This is Part 2 of a five-part post where I walk through the Opening of the Key reading I did for myself at this year’s vernal equinox. For Part 1, which outlines the First Operation of the Opening of the Key, click here.
Where the First Operation was elemental, the Second Operation is zodiacal. You shuffle the entire deck and lay it out into twelve piles, corresponding to the twelve signs of the Zodiac. The top card on each pile tells you the way you’re relating to the energy of the sign represented.
My photograph is of rather poor quality (apologies, as ever), but the cards we see above are:
- Aries: Three of Swords rx
- Taurus: Six of Pentacles
- Gemini: Four of Pentacles rx
- Cancer: King of Cups rx
- Leo: Strength
- Virgo: The Emperor
- Libra: The Moon rx
- Scorpio: The Sun rx
- Sagittarius: Knight of Pentacles
- Capricorn: Knight of Swords rx
- Aquarius: Two of Swords rx
- Pisces: Queen of Pentacles rx
Immediately, we see repeat cards from the First Operation. The Two of Swords rx, the Knight of Swords rx, and the King of Cups rx appeared in the Air pile in the First Operation, and their reappearance here is worth noting. This is one of the great strengths of the Opening of the Key; because it’s actually five readings in one, there will be several cards that reappear over the course of the reading. These cards are significant, and are worth paying attention to; they highlight the key themes of the reading, and help hone in not only on the problem at hand, but also on the way to solve it.
Here again, we see a certain measure of self-defeating indecisiveness (compounded by the already indecisive nature of Aquarius), which is in some way related to a Watery person I know. We also get a second external figure, the Knight of Swords, who wasn’t central to the First Operation but who was still adjacent to the action. This will prove to be core to the rest of the reading as it unfolds.
Having noted these repeat occurrences, we can begin to look at the reading itself. There is a ton of information here, so I’m not going to go through and explain my interpretations for each of these twelve cards (although I have them in my personal notes). There are, however, a few structural things I would like to point out.
First off, there’s a pretty good elemental balance here, but it’s not nearly as well dignified as what we had in the beginning of the First Operation. The Four of Pentacles is not at home in the Airy sign of Gemini; nor is the Sun in the Watery sign of Scorpio or the Knight of Swords in the Earthy sign of Capricorn. There are a couple of well-dignified cards (Strength and the King of Cups), but it’s not the neat fit that we got in the first part of this reading. This tells me that, as we start to progress towards a deeper understanding of the issue at hand, things are going to start to get shaken up. Areas where I thought I was comfortable will start to look significantly less cozy, and vice versa. Such, alas, is the nature of Work with a capital W.
It’s also worth pointing out that all of the Swords cards showed up inverted. Despite the overall elemental balance of the spread, we’re still seeing Swords as a point of weakness for me. Shocking, I know. We also have eight out of twelve cards in reverse, and while that’s not absurd, it’s enough to be worth noting. There’s some instability going on here.
Normally, in a reading that uses an astrological spread like this one, I like to look for astrological connections in the cards, but nothing extraordinary jumps out at me this time around. There is a Capricorn connection in the Four of Pentacles and the Queen of Pentacles, which in turn connects both cards to the figure of the Knight of Swords (occupying the Capricorn position in the spread). This, perhaps, helps to shed some light on this person’s nature and relationship to me; it’s someone who is settled and secure, likely (but not necessarily) in some material way.
Likewise, the King of Cups and the Moon share a Pisces connection with the Queen of Pentacles. Oddly enough, I’m not inclined to interpret the Queen here as an external figure, the way I did with the King of Cups and the Knight of Swords. I couldn’t really say why; it’s mostly just a gut feeling. The Queen feels like a reflection of me in some way, particularly because she’s astrologically connected to the King (by Pisces) and the Knight (by Capricorn). She feels like a bridge between these two characters, a reflection of my relationship to them. Adding the Moon into the mix is quite interesting, because it suggests to me a certain measure of dishonesty. I never quite learned how to trust the Moon (although it is my year card for 2018, if we use my fun base-22 counting system). This card always makes me think of deception–not necessarily malicious deception, but illusion or fantasy or not-reality of some kind. To see that as a flag on my relationship to one of two people who are becoming increasingly important in this Tarot reading? Well, that’s noteworthy.
