I wrote a book on the Tarot having eleven chapters, eleven being the number of tarot and goetia. My publisher suggested pairing up the Major arcana and I would write a commentary. I was not too enthused by the idea, but actually it worked out very well. We had also agreed to minimise the kabbalistic tree of life attributions. I had gone through a process of realisation that despite appearances to the contrary, the kabbalistic tree of life is not proper to the tarot; however, it is one thing that the two are not connected; it is another to see what replaces it.
The novelty of the eleven chapters and pairing of the Major Arcana allowed me to abandon a lot of the conventions of tarot books, but it took a while before I came up with the idea of analysing a tarot spread, in particular the Opening of the Key spread, in various ways. As far as I knew, nobody had approached it in such a way. By now, I was spending several months with a girlfriend in Houston, Texas. She was working long hours, so I had no excuse not to knuckle down. The Opening of the Key Spread (OOTK) uses all the cards cut into four piles. The original rules are slightly ambiguous – Crowley in the Book of Thoth slightly changed the rules to the Golden Dawn. The OOTK spread relies on counting and pairing to analyse the tarot. The top of the pile containing the Significator is the starting point for counting according to some specific rules. However, since I had the time and the inclination (I had a book to fill), I began to experiment by counting from all the cards, not just from the top .
One night I had a strange dream. Spirits tortured me about ‘the second fool’. There is only one Fool – particularly as it is zero. Having had many weird dreams, I generally do not take too much notice, but this one was different. I pondered for days about it without much success. In the meantime, some spiritual work was required, and I was getting nowhere resolving the problem. I remembered the dream, and it occurred to me that maybe the answer lies in the Fool, which is the origin of the Universe – everything comes from it. So, the opposite function would be everything returning to the Source. Instantly everything changed, and I suddenly saw all the Spirits of Liber 231 appearing before me, and they helped solve the problem.
A few days later, Gaap appeared to me, telling me that the Goetia were cousins of the Liber 231 spirits, and that I should not forget them. The Goetia also told me that they originated in Iraq; when Britain and the USA were desperate to invade that country on flimsy pretexts.
Synchronistically, I found Tarot & Magic by Donald Michael Kraig (Llewellyn 2002). I had to laugh as he recounted how he nearly died in his attempts to contact Liber 231 spirits. You need a Master to help in your magical endeavours. Despite their connections, the combinations of Tarot and Magick have never fulfilled their potential, largely, I believe, because of the rigid adherence to the Tree of Life as a cosmological structure. Donald Michael Kraig suffered, but his insights reach to a new level:
Who will devise a system of divination and magic for the next era of human existence? Is it hidden in some book or deck that is already created? Is it being created now?
Tarot & Magic, Donald Michael Kraig, Llewellyn
I can answer some of these questions. The new structures are already there. The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris is truly a magickal grimoire. The prime tarot spread is the Opening of the Key spread, first presented in the Golden Dawn magical system. With careful analysis, the Book of Thoth and the Opening of the Key spread is unbeatable. But first, we have to discard some notions. I was already abandoning the Kabbalistic Tree of Life as a practical system for structuring the Tarot. As I continue my studies, the Kabbalah is becoming increasing irrelevant. On the other hand, the structure of the Tarot itself is perfectly balanced for spiritual and magical workings. The elemental and astrological attributions of the Tarot are critical.
Many books on tarot and magic emphasize the need for divination before magical practice is carried out. To do this, the magician has had to decide the magical operation, its purpose, etc, and the spirits to be invoked. A lot of assumptions have to be made. How much better would it be if the tarot told you of the magical work that needed to be done, when the operation should take place, and the nature and name of the spirits to be invoked, or work with? Would you also like to know the spiritual forces that may have caused the problem in the first place? I bet you would.
My book, The Tarot and the Magus gives you the Keys. The Keys are in the Opening of the Key spread, in particular the counting technique. The original instructions tell the reader to count from the top card, or significator, but I decided to extend the technique, by analysing the count from every card, in both directions. As I analysed the data I saw patterns emerging, that would never have been known from the original rules. Quite simply, when we count from every card, in both directions, we discover that some are not counted onto. We also find that they are not counted onto in either direction from any other card in the string. It is similar to finding the Source of the Nile. They represent hidden knowledge. If it is a court card, it may represent a person who is acting behind the scenes. If it is a Major card, or any of the 2-10 Minor arcana, we know the spirits associated with these cards, and we can build a Working to enhance or ameliorate the influence of that spirit in the situation we are exploring.
In essence, analysis of the Opening of the Key spread will give us the source, course and goal of our magical working. Analysis will make changes automatically. One method is to record the exact sequence of the tarot in the four piles, as a permanent record; to be consulted as events unfold. If you are particularly extravagant, you can keep the four piles on your altar.
Reading the tarot using the OOTK spread becomes a dynamic process. Working this way brings energies into line, creating balances within and without. Combined with the Silent Presence of my Master, working spirits is relatively easy. In my experience, Work results in liberation for the Spirit or Spirits, the magician, and for the person or situation where the Work is directed.
Rules for working with Spirits
Here are a few rules that are helpful:
- Treat spirits with respect – they are your friends
- Work with spirits as colleagues
- Be ready for other spirits to appear and either watch or help in the Working
- Work on your own spiritual development
- Believe in God
- Practise meditation or other spiritual methods
- Associate with those on the spiritual path
- Allow the spirits to show what Work is required
- Be flexible on your perceptions
- Be ready for spirits to appear at any time
- Be prepared to work with Spirits in waking, dreaming and sleeping states
- Be prepared to discover new powers and ways of Working
- Forget pretty much everything you have read about the Goetia
- See the Goetia as Jinn
- Read the Koran
- See the Goetia as an aspect of your Self
- Use the Thoth Tarot with the Opening of the Key spread
- Use rituals
- Use magickal weapons
- Impose kabbalistic frameworks onto the Goetia
- Use a magickal circle
- Have any apparatus to torture spirits into compliance
- Be dogmatic in your expectations
Developing Workings with the Goetia
The spirits came to me; I have never performed the Abra-melin rituals or Goetic rituals. I also had the advantage of a Master who was fully conversant with Spirits, although we never discussed the Goetia. Prayer and mantras also helped greatly. In my experience there is no need for a magickal circle – I never used one. When spirits appear in broad daylight in shopping centres and other places with crowds, Goetic invocation and ritual will be useless unless you prefer impromptu street theatre. When I was with my teacher I had to learn to be impassive in whatever was thrown in my direction. I learned to work in all kinds of pressure environments. On one occasion, I was working as a pizza chef on a busy Saturday evening after drinking most of the afternoon. This is not recommended practice, but it shows what is possible.