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The man who writes books on a Thelema that no beast shall divine. Founding member of Ordo Astri, Thelemic Magical Collegium. Member of Ordo Typhonis since 2000 e.v. More articles and essays are posted at https://ordoastri.org/ and https://tantrika.co.uk/

Friday, 19 February 2016

The Opening of the Key Tarot Divination

The Tarot divination method described here is a much-needed clarification of the abbreviated description given by Crowley in The Book of Thoth, and the longer but opaque presentation in the Book T of the Golden Dawn.

Opening of the Key Tarot Divination: Priestess II Thoth Tarot
Owing to its complexity, the Opening of the Key is frequently overlooked. Crowley’s explanation is too sketchy to be understood without the detailed one given in the Golden Dawn’s knowledge papers—and that is garbled and confusing. However, this is an excellent method of Tarot divination when in-depth analysis is required. To employ it accurately, we must be conversant with the rules of dignity. Anyone that is confident of reading two or three cards together using the dignities for evaluation may easily move on to the lengthier reading afforded by the Opening of the Key.

The Opening of the Key Tarot divination is based on the Orbicular Tree, or Tree of Life in a Sphere. When we enter the Orbicular Tree, time is no longer linear. We do not perceive a past that has ‘gone behind’ and is therefore static, and a future that is ‘in front’ and only exists as a set of probabilities. With the Orbicular method, the past, present and future is a continuum. It partakes of both prophecy and operational theurgy. The Aces of Tarot initiate all movement down the planes; the act of divination therefore involves invocation as well as evocation.

The Method of Counting

  • The Aces count as 11 (Energy of Magick)
  • The Knights, Queens and Princes count as 4 (elements)
  • The Princesses count as 7 (palaces in Assiah)
  • The planetary trumps are numbered 9 (the Nodes of the Moon are included with the traditional seven planets)
  • The elemental trumps count as 3 (Aleph, Mem, Shin)
  • The zodiacal trumps count as 12 (zodiacal paths and letters)
  • The small cards from 2–9 (decanates) count according to their own number
  • The Method of Spreading and Pairing the Cards

The inverse horseshoe (Ω) is the only really practical way of doing this; the nature of this method itself is somewhat circular. The relevant pack of cards is spread out, face upward and from right to left, so the two ends of the horseshoe face the diviner. The cards are then counted according to the direction that the Significator is facing.

When counting the cards off using the number system (above), those cards are dignified by the cards on either side, as usual. The Significator is counted as the first card, ‘1’. So we begin by evaluating the meaning of the Significator using the dignities of the two cards on either side of it.

When pairing off the cards we begin at both ends of the horseshoe and work inwards until all have been paired. If there is an odd number of cards then one card will be left over; we may determine whether this is pertinent to the reading.

In all of the Operations except the 4th, we have to find the pile of cards that contains the Significator. After that, we spread out that pile of cards in a horseshoe, face upward for counting and then pairing.

In the 4th Operation (36 decanates), after shuffling, we go through the entire deck (face up) to find the Significator. When the Significator is found, then—still holding the deck face up—lift off all the cards that were in front of (or on top of) the Significator. Place those cards beneath the pile that has the Significator on top, face upwards. We now have a deck with the Significator on top, face upwards. Place the Significator in the centre, and deal out the next 36 cards, face upward, starting with the 1st card at the Ascendant (first decan Leo) and proceeding anti-clockwise until the 36th card is placed as the last decan of the 12th sign.

ShMATh: Opening of the Key (First Operation)

First decide on a Significator. This is usually a court card chosen to represent the Questioner. For example, we might use the Prince of Wands if we have Sun in Leo, or if Leo is the rising sign in our natal chart. After due preliminaries (ritual of invoking, etc.), shuffle the cards and think earnestly on the question.

Each letter of ShMATh (the Name) corresponds to one of the four elements and Tarot suits: Fire-Wands, Water-Cups, Air-Swords and Earth-Disks.

Put the shuffled deck on the table face downwards. Cut the deck into two. This will be the Shin (Wands) pack, and the Aleph (Swords) pack. Remember that Tetragrammaton ShMATh reads from right to left. The Shin pack is then to your right. Leave a space between the two piles for the Mem pack. Cut the Shin pack into two, placing the top half of the cards to the right of the Aleph pack (in between Shin and Aleph). That will be the Mem (Cups) pack. Cut the Aleph pack into two and place the top half of the cards in the position of Tav (Disks). You now have four packs: Shin, Mem, Aleph and Tav.

Opening of the Key Tarot Divination: ShMATh First Operation

Turn all four packs over so they are face up. We can make a preliminary reading from the four cards on top of each pack. To do this we evaluate the dignity as according to whether the card is in Shin (Fire), Mem (Water), Aleph (Air) or Tav (Earth). We go through each pack in turn to find where the Significator is. The pack that the Significator is in will show us something of the nature of the question and how it will be answered. For example, if it is found in the Mem (Cups) pile, the matter principally concerns the emotional life of the Questioner.

Take the pack that the Significator was found in, taking care not to disturb the order of the cards. Disregard the other packs since they are irrelevant. Spread the remaining pack face upwards in a horseshoe, from right to left, so all the cards are facing upwards. The two ends of the horseshoe are nearest to the diviner. Locate the Significator. Counting proceeds in the direction the Significator is facing in. If the Significator is the Prince of Wands, that counts as 4 (see list of values, above). The Prince counts as the first card, number 1. The 4th card will be read, using the dignities of the cards that are on either side of it. We make a story of this as we go.

