An Opening of the Key First Operation Template

Those who are interested in the Golden Dawn and Thoth methods of divination have the complex and lengthy Opening of the Key (OotK) series of “operations” to entertain them. This includes a relatively straightforward initial operation that provides an overview of the querent’s situation at the time of the reading. It is followed by three astrological spreads (12 houses, 12 signs and 36 decans) and a 10-position “Tree of Life” layout, all of which use the entire deck to describe further developments in the matter and its eventual conclusion. My understanding is that the rank-and-file members of the Order seldom used the whole series (which could take days to interpret), contenting themselves with the First Operation. Personally, I often use it as a preliminary to the Celtic Cross spread as a way to get a leg up on the area of the querent’s life that will be highlighted by the main reading.

Aleister Crowley included instructions for navigating the OotK in The Book of Thoth, but they leave quite a bit to be desired. The attached template is an attempt to put Crowley’s written instructions into visual form while addressing a couple of the things he left out.

He never said what to do if, when counting in the direction the Significator is facing, you run out of cards before you reach the full count. I just say “go with what you have” or, even better, count in the other direction. (After all, there is nothing “sacred” about Significator facing.) This assumes that, if the Significator is at one end of the series and is staring at a blank wall with no cards ahead of it, you’re dead in the water unless you “go against the grain” and count the other way. Another option comes from the Golden Dawn’s Liber T: if you reach the end of the line, continue at the other end until you return to the card you started with. It seems to me that any of these will work, but I put the Golden Dawn version in the template. (Note that this could result in a much  longer series of cards to read.)

He didn’t say what happens if there is no obvious “facing” to the Significator. This is sometimes the case when a court card is chosen as Significator, but it will almost certainly happen if one of the other cards is selected. I simply say choose a path intuitively based on other factors. In these cases, I might proceed in the direction favored by cards that are most aligned by their correspondences to the nature of the question. For example, a “Wands” question about a business enterprise may be best served by key cards with a Fire or Earth affiliation. However, this is always a fall-back position that I try to avoid because it can bias the narrative.

He also didn’t say how far to go with the pairing. I just assume you go until you can’t make any more pairs. Again, if the Significator is all the way at one end, you’re stuck. I thought about wrapping the count around to the other end of the line of cards but decided that’s too complicated. The Golden Dawn rules say to just leave one “dangling” as a partial result or a kind of “free agent” (not especially useful advice).

Finally, although reading the set of cards that is highlighted by the counting step is a routine progression, how to handle the pairing of cards on both sides of the Significator is left open-ended. I tried it a couple of ways and decided that matching them up as two lines in an “above-and-below” array makes more sense for reading purposes than arranging them in a “horseshoe” around the Significator. However, I didn’t address that in the template, but in a separate document.

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