The first stage of a B.O.T.A. style reading involves determining to which of the four Qabalistic Worlds the reading pertains. This ranges from the most abstract, archetypal level to the most manifest, material level. (I go into a fuller explanation of the Four Worlds concept here.)
I will go into a bit more detail on this first stage of the divination, since it is sort of a template for the rest of the stages. First, the significator of the questioner (also known as the querent) is determined. How to do this is in this blog post. (In this example, the significator is the Queen of Cups.) Then the cards are shuffled by the reader until they feel “ready” to read. At this point, some readers ask the querent to cut the cards, others don’t.
Next, the cards are cut by the reader into two piles, slightly separated. Each pile is cut again, with the cut of pile one (the pile that was on the right) placed between the original two piles; pile two’s cut is placed to the left of the other piles. This movement from right to left mirrors the order of the letters of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, and the order of the four worlds.
The significator is searched for, and the pile in which it is found becomes the cards to be used for this stage. The cards of this pile are then laid out in a circle (usually this turns out to be an oval or a square). The rest of the deck is set aside for the balance of this stage.
Only certain cards are read in this portion of the stage, based on card value. Each card has a count value, and the count determines which cards are selected to be read. The count stops once any card is chosen twice. (It’s not as complicated as it sounds.)
Finally, the cards are paired, moving outward from the significator. These pairs are then interpreted with regard to the question and the World in which the reading is taking place. (You will be relieved to know that I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt when this picture was taken. I do not do Tarot readings in the nude.)
When doing this stage, I often find that the first two of three cards touched during the count relate to the current state of things. This is a great way to assure that the reading is “radical,” or true to the question. Stage 1 lays out the basics of the situation and gives a couple of themes that will be refined and emphasized during any subsequent stages.
We now move on to Stage 2 (Astrological Houses).