Opening of the Key Tarot Spread

four card

First stage of the Opening of the Key tarot spread

The first stage of the Opening of the Key tarot spread involves cutting the deck into four piles as shown below. These four piles are the four elements. Apart from Elemental Dignities, Counting and Pairing techniques which I discuss as we develop OOTK, there is astrology.

First Operation: Representing the Opening of the Question

Stage 1 of The Opening of the Key is normally enough for most purposes, and it seems that even within the Golden Dawn, this was as far as most went. In the diagram below, view the cutting of the deck  from the Tarot Reader. If you are instructing the Client to cut, s/he will be cutting to the right.

For some reason, clients seem to lose all sense of which is left or right, so I will always point to where I want the cards placed. Even so, they will often try to cut the wrong pile in the wrong order, and place it in the wrong place! For the elementary aware reader, any deviation from standard practice will give clues about elemental imbalances within the client. The original Golden Dawn instructions were for Adepts who knew and understood the significance of the reading, and they would cut precisely in half. The public is entirely ignorant of this stricture, so the size of the piles will vary greatly – again the astute reader can take advantage of this. For example, if the Water pile (C) is very small, it is possible that the client generally finds love lacking, either through accident or design. Those who worry will often make Air (C) excessively large.

1card

 

Start with the deck to your right.

2card

 

Cut the deck approximately in half to the left.

3card

 

Cut the right hand pile in half and place in the middle.

4card

 

Cut the left hand pile in half and place it to the left.

4carup

 

Turn the four piles over

These four piles are the Four Princesses through to the Four Aces,  associated with an element:

  • A: Fire
  • C: Water
  • B: Air
  • D: Earth

These four piles are read as an overview of the situation or matter under question. The rules of Elemental Dignities figure relative strengths and weaknesses of the piles.

sprThe next stage is to read the pile containing the Significator. In this example, the Fire pile is out in a horseshoe. Read from the Significator using the Counting technique and Elemental Dignities. Look for the predominance or lack of a particular element, and 3 or 4 of a sort, such as 3 Aces, etc.

Stage 2: 12 House Astrology spread

Representing the Development of the Matter

Stage 2 of The Opening of the Key is the first part of three astrological spreads.

The deck is shuffled, and not cut. Deal the twelve positions, starting at the Ascendant (ASC) and going anti-clockwise.  See the 12 Houses for more details. For the more courageous, here are some divination tips.

12 Houses of the zodiacTurn the decks over, and interpret the top cards according to Elemental Dignities and astrological rules. The card in the ASC position will tell the reader the rising sign – if this card is either an Ace, a Princess, or the seven planetary Major or the three Elemental Major , then the natural house system which is Aries. If you have assigned a Significator, search through each pile, being careful not to disturb the order. Read the pile containing the Significator by spreading out the cards in a horseshoe, and read the cards by counting, and pairing as previously discussed. Note if you have three or four of a sort.

Expand the Interpretation if the Querent asks other pertinent questions. If the question is about love affairs, then inspect the fifth house, career in the MC or tenth house, etc. The Courts are precisely defined, so any in the third,  will be neighbours, siblings, or people of a similar nature, while the eleventh would show friends, groups or societies.

Looking at the spread in purely astrological or Horary terms, the significator will be the ruling planet of the Ascendant. So, for example, if the Ascendant is Taurus, then Venus would be the Significator.

12 Zodiac Signs Tarot Spread

Third Operation: Continuing the Development of the Question

Shuffle but do not cut. Deal  the twelve positions, starting at the Ascendant (ASC) and going anti-clockwise. The Golden Dawn book does not give details of the houses, as they are fairly standard, nor is there any attempt at any astrological understanding. See the 12 zodiac signs for more details. For the more courageous, here are some divination tips.

1zodiacTurn the decks over, and interpret the top according to Elemental Dignity and astrological rules. The ASC position will tell the reader the rising sign – if this is either an Ace, a Princess, or the seven planetary Major or the three Elemental Major , then the natural house system which is Aries. If you have assigned a Significator, search through each pile, being careful not to disturb the order. Read the pile containing the Significator by spreading out in a horseshoe, and read by counting and pairing as previously discussed. Take note if you have three or four of a sort.

