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Trumps as Significators

December 2, 2016

by Tony Willis    

In my last article I explained the, mainly continental, tradition of using Trumps 1 and 2 as significators of the male and female inquirer respectively. All seasoned tarot readers have developed their own methods that work brilliantly for them. If you have a tried and trusted way of allocating significators then stick to it. However, novices in the art of tarot divination who have not as yet adopted a particular method of assigning significators may benefit from my own experience in this field.

When working exclusively with the major arcana, I take the Emperor to signify a male inquirer and the Empress to signify a female inquirer. The Emperor may also represent the male interest in a woman’s reading and the Empress the significant female in a divination made on behalf of a man. I find that this latter rule applies especially in questions relating to romance or, in the case of a married inquirer, marital problems.

I have found this way of approaching the designation of a significator useful and for me it yields accurate results.

Arcane-Arcana-01-bateleur-magician   Arcane-Arcana-02-papesse-high-priestess

Arcane-Arcana-03-imperatrice-empress    Arcane-Arcana-04-empereur-emperor

Mother and Father

In his book The Tarot of the Bohemians Papus identifies Trumps 1 and 2 with the inquirer’s father and mother. In France, at the time the book was written,Trumps 1 and 2 were regularly taken to indicate the male and female inquirer. However, it would be confusing to have the woman for whom the cards are being read and her mother represented by the same Trump. That is why I favor using the Empress to signify the female inquirer and the Emperor to signify the male inquirer. Other Trumps can then be used to signify the mother and the father. While I agree with Papus that Trump 2 can stand for the mother, or a mother-figure, a caring woman with a degree of life-experience, I baulk at assigning the role of father to Trump 1. The Pope and Popess are so obviously a pair that it seems more logical to treat them as such and allow the former to represent the father or a father-figure.

Elemental Associations

The first four Trumps are assigned to the Elements in the following manner: le Bateleur (or Magician) corresponds to Fire, la Pappesse (or High Priestess) to Air, The Empress to Water, and The Emperor to Earth.

There are two distinct ways of ordering the Elements; Fire, Air, Water, Earth is one of them. The rationale behind this arrangement is perhaps best understood by working in the direction from Earth to Fire. We walk on a solid crust that supports our weight and is composed of rock and soil. This corresponds to the Element our forbears labeled Earth. Over this, covering two thirds of the planet, are the seas and oceans of the world representing Elemental Water. Above Earth and Water lies an airy domain, the atmosphere comprised of breathable Air. Turning our attention higher still we encounter the heavens, made bright by day by the presence of the sun and glorious by night when the stars put on their magnificent, awe-inspiring display. These lights in the upper reaches of the celestial realm our ancestors equated with the qualities of Elemental Fire. To primitive minds the night sky appeared like a covering pierced with numerous holes through which a great fire, burning beyond the dome of the sky, could be glimpsed.

The significance of the Elemental attributions will become clear later on, when we have examined the symbolism of the first five numbered Trumps.

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One Comment
  1. Apl Kont permalink

    Interesting!!! Now I see what the Empyrean World(EΜΠΥΡΟΣ ΚΟΣΜΟΣ) of the Khaldean Oracles means

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