My Equinox Reading: The Fourth Operation

Today we continue the analysis of the Opening of the Key reading I performed for myself at this year’s spring equinox. If you missed the First, Second, and Third Operations, you should probably go read through them for context.

If you don’t want to read through three other posts, or if you’d simply like a quick recap: Up to this point, we’ve done three sub-readings to determine the subject of this OOTK. As it turns out, it’s about my love life. I’m annoyingly infatuated with two of my friends, who are currently dating each other. This infatuation is not a huge deal, but it’s also not terribly productive for me, and I need to find a way to put it to bed without causing unnecessary drama for myself, them, or other people in our shared social sphere.

The Fourth Operation is a little different from the first three, in that you don’t divide the deck up into piles. Instead, you shuffle the deck thoroughly (although to be fair, you should do that before each operation), then comb through it until you find your significator for the reading. Remember, since this is a spring equinox reading, I chose the Empress as my significator. Upon finding the significator, you cut the deck so that the significator is on top. Then, you lay out 36 cards (starting with the significator) in a counter-clockwise circle:

The Fourth Operation.

These 36 cards represent the 36 decans of the Zodiac. Personally, I’ve always been a bit underwhelmed by the Fourth Operation. It doesn’t make as much sense as the other four. We have the elements, the signs, the houses, and then… the decans? Maybe I’m just not enough of an astrologer to appreciate the depth of symbolism here, but it always felt kind of unnecessary. Honestly, I suspect that the creators of this spread wanted to have five operations (because five is such a super special magical number) but couldn’t think of anything good for the Fourth.*

The Fourth Operation is generally where I hit a saturation point. I tend not to look at all of the cards that turn up in this operation, simply because it’s too much information; my brain can’t process a 36-card spread. I do notice a couple of things–most notably, the (at this point completely unsurprising) reappearance of the Two of Swords (now upright) and the King of Cups rx. But beyond that, I skip straight to the counting phase.


From the Empress rx, I counted seven cards to the right,** landing on the King of Pentacles. From him, I count two to the left, to the Eight of Cups rx. This takes me to the Ten of Swords, then the Two of Swords, then the Knight of Wands rx. And the Knight takes us back to the King of Pentacles, ending the cycle.

The first thing I notice about this progression is that we have a King and a Knight, but neither of them has featured prominently in the OOTK up to this point. In previous operations, we saw recurrences of the King of Cups and the Knight of Swords, representing the other gentlemen involved in this dynamic. Here, though we saw the King of Cups elsewhere in the larger 36-card spread, neither of those cards crops up once we start counting. However, we do have the King of Pentacles and the Knight of Wands.

In one of those intuitive, difficult-to-explain interpretive moves, I’m inclined to say that the King and Knight here represent the same people that the other King and Knight have represented throughout the reading, but that they represent a truer, more accurate understanding of these persons. The man I thought of as the King of Cups is revealed to be the King of Pentacles; the man I thought of as the Knight of Swords is revealed to be the Knight of Wands.

I can’t exactly say why I feel the urge to interpret the cards this way; it just feels right. Remember that the first three operations are about discovering the issue at hand, while the Fourth Operation is the turning point where we start to look for solutions. The solution that presents itself here is straightforward: Get to know these people for who they really are. As we saw in the First and Third Operations, I’m very much up in my head. I’m dealing with an idealized, abstract vision of these other people, and it’s important for me to realize that who they actually are might be very different from who I’ve painted them to be. This is not to say that their actual selves are bad; merely that they’re different from the personae I’ve seen. In getting to know both of them better, this reading suggests, I’ll start to see the ways in which I’m not suited to them (nor they to me). The way forward, this Fourth Operation says, is simply to remove the rose-colored glasses and see the world as it is.

That’s not to say that doing so will be easy. Note the progression from the Eight of Cups rx to the Ten of Swords. There’s some angst in there. There’s some unwillingness to let go. And frankly, this reading says to me that it’ll be a disappointingly long time before I find myself able to see these other people without idealizing them. But I will get there. Note that the Two of Swords is finally appearing upright here. At the end of the road, the indecisiveness, self-sabotage, and general feeling of stuck-ness that I’ve been experiencing will go away. It will transition to an ability to take action and move in a better direction. That’s just not going to happen as soon as I like, and I’m going to have to struggle through a longer period of annoying adolescent swooning before I reach that point.

I hope you’ve been enjoying this series. If not, don’t worry; it’s almost done. Just one more post. In the Fifth Operation, we’ll get the final message of the reading: The big takeaway that makes it all worthwhile. Look for that sometime this week; then next week, I’ll be returning with more of my usual (less personal) content. Likely a spread or a deck review.

*Although to be fair, there is a decent amount of astrological symbolism surrounding the decans in the Golden Dawn system. The Minor Arcana are assigned astrological correspondences based on the decans, which in turn are connected to the seventy-two-fold name of God and the 72 demons of the Goetia.

**Normally, I count to the right if a card is upright and to the left if the card is inverted. However, in the Fourth Operation, because the cards were laid out counterclockwise, I count “backwards” from a reversed card, meaning I count clockwise. From upright cards, I count counterclockwise.

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