 Opening The Key Spread: 36 Decanates

Fourth Operation: The Further Development of the Question

The 36 decanates of ten degrees each correspond to the pip cards of the Minor Arcana, excluding the Aces.

The instructions in the Golden Dawn manual require shuffling the deck and placed on the table without cutting. The diviner turns the pack face up and searches until the Significator is found. At this point the Significator and place the cards beneath it on top of the remainder. Place the Significator on the table, turn over the Deck and deal the following 36 cards in the order of the picture below.

decanCounting commences from position 1, or Ascendant, in the same direction, which means that there is no potential change of direction when a court is hit. The general rules of noting the majority or lack of a suit, and whether 3 or 4 cards of a sort are present. Once the counting is complete, the pairing begins, starting at 1st and 36th, 2nd and 25th, and so on.

The real interpretation of the 36 positions is left unclear in the text. There are the traditional images of the Decanates derived from Egyptian sources, but these rarely have any use.

There are several candidates:

  • Decanate card interpretations
  • Goetic Spirits
  • Enochian Great Cross in the Watchtowers

Another problem is exactly what the first position represents! We might think this place is 0° Aries (Two of Wands), but the Golden Dawn fixed the start of the Zodiac at 0° Leo, which would be Five of Wands. If we considered the House system, then positions 1-3 would be the first house, 4-6 the second house, and so on. It actually does not matter which zodiac is elementally, since the first three positions would be fire, the next three earth, then air and finally water, repeating the sequence.

 Tree of Life tarot spread

Fifth Operation: Conclusion of the Matter

Tree of LifeThe Tree of Life Spread is the last stage of the Opening of the Key Tarot spread, and gives the Tarot reader the opportunity to analyse the depth of the situation, and point to potential solutions.

Shuffle the deck but do not cut. The Reader deals in rotation in the order above.  Spread out the pile containing the Significator and interprete, taking into account the nature of the Sephirah ruling.  Count the cards and pair in the usual way, noting if there are 3 or 4 of a sort, etc.

Consider the characteristics of each place similar to the general attributes of the Minor arcana.

1 Kether – None

Primal Will

2 Chokmah – zodiac

Archetypal Father

3 Binah – Saturn

Archetypal Mother

4 Chesed – Jupiter

Beneficence

5 Geburah – Mars

Karmic Law

6 Tipareth – Sun

The Reconciler

7 Netzach – Venus

Emotion

8 Hod – Mercury

Intellect

9 Yesod – Moon

Astral Realm

10 Malkuth – Four Elements

Physical Universe, Body

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First stage of the Opening of the Key tarot spread
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The first stage of the Opening of the Key tarot spread involves cutting the deck into four piles as shown below.
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4 thoughts on “Opening of the Key Tarot Spread”

  1. Hi Paul, since I’ve read your Tarot and the Magus the OOTK (First operation) has become pretty much the only spread I use, but I would like to know what to do when I have to keep it short. I like your idea of avoiding significators and instead reading all piles, but what about when you don’t have that much time ? Do you only read the Earth pile, which is the ultimate unfolding of the initial Yod (and thus represents the future)? I know that you can get a feeling by just reading the first card of each pile, or even the first two, but what pile would you choose to read if you had the time to only go through one?
    Thank you!
    Bests
    Matteo

    1. Hi Matteo,

      I cut the cards into four piles, turn them over and read the Earth/Future pile, but not necessarily the card counting or detail. It works really well – I have done 5 minute readings this way.

  2. I don’t understand…..
    Once the counting has been completed, the cards are paired together, starting at 1st and 36th, 2nd and 25th, and so on.

    Is this another of yer mistakes that you leave in ?

    1. Hi Stig,

      Pairing does come after counting, and the usual way is to start with outer cards and work in. If you want a more concise answer, you will have to make it clearer where I am saying this! Mistakes aren’t deliberate – they happen, and sometimes the mistakes can be more insightful than the deliberate bits!

      Paul

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