Abbey Theatre Tarot Reading for W.B. Yeats
One of the most famous Tarot readings is by Annie Horniman for W.B. Yeats, head of the Golden Dawn, documented on October 9th, 1903. Annie Horniman used the Opening of the Key Spread to analyse the first stage of the Opening of the Key Spread, as used by the Golden Dawn, and her question was: “What is the right thing for me to do on the I.N.Th.(Irish National Theatre) now?” She sent the result to W.B. Yeats, the famous Irish playwright and author.
Elemental Dignity analysis
This analysis does not concern itself with the outcome in life, only the mechanics of the process.
Let’s tabulate the preliminary information to include the Elemental Dignity analysis and Horniman’s interpretation:
High Priestess on Fire position
High Priestess : Enemies, neutral: Some change is directed by the Highest
Seven of Swords on Water position
Friends, neutral: Irresolution as to the course of action
Ten of Wands on Air position
Friends, excessively active: Anger in the Mind
The Devil on Earth position
Friends, excessively passive: Most solid Materiality needed.
The General Picture – interpretation
Immediately we see an excess of Major arcana- there should only be one in a four card spread, and there are no Court. This suggests events are out of the control of the Querent: it needs the comments of an person or individuals to provide direction – there is no one in control, so external events take precedence.
The High Priestess is devastated in the Fire place, indicating a lack of spiritual insight, instability of effort, and lack of inner strength – the start is distinctly wobbly. The Seven of Swords, Futility, is friendly to Water, so it reflects a desire to change, but there is vacillation, a wish to compromise. The Air position is much stronger, but Ten of Wands, Oppression, is hardly best in this situation. The Final Result, is the Devil, Materiality in its densest form. We could sum up the situation so far as: “The lack of firm inner guidance results in weak desires for betterment combined with incredible mental pressure and oppression that results in a successful material situation that imprisons the participants.” Weak spiritual motives are worse than none at all, evidently.
Let us compare Horniman’s gloss in the table above. While it is a good idea for Diviners to put a positive interpretation, we see just how unrealistic Annie was. Her Significator, the Queen of Swords is found in the Air pile, so we should be seeing how and why there is ‘anger in the mind’, remembering the Air pile often has the problems within a reading. Anger is often a result of the inability to make one’s desires, so we see that here it is due to the Lord of Oppression, according to Book T: ‘Cruel and overbearing force and energy, but applied only to selfish and material ends. Sometimes failure in a matter, and the opposition too strong to be controlled arising from the person’s too great selfishness at the beginning.’ Alarm bells should be ringing. In terms of the original question I suppose we should interpret the Ten of Wands as saying that she should act in an overbearing way to counter-act the weak High Priestess and the Seven of Swords.
The Tables below shows the breakdown of the cards according to Elemental Dignities:
6; Strong, friendly
3; friendly, neutral
5; excessive, active
5; enemies, neutral
The distribution is:
- Major: 5
- Minor: 10
- Court: 4
- Total: 19 – the number of the Moon
- Centre: the Chariot
- Similar: Three 3’s – Deception
According to Greer, Horniman considered a card count of nineteen to be a “bad indicator”, but we are not told why, nor why it would have ‘little substantive effect’. The reason is that the Moon is the nineteenth Major Arcana, an indicator of deception. I would venture to suggest self-deception. Next, Horniman felt that five Major arcana meant that the reading was within her will. Actually, there is a relative balance between the Major, Minor and Court cards. Unfortunately, our analysis of the four top cards suggests a decidedly weak application of will. The only other interpretation is that Horniman decided the centre, The Chariot, was more influential. The majority of Minor Fire cards is “construed to mean ‘Energy must prevail'”. This is an ambiguous statement, unless the Court cards are included, otherwise we would have to make the Earth cards the greatest part, and these are very weak in the Air position. As Mary Greer notes, three 3s indicates a deceit, which Horniman chose to ignore.