The Opening Of The Key

by Douglas Gibb on May 26, 2009

The first part of the operation, at its most basic level, involves the 78 Tarot cards being split into four piles, those piles being turned over and the bottom cards analysed to tell a ’story’. Some people like to use a significator to represent the person they’re doing a reading for. Whatever pile the significator turns up reveals the nature of the question being asked.

However, I don’t use a signifcator, and to explain their role would take too long.

The real key to doing the OOTK is to ignore the cards and look towards the Elements of those cards. It’s really much more of an act of imagination than anything else. I suppose the main thing to keep in mind is that this spread, from what I know, originates with the Golden Dawn and they have a particular way of interpreting the universe; the forces of nature and their representations. In fact their rituals were based upon this (as are most rituals based on some sort of Universal paradigm).

The first thing then is to think of the OOTK as a ritual (with both its active and passive phases) and like all rituals it should be fun. I know the Golden Dawn, certainly when I was practicing it, seemed to be all about hard work. I speculate that this work ethic has been handed down to the OOTK. Rituals are fun; the opposite of the work ethic. They’re meant to be enjoyed so the main thing, when practicing the OOTK is to have fun.

The best way I know to do this, especially when it comes to telling a story based on the first part of the OOTK, is simply to go crazy with your imagination. There is no right way to interpret the cards. If the four piles are all water then maybe create a story based on relationships; psychic development; creativity and inner reflection. If all the Elements are present apart from the Fire Element then perhaps (Fire being responsible for making things happen) the persons stuck in some kind of a rut. Let the images of the cards jump out of you to provide the characters or themes for your story. The final thing to do is use the divinatory meanings, or DM’s of the cards.

Let’s look at an example:

The Four Elements

Okay, the first thing to kick start the imagination must be the absence of Air. We know then, that there will be a lack of control or intelligence in this story. We also know, by inference, that this story will play out, with this person being out of control in certain key areas of their life.

Let’s take a quick look at the cards:

Opening Of The Key example

The Emperor is the card that immediately jumps out at me. Now we can see where the lack of control is – somebody else controls the client! The fact that there are 2 twos (2 Wands, 2Cups) indicates a relationship, and the 5 of Disks the loneliness that results.

I’ll leave it up to you to figure how you would explore the clients possible ‘options’.

TIP: Can you see why the Emperor, in his need to control, is actual very disempowered Elementally? Oh, and don’t forget the 5 of Disks.

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4 comments… Let's discuss

Tracey February 19, 2011 at 4:20 am

Very first attempt at OOTK and already I’m quite confused! I got King of Pentacles, Temperance, The Chariot and 9 of Wands… and was surprised to see Temperance is Fire and The Chariot is Water!
Looking through all the majors, they are the 2 that I find it hard to grasp their elemental designations (feel that Chariot would be Fire and Temperance would be water). This may be an effect of my Mythic Tarot deck which has plenty of water in the Temperance image – but HELP! Would really appreciate some reasoning for why these cards are the elements they are – hopefully something that will make sense to me so they don’t throw me off when I see them :)


Douglas Gibb February 25, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Hi Tracey,

The Chariot is represented as Element Water in the Golden Dawn tradition because of its associations with the Holy Grail. The charioteer protects it.

The Temperance card represents an alchemical process which is most associated with Fire.

I hope that helps :)


Tracey February 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm

It does :), thanks.


DeAnn July 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I’ve study the elements and the elemental relationship within three cards. Could you possible lead me down the path of three cards within an element position? Example, I have four piles (Opening of the Key) with four elements and I’m card counting a spread. Looking at the principle key card and comparing to the left and right card elements, what does the base element play into this? Is there a website somewhere or a book I could read?


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