The Repurposed Significator: A Comprehensive Overview

In previous posts I’ve mentioned the idea of reinstating the Significator card in my Celtic Cross readings (something I did away with as unnecessary a while ago) for the sole purpose of identifying through its facing whether the querent is consciously focused (or unconsciously fixated) on the past, the present or the future of the matter at hand. Obviously, the court card serving as the Significator would have to be drawn randomly rather than being pre-selected in order for this to work properly. The result could show aspects of the situation that the querent hasn’t recognized or is unwilling to acknowledge.

I hit upon the concept of taking the 16 court cards from a second deck, shuffling them together in a way that introduces reversals, and pulling one at random as the Significator for the spread. If the Significator faces to the left in either its upright or reversed orientation, the querent’s preoccupation would be with events or circumstances that have just recently passed. If to the right, he or she would be largely unencumbered by past complications and would be ready to meet the near future head-on. If the Significator is upright and facing straight out of the picture (in the Waite-Smith tarot that is only possible with the King of Swords but it could be different in other decks), the querent would be centered squarely in the present and ideally situated to move on, but if reversed the focus could be on some old, festering wound in the distant past that just won’t heal, to the point that it is affecting the present and foreseeable future. (Note that I read the Celtic Cross timeline in the clockwise direction from the bottom [or “foundation”] card, so left is always the “recent past,” right is the “near future,” above is the “present” and below is the “distant past,” loosely consistent with Eden Gray’s model. I ignore Waite’s notion that the facing of the Significator points to the near future position, or what is “before him.”)

Here are a few pictorial examples of what I’m talking about. The main deck is the RWS Centennial Edition and the Significators come from the Radiant RWS. I left out the “covering” and “crossing” cards for clarity. (These partial spreads are all from actual pulls, you can’t make this stuff up.)

Here the Knight of Cups could be pining for a former “flame” who has just recently been left behind. Maybe that long-suffering individual (Hanged Man) got tired of waiting (3 of Wands reversed) for the querent to “man up” and make a lasting commitment (King of Wands).


Here the Page of Pentacles could be unaware that he is about to face a difficult “trial by fire,” which he doesn’t see coming because he’s peering at his cell phone. (Maybe he’s about to be “dumped on” at work by his boss, the King of Pentacles, who has had enough [3 of Swords reversed] of the slacker’s idle ways [Page of Cups reversed].)


Here the King of Swords is presently concerned about straightening out his young son, who isn’t paying the slightest attention because he’s too busy texting his friend, the Page of Swords. Past efforts to get him to “buckle down” have most likely been fruitless (3 of Pentacles). It may take some kind of intervention (Magician).


Here the King of Swords is wrestling with an insidious, deeply-rooted obsession (Devil reversed) that may be about to emerge in his life as some kind of addiction (Moon reversed). He could have had a recent brush with the law (Justice reversed) and managed to “skate” (7 of Swords reversed). But it looks like a temporary reprieve.



As you can see, this can be a lot of fun to play with in imaginative story-telling ways, but I would present it to querents in much more circumspect language and only elaborate on the initial observation if I “strike a nerve.” The goal is to try to put your finger on where on the timeline the psychological driver for situational development lies. Seeing it in the present or near future is generally healthy, while in the past it can suggest an inability to get on with life.

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