TAROT THOUGHT: Can Decks Have Significators?

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There’s this practice that’s common among Tarot readers involving the use of what’s called a “Significator card.” The idea is that a person can be consistently represented within a reading or in a meditation by a given card. These Significator cards are often chosen from the subset of the Court Cards, and people will regularly zoom in on a Significator based on the age and gender of the querent (so someone with mature, Yang energy might best be represented by the King of Wands or the King of Swords, since Kings are mature and Yang, and the Suits of Wands and Swords are also considered to be Yang in nature). Other Tarot people don’t feel bound to choose Significators from only the Court Cards – much of this is down to personal preference.

Here’s a question, though: can a deck itself have a Significator card selected from within the ranks of its own 78 component members? Can a single card consistently represent a given deck? And can different decks have different Significators than the cards that serve as Significators for other decks?

That is, it would be one thing to say that, for instance, The High Priestess represents all decks, and any deck’s own High Priestess card could serve as that deck’s Significator. That would be one possibly valid approach here. It would be another thing, though, to hold that for Deck A, the Significator card that would always represent it would be, for example, the Emperor card, while Deck B’s Significator might instead be its own Ace of Wands card. That approach might also work, depending on your own responses to all of this…

But regardless of whether you want to use cards as official “Significators” for decks, it’s tough to argue that we don’t end up forming very strong associations linking a couple of specific cards with the deck from which they’re drawn.  Like, if I had to use a single card to capture the famed Rider-Waite-Smith deck for myself or somebody else, I’d probably settle first on The Magician.  To me, that’s the first card image that leaps to mind when I think of the RWS deck – that card means that deck in my mind, and that deck also means that card.  Other high-ranking possibilities for me would include The High Priestess, The Hermit (being on a Led Zeppelin album cover surely helps…), the Death card, and maybe a couple of the Court Cards and Aces.

Over in Thoth-Land, even before I became a full-time Tarot zealot myself, I understood that some early glimpse of the Adjustment card was very formative for me, and I imprinted on that image hard as a signifier of the Thoth deck.  I don’t even know that I fully grasped what the image was depicting at first, but I knew that it was unique to the Thoth deck, and that seeing the Adjustment card called the Thoth deck to mind for me, and that stumbling across any reference to the Thoth deck would likewise bring a mental picture of the Adjustment card swimming up to plant itself on my mental front-burner.  Runners-up for Thoth Significators for me are the Universe and the Lust cards: these also feel very extremely and uniquely evocative of this deck.

So how about you? Do you feel that individual decks have their own Significator cards that can be produced from within the bodies of themselves…?

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