What are significators? In simplest terms, they are a card that focuses the reading on. They provide the reader with a context beyond the question. The significator card speaks to the reader in the tarot language and helps them get a “read” on the questioner. It can tell them how they handle situations, their strengths and weaknesses, their goals, and anything else the reader could possibly need to know. There are a variety of methods of choosing one and using them in readings.
There are many different ways to pick one:
One is that the significator is a court card that corresponds to the questioner’s sex and astrological sign. In traditional decks, Wands are fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius); Cups are water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces); Swords are air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius); and Coins are earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn).
Another is that the questioner should choose the court card that they feel fits themselves best. The significator is then placed in a particular space in the tarot spread.
You can also use the birth card method to pick a significator (see my blog post here). Or have the questioner pick any card in the deck that they feels best represents who they are and the situation they are in.
I don’t use significators. Though they can be helpful, I prefer to let the cards speak for themselves (hence not using spreads that often). I let the questioner shuffle the cards and then begin to lay out the cards and see where they take me. If I want to gain insight into the questioner, I will calculate their birth card. But more often than not, I let the cards talk. I’ve found the best readings are the ones where I remove myself from the process and simplify the whole process.
Whether you choose to use significators, don’t get caught up in ritual. The goal of minimalist tarot is to remove anything that doesn’t provide something meaningful to your readings. If you find them meaningful, use them. If you don’t, then don’t. Don’t worry about what other people do; just focus on what works for you and leave the rest.