There are a couple of further astrological connections, but they mostly serve to reinforce the story I’m already telling. The Three of Swords and Two of Swords connect to Libra, which connects to the Moon, which is already a node on the great big astrological spiderweb of this spread. This tells us more about the kind of deception we see with the Moon and my relationship to the King of Cups; it’s something tied into my indecisiveness (which we already knew, but whatever; good to see the link between the King and the Two reaffirmed in yet another way, just in case I didn’t get it the first half a dozen times). There’s also some pretty sharp angst that might be hiding under the surface with the Three of Swords, although that’s softened by the reversal of the card.*
I could say more about the relationships, astrological or otherwise, between the cards in this spread, but I feel I’ve addressed all the big stuff, and I don’t want to bore you with the small details scrawled across the pages of my notebook. Just to give you a rough idea, some other things I looked at included:
- The absence of Fives (even though we had cards running Two through Six)
- The balance of Court Cards
- The placement of Major Arcana
- The fact that Strength was the only card appearing in the position designated for its own astrological sign
For now, though, let’s move on to the next part of the Second Operation.
As with the First Operation, you search through each of the piles until you find the one that contains the significator for the reading; in this case, that was the Empress, and I found her in the pile of Gemini, under the Four of Pentacles. Once again, this helps us to narrow the focus of the reading. I now know that it’s focused not only on an Airy subject, but that it’s colored by the energy of Gemini. Looking at the cards that turned up here, I’m also starting to see a disproportionate amount of Pentacles. This pile contains only Pentacles and Major Arcana, so we’ve made a sharp shift from the overwhelmingly Airy energy of the First Operation to something much more concrete. It also seems much bigger because of the presence of all these Major Arcana. Previously, we had the Wheel of Fortune and the Chariot hinting at external forces, but now we have the High Priestess, the Empress, Temperance, and the World.
At this point in time, I was thinking that the reading was probably about my academic life. It made sense; I’ve been having some serious trouble getting my head in the game with academic writing, and impostor syndrome is a very real thing in grad school. This is a part of my life that’s about as Air as Air gets, but it’s also my livelihood and part of my everyday existence, making up the Earthy part of my life. I wasn’t entirely sure who the King of Cups and Knight of Swords would be in this context, but I was willing to entertain the notion that they were professors or fellow grad students.
As it turned out, I was wrong, and this Opening of the Key reading is not about my studies, but you’ll have to wait until the Third Operation for more about that.
Just as we did with the First Operation, we lay out all the cards in the Gemini pile in order, and then we start counting. Select the significator (the Empress) and count to another card using your preferred counting method. Here, sadly, my choice of significator has undone me somewhat. Because the Empress is a planetary card (associated with Venus), I count seven cards away from her, but there are only seven cards in the stack, so I end up landing right back on her. It’s a rather underwhelming card counting session. For this reason, it’s probably better to use a Queen (count 3) or King (count 2) as a significator.** But I have this whole seasonal shtick with choosing my significator for the OOTK, and this is the price I pay.
So the story we get here is somewhat limited. We have the Empress, and she is once again in reverse; she is frustrated and blocked. We see her between two other reversed cards: The World and the Four of Pentacles. The World rx suggests to me that something has not properly come to fruition, or that something has ended but I haven’t fully put it behind me, and that the lack of closure is part of what’s blocking the Empress from doing her thing. The Four of Pentacles, as we noted above, ties into this big tangled mess with the King of Cups and the Knight of Swords, with me (represented by the Queen of Pentacles) awkwardly sticking myself in the middle.
That’s where I’ll leave this reading for now. The Third Operation will clear a lot of this up, and reveal what, exactly, this reading is about. Then the Fourth and Fifth Operations will delve into solving the problems that the first three uncovered. In my experience, that’s usually how the OOTK goes. Three operations to specify a problem, then two to find a solution. Stay tuned for Part 3 at the beginning of next week.
*Last September, I led a workshop on astrological correspondences in the Tarot deck, focusing on the Major Arcana. It was great fun. At the end of the workshop, a friend of mine who is much more practically minded than me raised her hand and asked, “This is all very cool, but what use is it?” To her, I say that this is the kind of thing that it’s useful for. Seeking out astrological connections in readings, particularly in readings that use astrologically inspired spreads, can show a certain structure to the connection between the cards that might not otherwise have been obvious. Sure, all the information is already in there, but the astrological angle helps suss out that the Three of Swords in this reading is a specific manifestation of the energy of the Moon, which in turn underlies my relationship to the person represented by the King of Cups. I could have gotten there without the astrology, but it would have taken me longer. Then again, this is a very intellectual way to approach Tarot, and I fully understand why most people turn up their noses at it.
**It’s worth flagging that in my long-ago post on card counting, I said that the Pages were associated with Yesod and therefore that you should count nine from them. I don’t know why I wrote that. It was wrong. Pages are associated with Malkuth, and you count ten from them.