An interesting question came up on Saturday while I was giving a presentation on the Golden Dawn’s Opening of the Key spread. It’s been said that, due to its extreme complexity (and, I might add, its redundancy), the members of the Order almost never did all five operations of the OotK, contenting themselves with the first one. In the exercise we conducted, some of the attendees came up with over a dozen cards in the preliminary “story” just from the counting-and-pairing sequence of the First Operation; doing it four more times seemed like entirely too much information for what may be a very narrowly-framed question. Is it possible, I was asked, to simply pick which of the five you want to do, and only perform that one? Although I hadn’t considered it before, I realized immediately that each one is really a stand-alone subroutine. If, for example, you just want to look at the astrological houses in connection with the querent’s circumstances, you could do only the Second Operation. But then, if you want to factor in the signs, you would have to continue with the Third Operation. To explore the specific decans, you would need to enter the extremely iterative and exhausting Fourth Operation. In general (that is, non-Golden-Dawn-based) practice, there is already an astrological spread that uses only twelve cards in its twelve positions and not the entire deck. It also focuses on the “natural” – Aries-rising – zodiac, but it brings together both sign and house meanings in a single layout.
Back in August I posted an experiment I did a couple of years ago that depicted my astrological birth chart with the cards of the tarot in a kind of “astro-tarot mandala.” I used the Whole Sign House system to eliminate the Capricorn-Cancer intercept in my Placidus-based natal chart and produce twelve unique house rulerships rather than the ten of an intercepted chart. In addition to the signs on the house cusps and the planets in the houses, I went to the extent of including all 36 of the decans positioned according to the structure provided by my Scorpio-rising birth time.
At the time, I didn’t fully explore practical uses for this fascinating map. But in thinking of the Fourth Operation of the OotK, in which you lay out 36 cards in the positions of the 36 decans, I recognized that, rather than starting with the “natural” zodiac, you could “pre-load” the layout with the decans arranged according to one’s personal “mandala.” In my case, instead of the first decan of the Fourth Operation being the 2 of Wands (Mars in Aries) overlaid with the first card from the pull, I would have the card assigned to 0° Scorpio: the 5 of Cups (Mars in Scorpio). Both decans are Mars-ruled, but Mars operates differently in watery Scorpio than it does in fiery Aries, imparting a subtly different inflection to the reading.
Returning to the Second and Third Operations, I could then see how one might roll them together into a single individualized combination of houses and signs by applying a simplified “astro-tarot mandala” without the decans. Here it is with my (non-astrologically-chosen) Significator card in the middle “for show;” in actual practice that card would remain in the deck for the counting-and-pairing steps. This pre-loading of one’s personal chart factors would eliminate separate pulls for the examination of house and sign correspondences while at the same time allowing a reading that has more relevance to the broad outlines of the querent’s character and personality. Although the Second and Third Operations can have no more than 6 or 7 cards in the Significator’s sub-pack (78/12), making for an abbreviated “story,” blending them in this individually-focused way seems both pertinent and elegant. A “First-House” story line in my own layout would play more to my Scorpio-rising disposition than to a generic Aries-rising type with which I can’t connect at all.