and set intention. Often, a court card will be used to symbolize the querent or specific people. Court cards can be based on physical or emotional descriptions. Signifier means it literally signifies the querent.

Major Arcana cards represent main themes found in life while the Minor Arcana indicate the situations, events and actions between and surrounding the main themes. The signifier can also point to an object, problem or decision from which you seek a resolution. Either reader or querent can choose the signifier. The querent does not necessarily need to understand the meanings of each card but can go by what illustration calls and relates to them. It can also be chosen based on astrological sign or elemental meaning.

  • Cups: Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)
  • Wands: Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)
  • Pentacles: Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)
  • Swords: Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)

The signifier can be placed within the reading and interpreted based on the cards pulled around it or it can be on top, crowning the reading. If you have a deck of your own is it also lucky to purposely choose your bottom card before putting the deck away. The card should symbolize what you want to feel or achieve.

If choosing a signifier based on the situation, refer to this list for assistance. It covers key meanings for the suits and Major Arcana.

  • Wands: Work, business, travel
  • Cups: Love, family, relationships
  • Swords: Strife, logic, communications
  • Pentacles: Finance, security, health
  • The Fool: New beginnings
  • The Magician: Trickery, enterprise, manifestation
  • The High Priestess: Hidden knowledge, psychic ability
  • Empress: Fertility, parenthood
  • Emperor: God, father figure, authority, career advancement
  • The Hierophant: Religion, leaders, tradition
  • Lovers: Love, choice
  • Chariot: Fame, war, achievements
  • Justice: Law, equalities, morals
  • The Hermit: Illumination, self-discovery
  • Wheel of Fortune: The unknown, luck
  • Strength: Courage, strength
  • The Hanged Man: Health, new point of views
  • Death: Endings and beginnings, life changing choices
  • Temperance: Peace, happiness, balance
  • The Devil: Addictions, obsessions, suppressions
  • The Tower: Sudden shock, upheavel
  • The Star: Hope, wishes, prayer
  • The Moon: Uncertainty, mystery
  • The Sun: Happiness, family, good health
  • Judgement: Calling, destiny, second chances
  • The World: Travel, world issues, accomplishment

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