Example: Let us say that 4th card is the Empress III. A planetary trump counts as 9, so count 9 more, taking the Empress as card number 1. Read that card by the dignity of the cards on either side. And on we go, until at last we arrive at a card that has already been read (as a central card in the counting). This part of the reading ends here.

Now we pair the cards off starting at the two ends of the horseshoe. We read each pair of cards according to dignity. We go on until we have paired and read all the cards, making a story from this. If there is an odd number of cards, then there will be one card left over. We may determine whether this has special significance, as it stands alone. This completes the First Operation.

Second Operation: Development of the Question

We shuffle the cards (we do not cut them this time). We turn the pack face upwards and lay out the cards in a zodiacal circle, commencing from the ascendant (at the 9 o’clock position) and moving against the direction of the Sun (anticlockwise). We keep laying the cards out in the zodiacal fashion until all the cards have been used. There are now 12 piles of cards. We must find the pile of cards that contains the Significator. The signs start from Leo on the ascendant (not Aries), and proceed to Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, and so on.

The sign that we find the Significator in tells us something about the questioner in relation to the question being asked. We take the pack that the Significator was found in and, disregarding the other piles of cards, spread out this pack in the same way as was done in the First Operation. We then count and pair, making a story of this.

Third Operation: Further Development of the Question

We shuffle the cards without cutting them. We then turn the pack face upwards and lay out the cards in a zodiacal circle—this time the 12 packs will represent the 12 houses of astrology, as distinct from the 12 signs. (The values of the houses are not changed; the 1st house is the Ascendant, representing the questioner.) The procedure is then the same as in the Second Operation.

Fourth Operation: Penultimate Aspects of the Question

We shuffle the cards without cutting them. We turn the pack face upwards and look through the whole deck until we find the Significator. Having found it, we remove the cards that were on top of the Significator (effectively cutting the deck) and place them at the bottom of the pile. We then have the Significator as the top card on the deck, still facing upwards.

We place the Significator in the centre of the zodiacal wheel and deal out the next 36 cards face upwards in circular fashion, commencing from the ascendant. We read the 1st card, which represents the first decanate of the Ascendant. To do this we use the dignities of the cards on either side (which will be card 36 and card 2). Then we use the method of counting, beginning with that first card, to continue the reading, making a story as we go. When that is complete, we pair the cards and read them by taking the 1st card and the 36th card together, then the 2nd and 35th, and so on.

Fifth Operation: Conclusion of the Matter

We shuffle the cards without cutting. Then we deal out the deck in the order of the Tree of Life commencing from Kether. Once the first ten cards have been laid out from Kether to Malkuth, we place the eleventh card in Da’ath. We continue in this way until all the cards have been placed on the Tree of Life and Da’ath. We must find which sephira the Significator is in. This tells us something about the nature of the question and the sphere of its operation.

We disregard all other cards and spread out the pack containing the Significator in the usual way. Then we count and pair, making a story that summarises and concludes the reading.

Symbolism of the Method

Crowley’s suggestion that we abandon the divination if the Significator is not found in the right pack at the outset renders the method inflexible and virtually inoperable. For example, suppose we ask a question about business (Wands), and the Significator is found in the Cups pack (pleasure). It may be that our business concerns music, dancing or other arts. Our happiness may be more important than we suppose. Again, it may be that a man or woman of an emotional disposition is central to the question, whether we knew this beforehand or not. We therefore suggest that Crowley’s advice, although well meaning and no doubt learned at first hand from his Golden Dawn mentors, is both inflexible and impractical.

The beauty of the method is that as we apply it we discover the truer and deeper nature of the subject of our enquiry.

The Tarot system that we use begins with Leo (or Regulus) at zero degrees on the Ascendant, not Aries as is generally the case with natal astrology.

For example: The Five of Wands, Six of Wands and Seven of Wands correspond to Saturn in Leo, Jupiter in Leo and Mars in Leo. That gives us the three decans (ten-degree portions of the 360-degree zodiac wheel) that make up the Ascendant. Next—following the usual zodiacal order of signs—we have the Eight of Disks, Nine of Disks and Ten of Disks corresponding to Sun in Virgo, Venus in Virgo and Mercury in Virgo.

All Twos, Threes and Fours are cardinal signs; all Fives, Sixes and Sevens are fixed astrological signs and all Eights, Nines and Tens are mutable signs. The order of planets ruling the decans follows that of the planets on the Tree of Life: Saturn (3), Jupiter (4), Mars (5), Sun (6), Venus (7), Mercury (8) and Moon (9). The next decan in the series will then begin with Saturn again.

The order of the planetary sephiroth from 3 to 9 (descending) and from 9 to 3 (ascending) is expressive of the 93 Current of love under will, and is a practical key to the operation of Hermetic Tantra-yoga.

The Invocation of HRU-HUA

Perform the (reformed) Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. Place your hand or a wand above the deck and, without hesitating or faltering, intone loudly and clearly the following invocation:
I invoke thee IAO, that thou wilt send HRU, the great Angel that is set over the operation of the Secret Wisdom, to lay his hand invisibly upon these consecrated cards of art. Thus shall we obtain true knowledge of hidden things. AUM.
A flashing light should clearly be observed descending from above to charge the Tarot. Think of the question while shuffling the cards thoroughly, without mental or emotional interest in the issue or its result. If you cannot do this, then you will not be able to trust in your ability to divine, and it is better if you do not attempt to do so.


© Oliver St. John 2011, revised 2019

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