The Key to the Rosarium

Emblem XXVII.

He that endeavours to enter into the Philosophers’ Rosarye without a key, is like him who would walk without feet. ~ Michael Maier’s alchemical opus Atalanta Fugiens of 1618

The Rose Garden of Wisdom has an abundance of various flowers,

But the gate is always closed with strong bolts;

Only one thing of little value is found in the world which is the key to it.

Without this key you will walk like somebody without legs.

You will try in vain to climb up to the steep top of Parnassus,

You, who have hardly sufficient strength to remain standing on flat ground.


What is this key? C.C. Zain says that Astrology is the golden key, and Tarot is the silver key, unlocking the door to the spiritual sanctuary.

On this day I discovered that the Tabula Mundi has been employed in “The Final Ritual of the Rose Key” by the Tarot Professionals organization in preparation for their launch of a virtual Tarot world.  You can see in this picture the cards they have chosen for Strength and Success in the creation of a Universe.

For it is a virtual Universe they are attempting to create, a world in the ethers but a world nonetheless. They call it Arkartia, a world for Tarot Wayfarers, and their Kickstarter opens at midnight (London time) between April 30th and May 1st, the portal of Beltane eve. The symbol they have chosen as part of the tale of that world is that it is accessed by a Rose Key.

The Colores Arcus signature card has a form of the Rose Key as a Rose Cross where the a form of the Golden Dawn color rose is crossed by a silver key, whose trefoil bow contains the alchemical elements and their primary colors, and the petals of the rose are colored with the color admixtures of the planets and astrological signs of the Tarot trumps. This symbol is also intended to be a Compass Rose or Rose of the Four Winds if one knows how to read it, taking one on the Fool’s Journey and allowing for travel in space and time, a potent talisman and guide to lead one on the path to any waypoint.

By the way, those of you who backed the Tabula Mundi Colores Arcus received the free Part I of an article on the Color Scales, and may be wondering when Part II will be forthcoming. I’ve not forgotten; it is nascent and will be coming up with the roses…here they come up in Gemini season in time for the summer solstice transition. So it is coming!

Roses and keys; they are symbols we all know instinctively. The Rosetta Tarot, recently revived with the Rosetta Papyrus edition, and Papyrus Gold edition,  of course employs the Rose design on the card backs.

The Book of Seshet briefly explains this symbol. At a simple level, the Rose Cross is an alchemical symbol associated with inner transformative processes from base to pure, with the cross representing the body and the rose the unfolding consciousness. The central rose of this design was based on a sacred geometry pattern of rotated two-to-one aspect ratio ellipses. The rose in this design also represents the element of earth and is surrounded by the other three elements, with water on the vertical axis, wings for air on the horizontal axis, and fire on the diagonal.


The Rose in alchemy is the secret at the heart of all things, symbolizing the operation of Conjunctio, the mystical Chemical Marriage of opposites. It is a symbol of completion and perfection, the Summom Bonum of Robert Fludd, and an emblem of Venus. But basically it can summed up as Love.

And then there is the Key. Some of you may remember Tabula Mundi in its first incarnation as a Major Arcana deck; it was sent out with a wax seal impressed with a Key symbol.

Where the Rose is Love, the Key is Will. In Tarot, the Key is often shown on the Hierophant card. Book M, Liber Mundi describes the Hierophant as the “Vau of YHVH, our Holy Guardian Angel”, who guides us to our true will. In Cirlot’s Dictionary of Symbols, the key is symbolic of “a mystery or enigma, or of a task to be performed, and the means of carrying it out…The finding of a key signifies the stage prior to the actual discovery of the treasure, found only after great difficulties. Clearly there is a mythological relationship between the key and the Nem Ankh sign (or ‘Eternal Life’) – the anserated cross of the Egyptians; their gods are sometimes shown holding this cross by the top as if it were a key, especially in ceremonies concerning the dead. But it should perhaps be pointed out that, in this case, it is the keys that derive from the anserated cross, the archetype of the key of Eternal Life that opens up the gates of death on to immortality.”

The Anhk, which is a Key, is also a form of the circle and cross. The boxes of the new Rosetta Tarot papyrus edition were designed to complement those of Tabula Mundi. Shown here is the Rosetta Papyrus box with it an ankh of gold, paired with the Tabula Mundi Colores Arcus box with a circled cross of silver. (The Tabula Mundi Nox et Lux box has the same foil symbol but in black with a pewter ribbon.)

Not only do the boxes match, but the decks are both Thoth based. I think you will find a side by side comparison of Tabula Mundi to Rosetta very illuminating to see the artistic evolution of repeating symbols.

Going back to Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens Emblem XXVII:

But the Key is a thinge of the meanest Value which properly is called a Stone, known in the Chapter X as the Root of Rhodes, without which no Twig is put forth, nor doth a Budd swell, nor a Rose spring and send forth leaves in a thousand fold. But it may be asked where this Key is to be sought for? I answer with the Oracle: it is there to be looked for where the Bones of Orestes are said to be found, to wit Where THE WINDS, THE STRIKER, THE REPERCUTIENT AND THE DESTRUCTION OF MEN may be found together. That is, as Lychas interpreted it, in a Brasier’s Workhouse. For by the Winds is meant his Bellows, by the Striker the Hammer, by the Striker Back the Anvill, and by the Destruction of Men, Iron seems to have been meant by the Oracle. If a man knows how to number well and distinguish the signs he will certainly find this Key in the Northern Hemisphere of the Zodiack, and the bolt in the Southern; and being Master of these it will be easy to open the Door and enter.

Astrology is the golden key, and Tarot is the silver key unlocking the door to the spiritual sanctuary.  With Tabula Mundi Colores Arcus, now that the astrological decan cards are available, one has both the keys in one box, that of gold and of silver. Each of the twelve astrological signs is included. You can see here with Sagittarius how it combines all three tarot cards of the three Sagittarius decans into one card representing the sign. These can be used as significators, as a perpetual calendar, for ritual, or for study alongside the related cards.

The new boxes accommodate the tarot expansion set perfectly, and the expansion set now comes in a deck band that matches the box.

The expansion set has 14 extra cards: a tree of life Minutum Mundum color scale map of the paths and sephiroth, a new Lust card showing Babalon (our Lady of the Roses in the alchemical marriage) and the twelve astrological sign cards expressed as a visual combination of the three tarot cards that are assigned to the sign’s three decans.

Speaking of the twelve astrological signs, this new world of Arcartia for the Tarot Wayfarer has twelve realms assigned astrologically; what will be discovered there? In the Kickstarter they are opening on May 1st one can even purchase sovereignty over an entire realm! If I could afford it I’d buy the realm of Sagittarius or Aquarius. It would likely be the quietest most peaceful place in the Kingdom as I’d be an unambitious and benevolent overlord. It would be like having a conservation restriction! Alas I shall probably be a commoner, just like in real life. Hope to see you there…


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